So, when I first heard “Bitch Better Have My Money,” I thought it was about reparations. And I loved it. Cuz, YASSSS.
When the video dropped this weekend, I couldn’t find time to watch it. But through my social media feeds, I heard rumors of White Feminist LLP going nuts because Rihanna dared to do harm to a white rich women. The relationship between white and Black women, and the feminist analyses that underscore our parallel racial identities, is rooted in a complicated, tragic, violent power dynamic that finds its roots in plantation politics. Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous, offers sound insight into this extremely twisted phenomenon.
Historically, white women have been enormously vicious to Black women both in body, culture, and spirit. Resenting us while we were raped by their husbands … coopting, erasing, and appropriating our physical and intellectual labor for exclusive white female political gain … participating in our sterilization … the list goes on and on.
In short, my intro to such a contentious visual display wasn’t going to be the through the lens of an Establishment with which I have no trust, faith, or respect for. So I didn’t read their think pieces, because I knew where they’d lack in intersectional, selfless analysis, they’d make up for in contradiction.
— Certified Black (@FireinFreetown) July 4, 2015
Show me one white feminist who’s critical of #BBHMM who’s actually WORKED on social issues with black women. Easier to find a unicorn.
— Emma Evans (@TrancewithMe) July 6, 2015
So, when I watched the video, I didn’t know what to fully expect. And honestly, I was unprepared with how gruesome and violent her video was. No lie, I was dangerously close to a panic attack. I couldn’t pace my breathing while being relentlessly triggered with no warning, and traumatized with no mercy. Sexualized torture. Kidnapping. Forced drugging. Physical violence.
Rihanna checked almost every box in the gender based violence toolkit.
But as I was gonna walk away, the plot twist saved my spirit. The subject of Rihanna’s angst was the rich white women’s husband. In flashbacks, Rihanna reveals how a cisgender heterosexual white man has been withholding her money, while her bank account was close to nil. To get him to come to his senses, she kidnaps his wife to force him to pay what’s rightfully hers.
Which is still triggering and violent as hell.
But there’s an added layer. Her husband does not come to his wife’s defense, and instead leaves her to suffer, thus exposing his violence, greed, and ruthless inhumanity. There’s the scene where he’s carelessly blowing his money around — with a Black women propped at his side, and perhaps a future victim of his demonism — as his wife’s fate remains precarious.
This video offers too much social commentary on relationships to be unintentional. The problematic “romantic” relationship that exists between rich capitalist white men and “their” white women.
The financial relationship between white men and Black women, and the uneven sexual power dynamic that is not only masked, woven, suggested, referenced, or forthrightly present in racialized economic (in)security, but further defines such a particularly volatile relationship.
And the violence that holds it all. The presumption of the innocent, the victor, the victim, the harm-doer, the survivor is frustratingly subjective.
The only personalization that’s abundantly clear and readily graspable is that of the white women who, throughout such a layered saga, remains completely blameless. Take that as you wish.
Rihanna created something deeper and more relatable than scandalized controversy. This manufactured premise, built with intent, purpose, and storytelling, forced racial society to think, question, challenge, rebuke, hate, and/or even praise *something* intangible, but concretely and specifically tied to money, sexualized torture, and vindication.