Why I Went to Challenge Brittney Cooper—and What We Could All Learn From This

By a member of the Revolution Club, NYC

| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


I recently went to an event on Black Feminism and Hip Hop to challenge Black feminist author Brittney Cooper. I brought an open letter written by a comrade of mine titled, “Hey Brittney Cooper—Do You Realize How Politically and Morally Bankrupt It Was For You To Invoke the War Criminal Nancy Pelosi When You Shut Down A Revolutionary?” When two of us in the audience separately posed this question to Cooper, she refused repeatedly to answer the question.

But the question matters. The problem of people taking up leadership based on “identity” rather than on the content of what is being brought forward and where those ideas will lead is extremely widespread and very damaging, far beyond Brittney Cooper as an individual. This kind of identity politics prevents people from thinking critically and sets them up to get played. For example, while Cooper claimed to agree that the problem is capitalism and patriarchy, leading people to cheer for a war criminal simply because that war criminal is a woman only strengthens capitalism and patriarchy. As it turns out, so did most of what Cooper had to say that night as she proceeded to advocate the whole night about how oppressed people can get inside of it, and be part of the same system that is down-pressing other people worldwide.

Here are some more things we can learn from the content of what Cooper and her Crunk Feminist Collective revealed that night...

First, they talked about what they saw as positive advancements in hip-hop in the time that they’ve been blogging about it. They cited as advances, artists such as Young Thug because he wore a periwinkle dress, Jaden Smith because he doesn’t conform to traditional masculinity, Syd Tha Kyd because she is openly gay, Cardi B and Beyoncé as icons of feminism. They even cited Jay-Z’s album 4:44 as some kind of breakthrough because he has a song about his mother who is a lesbian.

It is true that there have been changes—some positive—in the last 10 years of hip-hop. And some of these changes have been influenced by hard-fought struggle from below that Black feminists and others have been a part of. With that said, what they highlighted as hallmarks of advance shows the limits of where elevating “identity” over content will take you.

Although the song that was mentioned about Jay-Z’s mother and her life living in the shadows as a Black lesbian woman, and the heaviness of what it meant to hide who you love and hide that part of you and to still be there for your child coming up in the projects of NYC, was a positive thing, this does not negate the overall message that the album “preached.” Beyoncé and Jay-Z are artists that have straight-up popularized Black people becoming a part of the bourgeoisie. From lines like, “I just might be a Black Bill Gates in the making” in Beyoncé’s song, “Formation,” to Jay-Z’s song, “The Story of OJ,” which spouts the same BS story that if only Black Folks invest in themselves then they will have a better life, and rubs people’s faces in how high he’s climbed, despite the fact that the masses of Black people remain trapped at the bottom. And that doesn’t even count the anti-Semitism in that song! We don’t need any cutthroat Black Bill Gates or more Black entrepreneurs looking down on the masses of people, blaming them for what this system does to them. We need to get rid of the system that has for so long enslaved, tortured, beaten, and exploited Black people and frankly the vast majority of people on this planet. Getting in on that plunder and that hustle doesn’t stop that. It just adds a chocolate face to that already massive dung heap of a system.

As for Cardi B, what she is an “icon” of is raunch culture—celebrating everything filthy and degrading about how men treat women in this patriarchal world. She celebrates taking “ownership” of that with the insane logic that if you somehow do it bigger and badder than it has been done to you, it is positive and uplifting (empowering even) because you are a woman. As if somehow objectifying other women and oneself and treating them and oneself like a sex object is “liberating!” No, it’s just reinforcing the same tired patriarchal relations. The fact that it is a woman doing it doesn’t make it any less ugly.

These are dead-end expressions that lead one to upholding everything ugly about what the system does to people and has people doing to each other. The relations among people being celebrated in these examples aren’t “human nature,” they flow from the nature of the system of capitalism-imperialism. Repackaging them with the face of the oppressed doesn’t change this. We don’t need more expressions of this. What we need is a radical revolt against this revolting culture, one that not only calls out the bullshit but reflects the kind of society that is possible. The Points of Attention for the revolution that the Revolution Club upholds, lives by, and fights for lays out what kind of world we can fight for and challenges the conventional way that people are trained to relate. These two points in particular concentrate the radical direction that humanity needs: Point #2 says, “We fight for a world where ALL the chains are broken. Women, men, and differently gendered people are equals and comrades. We do not tolerate physically or verbally abusing women or treating them as sexual objects, nor do we tolerate insults or ‘jokes’ about people’s gender or sexual orientation.” Point #4 says, “We stand with the most oppressed and never lose sight of their potential to emancipate humanity—nor of our responsibility to lead them to do that. We work to win people of all backgrounds to take part in the revolution, and do not tolerate revenge among the people.”

We need this kind of culture, basing ourselves on the highest interests of humanity rather than on the interests of one group over another. We shouldn’t be striving to just flip things upside down and fight for a world where the oppressed get their chance to be on top or their seat at the table. We shouldn’t be striving for “the last shall be first and the first shall be last.” Rather we need to fight for the emancipation of all of humanity. This needs to be opened up as part of the fight for an actual revolution to bring that better world into being.

