By Sierra M. Witcher
Imma be real wit y’all, I thought this Umar v Seti (#HotepWars) mess was fake for two reasons; petty Black feminists’ troll level went Super Saiyan and the gargantuan amount of ashiness is too ironic to be real. Get y’all’s Palmers & Carmex out, because unfortunately we all gotta talk about this a little more, and it’s only gonna get ashier from here.
Before I talk about this clearance Kroger brand imitation beef, Imma explain what beef is so we can have a foundation for future discussions. Beefin’ refers to a specific manner with which diasporic Black people hold other Black folks accountable or work through conflicts of any nature. One of the universal understandings among Black folks is the “Negroes is beefin’’’ signal. Whether you hear/see it on your block, in your city, or on Black Twitter, when the Beefin’ Bat Signal is turned on folks either run for cover or into the eye of the storm.
Beefin’ predates the genesis of hip-hop, the creation of American ghettos and the implementation of redlining. Black folks been beefin’ for centuries. In the context of Black folks in America, the way we beef is dictated by regionally specific (and largely patriarchal) hood politics. When I say hood politics, I’m talkin bout the politics of folks who are always at the frontlines of the fight against white supremacy, but are now at the margins of discourse surrounding the resilience of Black folks (cuz we get that C.R.E.A.M, but cain’t talk about class politics). I’m talkin’ bout those “you lose a fight at school, you getting a whoopin’ at home” understandings as much as those “if you square up on one person, you fightin’ them and they cousins.”
I could talk about the rampant toxic masculinity (Umar beating on his chest and emasculating Seti), classism (Umar saying Seti can’t be a leader because he’s “broke”), and ableism (Umar calling Seti albino and making derogatory anti-black comments about albino Black folks, then calling Seti a midget) in the Umar v. Seti beef, but I won’t because y’all got mad think pieces on your TL that do that. I could also talk about how Seti was right to call out the BS Umar’s “platform” is built upon; the pseudo Afrikan rhetoric, the constant use of Black women as platforms and stepping stones to his “throne,” the sexual abuse, and the exploitation of Black youth for financial gain to name a few. Umar don’t like being called on his shit by someone who he thinks should be kissing his ring.
But this beef is bigger than two Negroes with kufis and misogynoir having a loud ass schoolyard fight where they talk all of this and that but don’t nobody wanna swing. If I’m bein’ really real, I’d say that I’ve seen mad beefs just like this in all of these black liberation spaces (i.e. the Movement for Black Lives, the RBG movement, the Talented Tenth, the Black church activists). It don’t matter if the folks beefin’ are in kufis, snapbacks, #BLM shirts, or fedoras; egocentrism in pro-black drag is all up and through these beefs.
Black folks have internalized tactics of the settler colonial project through various systems of oppression, and those tactics have morphed the ways we maintain accountability and resolve conflict. Examples of these tactics include the white supremacist patriarchy, gender binarism, hierarchy as dictated by capitalism, the monetization of humanity and value, the racial binary, and heteronormativity, to name a few. We can only understand beefin’ to be a toxic and destructive practice because we beef using settler colonial tactics.
Whether the beef is theoretically (not practically) done through a black feminist lens or it cites Hidden Colors, at the root they often sacrifice communal gains for individual gratification. Black folks beef with settler shit in all of our spaces because we’re at a crossroads in our path to decolonization. The Umar v. Seti beef only shows us all that we ain’t gettin’ free without decolonizing our accountability practices.
I’m not saying all hood politics are rooted in patriarchy (esp. toxic masculinity), because that would be a huge diss to the womanists and matriarchs that been holdin’ us down from jump. The communal, intergenerational, and direct nature of beef as an accountability measure is a very good characteristic. Beef illustrates our interconnectedness and centers the wisdom of those who came before us in the choices we make today.
When Black folks say they have beef with somebody, they say it to that person’s face. This directness can be expressed by reaching out in a private message or by calling an elder in the community and asking them to be there while y’all work through your beef. Black folks resolve beef, beyond taking it outside, through displays of respect and redefining how we engage with each other inside and outside of community spaces.
In decolonizing beef, we retain these original ideas and the fact that a beef’s resolution depends upon the relationship between who was involved and what the beef is, therefore there is no one size fits all resolution. Displays of respect always begin by honoring the ancestors and elders (ex. pour some out for folks who have passed away), then an exchange of goods or services and redefining our respective boundaries. Getting right could mean admitting what parts you played in the beef to the community or repositioning your role within the community. Completing processes to reevaluate or recommit to community values could settle beefs, but the wisdom of elders and impacted community members is central to this resolution.
Under colonialism, violence is used to establish dominance or restore ego. But taking it outside is a legitimate way to handle beef and is not inherently the same type of violence, because maintaining bodily autonomy is crucial to decolonization. On the contrary, physical resolutions to beef establish clear boundaries and affirm personal autonomy through physical means. Taking it outside is productive when done in an equitable and restorative manner, not to redistribute trauma.
However, when we try to hold other Black folks accountable under the gaze, and for the accolades, of White folks, it ultimately becomes settler shit. When we beef using settler colonial tactics, we perpetuate a cycle of abuse and trauma that harms both ourselves and our communities. It becomes a toxic hyper-masculine bi-product of navigating the settler colonial project that Black folks are systematically forced to engage with.
Presently, the devaluation of autonomous Black spaces makes Black folks only see white spaces as legitimate. Thusly, we handle our beefs in white dominated spaces (ex. social media, mainstream media) making Black rage performative as dictated by the parameters of whiteness. The Umar/Seti beef is an idyllic example of beefin’ with settler shit. Umar responded to Seti’s call for accountability with classist and ableist rhetoric, wielding toxic masculinity as a weapon on a white dominated platform, then justified his actions by putting himself at the top of the RGB hierarchy as “The Prince of Consciousness.” Though confrontation and accountability is crucial, this settler shit has nothing to do with liberation. But, for lack of a better cliché, if the truth shall set us free, truly decolonizing beefin’ can keep us free.
Sierra Witcher lives in Detroit, MI. They like books, 80s movies, and listen to as much music as possible. Politically, they identify as a self-determinationist and organize around protecting bodily autonomy. They hope to curate autonomous spaces and be more courageous with their writing.