RaceSex & Gender

the “ride or die” narrative is too often code for an unhealthy kind of black love

July 28, 2017
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By Brittney Maddox/Wear Your Voice*, AFROPUNK Contributor

The “ride or die” script is not a positive role to play and we should be wary of this trope. It hurts us in the long run.

All I need in this life of sin/is me and my girlfriend,” raps a young Jay-z in the 2003 hit “03 Bonnie and Clyde.” Beyonce sings the hook and goes on to talk about the things she would do to prove her unwavering loyalty. This was played a lot during my childhood along with countless other songs that I remember with this recurring theme of “the ride or die.” The woman who always had your back. She was fly, loyal, and would never snitch. She was an ideal that many sought out or would strive to become.

While at first it may seem charming to be a woman who fits this archetype, this character often seen in hip hop has its consequences.

It fosters a culture that normalizes the mistreatment of black women in romantic relationships, where their bodies are in the crossfire of an anti-femme and anti-black climate. Where harming us seems like a punchline.

The older I get, the more I become concerned about the ways black women are mistreated and how it’s normalized. There are countless media sources that use misogynoir as a vehicle to justify violence against black femmes. It’s so commonplace that we have internalized these messages.

The “ride or die” female archetype commonly seen in hip-hop is constantly sought out due to her loyalty and a high tolerance for abuse. We are unsure who coined the term, but the origins can be traced back through songs.

In the “You’re all I Need” by Method Man and Mary J Blige, the two talk about their fatal attraction. The chorus laments this “loyalty ‘til death” mentality.  “You’re all, I need to lie together/cry together/I swear to God I hope we fucking die together.” Method Man says his woman is down to carry his weapons and engage in criminal activities. Charlie Baltimore sings “Cause I’m your bitch, the Bonnie to your Clyde/It’s mental, mash your enemies,” so the woman in question often has to exhibit a level of trust to put her life on the line.

This mentality isn’t only found in music but can be seen in shows. In the Mona Scott produced television series “Love and Hip Hop,” we see several celebrity women engaging with men in the hip-hop industry. From producers to rappers, these women are often found in tumultuous relationships, usually in the middle of a scandal, or dealing with infidelity or legal woes.

These women are devastatingly loyal to these men. Each week millions would tune in and watch the demise of these relationships and see their pain constantly ridiculed and broadcasted constantly through tweets or memes. I often worry about the lack of empathy displayed by them and their personal lives behind the scenes

Black women are supposed to be impenetrable. We can withstand everything, which leads me to think this is why violence against us goes unnoticed or dismissed. Yes, “ride or die” isn’t exempt from this thinking as it’s the contemporary version of the “strong black woman” archetype that originated during slavery.

We are now seeing the emergence of social movements such as the “Say Her Name” campaign in response to the lack of coverage of women/femmes killed by law enforcement agents. This could even be extended further to apply to intimate partners. It’s unfortunate to think about how this social mindset affects our young girls as well.

Think of the Spring Hill Valley case, where a young girl was assaulted by a CO in a classroom while her classmates watched idly. This further proves that violence against black women isn’t taken seriously.

#Blackgirlsmatter was a hashtag forged to bring awareness to that demographic after countless recurring issues such as this one. The elephant that often goes overlooked in our community is the high rates of  IPV (interpersonal violence). This combined with the ride or die phenomena leaves many black women isolated or not able to seek the help they need.

There are so many ways that this trope hurts Black women in the long run. The “ride or die” trope perpetuates male entitlement and often times our society accept men who lie, cheat, and manipulate women they are romantically or sexually involved with. Women are rewarded for staying faithful in monogamy no matter how unequally yoked. Love that is nonreciprocal kills us slowly in its grip.

The “ride or die” script is not a positive role to play and we should be wary of this trope. It hurts us in the long run. Black women are susceptible to violence at the hands of their male counterparts and violence against black girls is often disregarded. This caricature of the woman who puts her all in her partner to bypass his terrible behavior needs to die. She’s praised because she’s an extension of her partner and has no sexual agency, but this narrow ideal of black womanhood does not honor the fullness of what Black womanhood truly is.

When you don’t understand the pervasiveness this perpetuates, you can’t see the severity of violence against black women/femmes. Is undying love worth it?

*This post is in partnership with Wear Your Voice