Next, the speakers were asked to comment on the current political moment. During this portion, Cooper said that Stacey Abrams, the Black female Democrat who gave the response to Trump’s State of the Union, was her champion. Cooper’s argument: “She looks like me.” She even said, “If you don’t fuck with [Stacey Abrams], I won’t fuck with you.” Cooper also argued that a big problem “we” need to take on now is “white women” and “white feminism,” saying that white women were “treacherous” and are only good as allies, not as friends. After going on about this for some time, she laid out a whole polemic against actual revolution. She talked about how Black people, who already grow up in rubble, don’t need the violence that tearing down the system would cause. She said that Black Folks who grew up poor don’t need to go through that kind of trauma again and that it would only bring harm to people who have been through so much. She claimed that only someone from the middle class (insinuating someone with privilege) would advocate for that.

First, let’s deal with what she said about “rubble.” The question that begs to be asked is, what caused this “rubble”? In this country, the normal workings of capitalism-imperialism are inextricably interwoven with white supremacy. From the foundation of this country to today, white supremacy is a defining part of what makes America AmeriKKKa. This system can’t stop the continuation of the oppression of Black people and its only “solution” is more mass incarceration, more police brutality, and more murders by the hands of the police. This horror has been overseen and expanded by both Democrats and Republicans and it will continue until the system is overthrown through an actual revolution.

Look at what the Democrats, the party Stacey Abrams is representing, have brought humanity. Not only have the Democrats played a role in this, they are actively getting people to go along with what this country is doing to people all over the world. That includes the nightmare that they have put the people through in Yemen, Gaza, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Guatemala. But that is only a fraction of the rubble that is caused by this system—again, overseen by both Democrats and Republicans. But all this gets hidden, and excused, when you proceed just from your own identity out in a country like this. Even if you are from among the oppressed, proceeding in this way will blind you to the full scope of what that rubble really is. Whatever your intentions, you end up upholding “America First.” Capitalism-imperialism can’t stop that plunder or those wars for empire but it can find new Black and Brown female faces to get people fooled into supporting that nightmare.

Next, let’s deal with this notion that “white women are treacherous.” That is just bullshit—the problem isn’t white women, it is the system and the way it trains people to act. Yes, white supremacy is a part of how this system has trained people and, yes, there have been white women who have acted in horrific ways towards Black people, but it is not in their DNA. And just like there are Black people fronting for oppression, there are white people in the struggle for liberation for real—and there needs to be many, many more of them. This is a good thing. Writing off all white people is harmful and it is wrong. It lets the system off the hook, and it is training people to stay within the divisions that have been made by this system.

To overcome these divisions and all the oppression this system enforces, we (humanity) need a revolution to overthrow this system and destroy the institutions of the old order and build a society that people can thrive in and that is aiming toward the emancipation of all of humanity. I felt the responsibility to put forward this challenge and to struggle with Cooper and those in the room to look beyond their own “identity” because this outlook works against ending the very oppression many of them care so much about. I used to think that the problem was white people too, until I read Bob Avakian, or BA. My first thought in encountering him was “What the hell does this white guy have to tell me that I don’t already know?” But then I read the quote from him at the end of this article and—it really shook me that he had written something so serious on the oppression of Black people, acknowledging the pain and the brutality that they’ve been through, connected that to all of humanity, and put a real way it could be stopped so poetically. The quote challenged me to go deeper and see what BA had to say and learn more about the new synthesis of communism he has forged and the deeper connection that all oppressed people and all of humanity have to one another. This system not only has people closer than they’ve ever been in human history, but has us all tied in a deep web of exploitation and oppression. My eyes were opened up to the reality that the same system that enslaved the African people and brought them on these shores in slave chains is the same system that is starving and bombing the people of Yemen in this day and age. I learned that this can be stopped and that there is a real chance humanity has at winning this fight. I remember being not only inspired but having real clarity for once on why the world is the way it is and how it could be. This took science and it took work for me to fully grasp where that oppression comes from, but it also felt liberating to know that this isn’t a part of any supposedly unchangeable human nature and that human beings can consciously change history. We have a real responsibility to do that now. So, not only do I challenge people to stop proceeding based on “identity” and to stop cheering for the Democrats and join in a real revolt against this revolting culture, most of all I challenge you to get into BA and the new synthesis of communism.


There is the potential for something of unprecedented beauty to arise out of unspeakable ugliness: Black people playing a crucial role in putting an end, at long last, to this system which has, for so long, not just exploited but dehumanized, terrorized and tormented them in a thousand ways—putting an end to this in the only way it can be done—by fighting to emancipate humanity, to put an end to the long night in which human society has been divided into masters and slaves, and the masses of humanity have been lashed, beaten, raped, slaughtered, shackled and shrouded in ignorance and misery.
—Bob Avakian


Excerpt from the speech by Bob Avakian Why We Need an Actual Revolution and How We Can Really Make Revolution

The Democratic Party: “A Major Instrument of This Monstrously Oppressive System”

Watch the whole speech, spread it, fund it

Find out more about this speech—and get organized to spread it »


Have you ever noticed that the one privilege these “identity politics” hustlers don’t talk about is American privilege?—the privilege that comes from living in the USA, a country that plunders the world and whose wealth and power rests on brutal exploitation and oppression throughout the world, backed up by the massive violence of the American military. These hustlers want all they can get of that privilege. In opposition to that, what the masses of humanity need is to do away with and move beyond this whole vampire system, putting an end to all exploitation and oppression.

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