They discuss the cultural debasement of “hotep,” Black feminism, and when “voting white” is the real voting Black. They also discuss Jamilah’s role in the Cynthia Nixon campaign for governor.
You can listen to the entire conversation right now in the audio player below. If you prefer to listen on your phone, GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin is available wherever you listen to podcasts — including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, and SoundCloud.
Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 50: Jamilah Lemieux
Part 2: Jamarlin Martin talks to communications advisor and author Jamilah Lemieux. They discuss the cultural debasement of “hotep,” Black feminism, and when “voting white” is the real voting Black. They also discuss Jamilah’s role in the Cynthia Nixon campaign for governor.
This is a full transcript of the conversation which has been lightly edited for clarity.
Jamarlin Martin: You’re listening to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin. We have a go hard or go home approach as we talk to the leading tech leaders, politicians and influencers. This is part two of the interview. Let’s GHOGH! So I want to bring up something. You’re a feminist, Black feminist. You’re very active and vocal in terms of Black women and there’s a term that’s out there, “Hotep” or “hotepism” and sometimes there’s conversations or discussions where people are going back and forth. What steps do we need to take in terms of this generation where we’ve got a beast of fight with in terms of the big scheme of things. How do we pull ourselves together in terms of unity where we’re not going back and forth and we’re trying to learn from each other where the Black man, he’s not coming with the eagle, but he wants to understand where you’re coming from, why you have to bang so hard for feminism. Is there a path for different parts of the community to better understand each other, where we’re banging against bigger forces and the brothers, I guess what people are calling the hotep side, they have a better understanding of the Black women’s double plight in the United States?
01:24 —Jamilah Lemieux: Yeah. I don’t think we will ever be able to really address the bigger issues, quote-unquote, or the issues that impact all groups of Black people until we deal with some of our internal stuff, and the internal beefs and battles that we have, men and women, straight people and queer people, CIS people and trans people, class mobile people and poor people. So much of the tension and hatred and misunderstanding of one another that we have is a result of the oppression that we all face at the hands of white supremacy. I’ll say that as somebody who is an out and proud feminist, it’s painful to read some of the things or hear some of the things that Black men have said to and about me and other women like myself. I’m not a fan of the term Hotep. I don’t use it. I may have used it a few times early on in its inception, but I never really felt comfortable with it. I just would rather not use something that is a beautiful, insignificant word to people across the world to describe something as ugly as what the people who’ve gotten that moniker do and represent in so many ways online.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. This generation, when I see people using hotep in a derogatory way. I wonder, do they even know who the real hotep is? Anthony Browder, the Nile Valley.
Jamilah Lemieux: They do. And I think not all of them, of course they it, but knowing where it kind of started from in terms of social media usage and all, the difference between I’d say the loudest Black feminist or kind the most prominent ones I should say of this moment versus the people that get that term used toward them is that most of us before we were feminists were Black nationalists. And many of us still are or our foundation, our understanding of oppression begins with race. But we also learned to recognize and understand the ways that we are targeted and abused by our own and by the forces of white supremacy on the basis of our gender and what that looks like for LGBT people, etc. And on the other side, you have this male-led way of thinking, which is that one race is a bigger issue, we need to deal with that and everything else would just fall into place, which is essentially trickle down liberation. And as we know, trickle down anything doesn’t really work. And two, this notion that if Black women occupy a better station in the world or in our communities than we do now, that we’re taking something away from our men, that the LGBT rights and equality movement is taking something away from Black people or from straight Black men. And that’s simply not true. I know it’s hard for us to do the dance between, we don’t want to respond to issues of racism with what about Black on Black crime? We know that Black on Black crime exists because most crime is an interracial exchange, right? A white guy gets robbed by a white guy, white woman gets raped by a white guy more often than not. But when we talk about domestic violence, when we talk about sexism, when we talk about a number of men not being able to recognize or support the humanity, the challenges faced by the significance of Black women, that that decimates us in certain ways that we have to confront. And so confronting, when we talk about patriarchy and sexism, yes, we’re typically talking about all men, right?We’re talking about the male spaces. But when we talk about what it looks like in terms of our community, Black men are the ones that we most often partner with who we live among, who we are hired by, who we are harassed or abused by, who we love, we we’ve been let down by, who we’ve been brought up by.
