Who You Callin’ A…B-Word?

I have found that I am often mistaken for a “safe” Negro. This is disheartening, as a twentysomething Black woman, formerly known as a fire starter and warrior. My profession makes me seem this way, and I’m learning that this might be what is otherwise known as growing up. As a result, I’ve found that white people who may not come into contact with many Black people find it easy to inquire about certain things. That’s right folks; I am representative of the entire Black community for white people. We are a monolith, and I know all of the answers about why and how we behave.

One day at work, during a moment of leisure, I was standing around with two of my colleagues. One, an older white woman who has clearly lived a decent life filled with both racial and economic privilege. The other was a fortysomething white woman who grew up poor, of six children, from Chicago. The older woman, looked to me randomly during a random pause in our time-killing banter and said to me, “what is it with Black people and ‘the b-word’?”

You know that moment when you are at a crossroads to making a detrimental, life-altering, poor decision and weighing other less damaging options? I was there. The other white woman was visibly uncomfortable. I was a smidge thrown off, but instead of jumping the gun (and on her), I simply said, with a puzzled look, “um..what do you mean?” Her explanation, more tactfully than she worded it, is as follows: in her experience, Black women don’t mind explaining situations with expletives, but if they are elaborating on specifically being call a bitch, it is usually expressed as being called ‘the b-word’.

I met capacity with maintaining my attitude, and I told her that if she liked, I could do research and survey they, the Black people, and I’d report back to her next time our paths crossed. I am unhappy to report that I didn’t storm off angrily, or give much of that Black girl attitude that I famously embrace. There is no dramatic ending other than packing away my belongings and calling it a day, but my colleague was upset that she may have offended me and apologized bountifully.

And then, I wondered: if this woman’s experience is accurate, why do we refer to bitch as ‘the b-word’?

I hate to be cliche and point at hip-hop, but here is something to ponder: how many hip-hop songs feature the word “bitch” when referring to women? What about coupled with the word “nigga” when referring to men? What about the same sentences? As central themes?

I would love to utilize Hip Hop Word Count to find an accurate answer to this question. Check this out:

The Hip-Hop Word Count from Staple Crops on Vimeo.

Amazing, right? Shout out to @Tahero and company for inventing a creative resource that is brilliant and hip-hop based. Since the project is still up and coming, iTunes will shuffle just a few rap songs for me. I will stop at the songs where I recall the ‘b-word’ being used, no matter the context.

5. “Kanye got stacks, ya’ll already know that / Louis that, Gucci this, just got a model chick / Throw some D’s on that bitch!” Kanye West – Throw Some D’s (remix)

4. “…and I prolly fucked yo’ bitch, nigga.” Wiz Khalifa – In Da Cut
3. “Throw your hands up niggas, bitches, bustas, hustlers..” Jay-Z – Do It Again

2. “I think I’m addicted to naked pictures/And sittin talkin’ bout bitches/that we almost had” coupled with “fuck that nigga that you think you found/and since you picked up I know he’s not around.” Drake – Marvin’s Room

1. “This here goes out/to all the niggas that be fucking mad bitches/in other niggas cribs thinkin shit is sweet” Notorious B.I.G. – I Got A Story To Tell

Has hip-hop contributed to the dichotomy where we receive men to be “niggas” and women to be “bitches” — and if so, is that where the extension of hyphenated expletive pronouns lives? This is not intended to blame hip-hop on any sort of objectification of women; instead, it is about the language that we use and how we appropriate space. Where Black people are concerned, is the b-word the counterpart to the n-word?