Note to Reader: White supremacy, and the imperialist capitalist heteropatriarchy that we live in informs and is responsible for Hotepery. As you read, be clear on this. This is not a ‘Black issue’, this is about challenging and dismantling a dangerous legacy informed by that white supremacist hegemonic structure.
So you’re minding your business online…
A person who promotes a quasi-religious, quasi-intellectual set of beliefs based in obscure and dramatically inaccurate historical references to ancient Egypt while ignoring the rest of Africa, obsession with food modification, conspiracy theories, the regulation of Black women and their bodies, and the ’emasculation’ of Black men.
Hotepery is fallacious and selective, yet determined to create a semblance of authenticity through including biblical references, alluding to science but erasive of scientific fact, and adding a pseudo-Islamic, Afrocentrist philosophy.
And it’s ridiculous in its arrogance, assumptions and entitlement, engendering some of the most entertaining responses on social media from memes and tweets to blog and status updates.
While the memes and jokes are hilarious, Hotepery is extremely dangerous. It centers Black nationalism without Black liberation, requires little investment or truth, and continues a hyper masculine patriarchal narrative that depends upon the subjugation of Black women and the eradication of Black queer and trans people.
And alarmingly, it has been most alluring to cis-het* Black men who make up the overwhelming majority of its followers. Many of these Black men, walking the line of patriarchal privilege paired with anti-Black racism find echoes of themselves in hotep narratives that feel both empowering and affirming.
Hotepery’s obstinacy, misinformation and obsessive fear of ’emasculation’ is harmful to Black men, who are not even allowed to express care and intimacy towards each other on one extreme
and on another, deadly to Black trans women, who are too often murdered before Black men deal with their internalized homophobia, transphobia and attraction. It literally destroys the ability for many Black populations to love each other in ways not informed by white supremacy.
Did I mention that many cis, straight Black women also ascribe to hotep ideology? It may transcend gender, but the realities of how power and privilege play out still requires an examination of cis-het Black men, patriarchy, the violence it creates and the failure of this population to show up for queer, trans and female identified Black people historically and in this movement time.
While most hoteps are easy to recognize, from the ankh wielding, dashiki wearing brother to the online cultist spewing facts on cryptozoology, saying ’empress’ and condemning periods in Black women as filth or sickness, this ideology is far more insidious and deeply ingrained, even infiltrating cultures of resistance.
A prime example is the Bill Cosby case. A few months ago, the internet came alive when dozens of women came forward to say that Cosby, a 78 yr old Black man adored for his role as Heathcliff Huxtable on 80’s sitcom ‘The Cosby Show’, had drugged and sexually assaulted over 50 women throughout his career as America’s favorite ‘father’ figure.
Suddenly, a throng of Black men were crawling out the woodwork in defense of Cosby. They had dozens of reasons for how he was being set up, from how long it took for the women to come forward, to conspiracies around the destruction of Cosby’s legacy and most absurdly, that he was poised to buy NBC and the powers that be colluded to tear him down.
These defenders were not just the easily identifiable hotep nationals, but rather a spectrum of Black men. Black men I have marched with and shouted down police brutality with, Black men who speak fluently on capitalism and white supremacy, and even Black men who do not actively engage in political discourse, all united in upholding one of the bastions of hotep culture; the fervent belief in the preservation and power of the Black man and the conspiracy to bring him down.
I want to be clear: there IS a conspiracy, but without all the secrecy; it’s called anti-Black racism, and it affects ALL Black people, not just Black men.
Hotep Black nationalism is only concerned with the freedom of cis-het Black men, and allows for the erasure of women and the denial of rape culture in lieu of this larger, more important goal. This erasure is also seen when Black queer and trans people are told we are being divisive when we talk about our intersecting identities, or better still, that we are derailing from the ‘real’ issues.
Black liberation however, holds the complexity of the situation, acknowledging the reality of anti-Black racism while still maintaining the truth of survivorship and the need to believe women when they speak on rape and sexual assault. The tensions that exist between hotep nationalism and Black liberation are as a result of the former, requiring the elimination of entire populations of Black people and the latter, which recognizes the need for plurality in our Black identities as well as active resistance against the state.
Hotepery is also deeply invested in the concept of reinstatement of the ‘original’ Black family, best demonstrated in the disturbing movement Straight Black Pride. SBP’s main assertions rely on respectability politics and conspiracy; namely that queer and trans people are responsible for an imagined Black degeneracy, are the product of colonization and part of a larger plot meant to destroy Afrikan people through the destruction of the family.
While this manifestation of Hotepery might appear on the outskirts of popular rhetoric and therefore easily dismissed, its underpinnings strongly appeal to many Black people who are distressed about the state of Black communities, and instead of recognizing the larger power structures of anti-Black racism, they subscribe to heterosexism, patriarchism and respectability, all models that have historically attacked Black women first.
The idea that queer and trans people are unable to form and lead healthy Black families stems from the same ideology that suggests single parent homes led by Black women are broken and unhealthy; both rely on the presence of a cis-het Black man to dominate and direct it.
Furthermore, we see this same pattern in this movement time, where Black Lives Matter, from Toronto to LA, and Black Youth Project 100, from Chicago to New York and across the board, are two major movements pushing and fighting and winning for Black Liberation. They are led by queer, trans and female identified people, many of whom are poor, sex working, unapologetic and ferocious in their commitment to justice, from changing legislation, to changing the face of state prosecutors, to shutting down highways, challenging police and changing curriculum.
The absence of many Black cis-het men in movements with Black queer, trans and women leadership was strikingly apparent in witnessing Justice or Else, a march last year commemorating the 20th anniversary for the Million Man March. There were Black men in droves. It hit me that this was so much deeper than not agreeing with the names or platforms of current movements, and it wasn’t about disinterest or apathy, rather it was a refusal to take leadership from women, queer and trans folks.
Hotepery is a direct result of white supremacy, of capitalism and hetero-patriarchy. It imitates the current power structure with the amendment of Black nationalism, alienating entire populations of Black people and working against Black Liberation.
We need an intervention.
Black men who are hoteps, it’s time to support your people who are fighting and working and dying for your freedom. I know the allure, I listened to Nas, rocked the ankh, and know how necessary self-determination was in what felt like the hangover period of Black power movements in the 60s and the state’s effort to decimate Black communities. Truth is, we all got a little hotep in us.
We went through it, but our politic evolved.
Meet us in that place, beyond the respectability, beyond Black nationalism, beyond homophobia and transphobia and misogyny.
If you fight so hard for something that requires you to kill off certain parts of yourself, that dictates how you love and who you love, that makes it so you cannot show up and love entire populations of Black people, your people, then what is it worth?
cis-het*- someone who has a gender identity that aligns with what they were assigned at birth, that is also heterosexual