Jamarlin Martin: Or assaulted by.
05:41 — Jamilah Lemieux: Or assaulted by. And to not be able to talk about those things without being accused of being complicit or working gleefully with white supremacy is unfortunate.
Jamarlin Martin: Although unity between some of the segments of the community, it sounds hey, we need to come together, we need to create a path for understanding. But from my perspective, I see brothers out there, they’re not trying to give up oppressing women. They’ve been taught this. They think that that’s part of being a man, oppressing women, abusing women. And anything that takes away from that, they feel insecure and fragile. And that’s a big group where, hey, part of the Black identity is you need to oppress the woman in various degrees. So would you say that you’re not optimistic that we’re going to make strides in terms of reconciling these issues?
06:48 —Jamilah Lemieux: Am I optimistic that I’ll see it all the way through in my lifetime? No, but I think that there are changes and things happening. I’m a millennial, I’m on the other half of the millennial generation. I think about my exchanges in social settings, professionally, romantically, my relationships too. And with a Black men of my generation and some of the younger Black men and boys that I have come across, I see far more and even some of the extras too, I see more progressive attitudes around gender and sexuality then I think we’ve experienced in previous generations. And part of it is, so many of us are spending our days online having these back and forth dialogues. We’re getting access to perspectives and information that certainly existed before, but were hidden. They weren’t easily accessed, right? Or you had to go pick up a bell hooks book to know what bell hooks stood for, and the sort of things that she was talking about. And I don’t want for people’s education or understanding or exploration of gender and sexuality and power to begin and end with the internet, but I think it’s a great place to start, and it’s a gateway to a lot of that information. And in addition to what you were saying, for a lot of our men, I think there’s this idea or this understanding that the only places where they can experience true power and dominance is on the backs of women. And so, if you take that away, then what part of manhood do I occupy? Where do I fit into this notion of what masculinity is supposed to be. I get beat up at work. I get beat down in the world. I won’t earn as much as my white male peers. They started on a whole different place than me. And they’re so much further ahead than I am, but here’s one place where I can punch down. There was a conversation, a small clip of it went viral not too long ago between a very young Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin, and she says, “You know how white folks think about you, you know what your boss says of you and how he treats you and you smile. You take that on the nose. You smile to survive it and you come home to me and I catch hell.” And it gave me chills. She said, “I get the least of you because I love you.” And that’s super real for so many of our experiences. And I say things like that. There are folks that assumed I don’t have an active father or that my child doesn’t have an active father. And all my relationships with men have been unhealthy. And it’s quite the opposite. I have a great relationship with both of those men and overwhelmingly have had good…
Jamarlin Martin: Some folks still try to put you in a box of you hate men.
09:57 — Jamilah Lemieux: I hate men because either my dad abandoned me or wasn’t there for me or my ex abandoned me or wasn’t there for me. And that’s not true. And the majority of my romantic relationships have been healthy and positive. But there’s still the world around me, and just because those relationships have been positive does not always mean that some of my other interactions and experiences with men haven’t been positive. And then what I’m able to observe, what we’re seeing statistically that says we’ve got some work to do on healing and until we really are willing to do that work, there’s going to be continued suffering and strife between us.
Jamarlin Martin: You worked on the Cynthia Nixon campaign. How did that come about where you were able to get a major role in the New York governor race?
10:46 —Jamilah Lemieux: I wouldn’t say I had a major role, but it was a special role. A dear friend of mine, L. Joy Williams, who is a political strategist, a radio host and president of the Brooklyn Naacp chapter, just a phenomenal pillar of the community was brought in as the senior advisor. And she invited me prior to her formally starting her role. She brought me in right when she started, at an event where she got a number of Black activists and media people and education advocates in a room to meet Cynthia and her wife Christine and just listen to what they wanted to offer the state of New York and also for them to kind of hear from people in our spaces what we were looking for from our next governor. And around that time I left my nine to five and I had said, I’m getting into consulting. I’m not gonna have any more bosses. I’m going to have a couple of clients and I’m going to focus on my writing. And L. Joy said, “Would you want to come in and do communication strategy for us?” And it was a great experience. Cynthia and her family are really awesome people and I think she had a wonderful vision for New York. Parts of it have been adopted by Andrew Cuomo who was the incumbent. And you know, he spent $22 million and we spent $2 million.
Jamarlin Martin: And he was a fumbling, trying to go over to the Nixon side. He said America was never great. He’s trying to be more progressive and that’s why when these progressive candidates run, they may lose, but they force the Corporate Democrats to come a little bit more correct.
12:40 — Jamilah Lemieux: Absolutely. We pushed him to the left and honestly, I believe that really the campaign was successful even though we did not win. We knew that we were the underdog. No one wanted to go up against, not just the incumbent, but Cuomo is a brand name. His family is an institution in New York state, but someone had to push him to the left. And Cynthia, who had been active in activism, particularly around education and inequality in New York for some time, was convinced to go out there and be in certain ways the sacrificial lamb. And here we are with the governor saying that he’s going to legalize marijuana within the first hundred days of his term. That he’s taking serious steps around the Black maternal health crisis in New York state, and he’s still doing that dance. He’s still governor Andrew Cuomo in so many ways, but while folks were covering a celebrity being in the campaign, which was fascinating and interesting and I wish that they’d covered more of the policy work that she’d put forward because it was incredibly progressive and would have transformed schools and institutions in ways that would have certainly benefited Black New Yorkers in very meaningful ways, largely because Black hands helped to shape this agenda. But while people were paying attention to the idea that Miranda from “Sex and the City” is in the governor’s race, and that’s interesting, what they weren’t paying attention to where those down ballet races. And look at who’s one of the most talked about women in politics right now.
Jamarlin Martin: Ocasio-Cortez.
Jamilah Lemieux: Ocasio-Cortez, and she didn’t get covered from the New York Times until the election was almost over, rather until the campaign was almost over. And had there been more focus on those down ballot races, some of those progressive candidates that won, including Ocasio-Cortez, would not I don’t think have made it because the local Democratic Party invested their resources into getting Cuomo re-elected as opposed to protecting the centrist Democrats, and other parts of a state government that were unseated as a result.
Jamarlin Martin: That’s an interesting point of view where he had to play so much defense, that opened up a lane for folks like Ocasio-Cortez. How do you respond to this statement? Things are more nuanced for Black America now. They are more complex. In the future, based on the structure of things, in many cases, voting white is the real voting Black, when the Black candidate, particularly a Black candidate who’s part of the corporate establishment, traditionally going back to Jesse Jackson and hope, and of course we saw Obama with hope. We want to vote Black. When we see someone who looked like us, and that goes back to a lot of our grandparents, watching a basketball game. “There’s more Black people on that team. I’m banging with that team.” But in terms of the structure of things, and it’s not as simple as that anymore, that in the future and now, I believe that you’re going to see where the real progressive Black folks, they are not voting for the Black candidate. Voting for the Black candidate is the white position, in terms of your options as it relates to the Black community. How would you respond to that in terms of, there’s going to be cases where voting white is the real voting Black for this particular election?
16:45 — Jamilah Lemieux: Yeah. That has happened in local elections before with mixed results. It’s going to be difficult. I think it’s something that millennials and digital savvy Xers may do better with than say baby boomers, people that are consistently consuming information about who these people are and why in this race the white candidate better represents your interests than the Black candidate. Historically, there have been times where we chose the white male candidate over the Black female candidate with relative ease. But when you have a charismatic, likeable Black guy or a woman who is more centrist than someone else that better represents our views, I hope that we’re in a place now where we’re able to identify that in either pushing the Black candidate and saying, this is what we need and are you going to deliver that? Or simply saying, you don’t deserve our vote. We’ve rejected a number of Black Republican candidates over the years. Thank goodness for the racism of the GOP. I think that in some of the ways that our communities can be conservative socially, that if the Republican Party weren’t so deeply committed to its racism that we might have seen Black Republican candidates go further.
Jamarlin Martin: Yeah. What would you say that structurally, the Corporate Democrat, the ones who the lobbyists love, the ones who have conflicted relationships with a lot of corporations, elites, they can offer us less if there’s a Black candidate or a Black woman candidate because we’re so happy with whether it’s race or gender in terms of that emotional connection that you’re not used to seeing this, that we take that as value, but it’s a symbolic value where if you give them Black or you give them woman, we don’t have to move on these structural issues. We don’t have to move as much as if we don’t offer some of this feel good stuff.
Jamilah Lemieux: You know, it’s interesting.
Jamarlin Martin: That sounds far-fetched?
19:20 — Jamilah Lemieux: Well, I’ll say this. I think it makes a lot of sense, but I think that considering that we’ve already had a Black president, that the idea of returning to that after having white nationalist president is certainly a compelling proposition, but that there will be more scrutiny over who that next Black president might be due to some of the disappointments of the Obama administration in relation specifically to what you talked about earlier with Michelle Obama and talking about Rev. Wright and how her husband also distanced himself from that, that we’re not going to, in an era after or during Black Lives Matter, all the things that we’ve seen in recent years with MAGA being a factor and racism becoming so much more unapologetic then it even had been in the eighties or nineties that just him simply having a Black person is not going to dazzle us in the way that it once did. It may happen on a smaller race, in terms of a smaller race, but I don’t think that a centrist Black candidate… You’d have to have that same recipe that President Obama had, centrist in many ways, but also speaking to this idea of hope and change, having this beautiful family, this wife that was relatable and so much a Black girl’s Black girl, and still familiar to so many people. And right now we do have two Black people that are interested in taking that office and neither of them really represent those things. So I think that we will do a better job of judging them based on who they are, what they are saying, what they have done in the past and what they intend to do rather than just being dazzled by them being Black.
Jamarlin Martin: Do you have a favorite in the race so far?
Jamilah Lemieux: I do not.
Jamarlin Martin: And what do you think about, hey, the way the politics game works, what the people are going to say from here or even they know they’re going to run the last two years, us in the community, we need to discount what they’re going to say now. We need to be looking at track records in terms of going back 10 years to get insight into their values and principles. And who did they bang against? Did they make the tough decisions on behalf of the weak and vulnerable. The history stuff is way more important than what all the millions of dollars of campaign dollars and consultants are going to cook up for us now. Are you leaning towards anyone?
22:06 — Jamilah Lemieux: I’m not. Right now I’m really just focused on learning more about who these people are, who they have been and what they have to offer the United States. I think, obviously no one in that race has, it’s the highest office in the land, so nobody’s been president before. No one’s done work that was parallel to it. Booker and Harris have not been in the Senate terribly long. They’ve got resumes, they have long work histories in terms of politics. But since each of them first we’re elected to any office, the world has changed. Hillary Clinton’s approach to mass incarceration, or I should say to crime and punishment was certainly different than candidate Bill Clinton. People’s attitudes and opinions and thoughts have changed. Back then it was lock up as many of the bad guys as you possibly can and make this place safer. And a whole lot of Black activists and clergy members co-signing really awful legislation, that led to a mass incarceration crisis. And as the candidate, she had to confront that and say, I agree with you and I’m willing to tear these structures down. Whether she would have done it or not, we won’t know. But I think that those two candidates will have to answer to the ways that they participated or upheld things, either socially or in terms of legislation that were not in the best interest of Black folks and were they willing to distance themselves from their own past and say, “I’ve changed, I have a different vision of what we need and here’s how I deliver on that.”
Jamarlin Martin: All right. I want to thank you for coming on the show. Although you have hundreds of thousands of followers online, for the audience who are not familiar with you, where can they check you out online?
24:06 — Jamilah Lemieux: My website is https://www.jamilahlemieux.com/. My Twitter and Instagram handles are @JamilahLemieux.
Jamarlin Martin: Thanks for coming on the show.
Jamilah Lemieux: Thank you for having me.
Jamarlin Martin: Let’s GHOGH! Thanks everybody for listening to GHOGH. You can check me out @JamarlinMartin on Twitter and also come check us out at Moguldom.com. That’s M O G U L D O M.com. Be sure to subscribe to our daily newsletter. You can get the latest information on crypto, tech, economic empowerment and politics. Let’s GHOGH!
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