Half of the female rap duo City Girls may be in jail, but their show must go on. Last week, the group followed up their infectious mixtape, Period, with their first LP. The new album, Girl Code, includes features from Cardi B and boasts classic City Girls one-liners like “You like the way I grip that dick so get my nails done.” It’s the next step in what has been a quick rise to fame for two young women from the grittier streets of Miami. Remaining free member, Yung Miami (neé Caresha Brownlee), has been holding it down for her partner JT (born Jatavia Johnson), embarking on a press tour tour to promote the album. And on one of her stops — Hot 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, the popular morning radio show known for getting personal, if not confrontational, with talent — 24-year-old Miami found herself in the hot seat when she doubled down on her position that she doesn’t want her young son to be gay.
The response from Black Twitter was swift and to the point, as expected. One user said that it was a sign that City Girls were “imploding” right before the holidays. Another user called for anyone who agrees with her sentiments to block him. Someone else insisted that she had to cancel City Girls because Yung Miami was irredeemable. These kinds of definitive judgements against people, especially people of color and from other marginalized groups, who make problematic comments are commonplace in what’s been called cancel culture. When public figures say things that are wrong, hurtful, and/or hateful, the new default response is to mandate that we never hear from them again. We saw this with Kanye West when he pledged his allegiance to Trump over the summer, and Bette Midler when she suggested women were the “n-words” of the world. I’m not sure that this is an effective route, and sometimes disposing of the people who get it wrong often involves more problematic rhetoric.
To be clear: what Yung Miami said on the Breakfast Club was homophobic, especially given the circumstances. In August of this year, the rapper issued an apology for a 2013 tweet in which she insisted that she would “beat” her son if she ever observed any kind of “gay shit” in him. In a letter posted to Instagram, she claims that she meant no offense, and that she loves all of her supporters, regardless of their sexuality. When co-host Charlamagne asked Yung Miami about these comments last week, she set about explaining herself. “That’s just like when your mama tells you, ‘If you break my table I’m gonna beat the shit out of you,’ That don’t mean she’s gonna beat the shit out of you, she’s just saying it.” Then, she doubled down on the point that she wouldn’t want her son to be gay. And, as if to absolve herself or counterbalance this comment, she threw in the fact that her late cousin and stylist are both gay.
It goes without saying that critiques of Yung Miami are absolutely necessarily. Her comments reinforce the idea that people who identify as LGBTQ+ are a burden,, disappointment, or embarrassment to those around them. In the event that Miami’s son is queer, she just made it clear that his own mother feels that way. We do not have the luxury of remaining silent in the face of homophobia — the overt kind that culminates in violence, or the interpersonal brand that people assume is limited to their households and families. People should be held accountable for such statements and actions. Period.
But it is worth questioning what accountability looks like, and for whom. If we can acknowledge the insidious pervasiveness of heteronormativity, how do we also leave room for people to unlearn it? How do we meet people where they are, and how do we expect them to show up when they get there? And how might our own criteria for what “woke” should look like be problematic? It’s not a coincidence that right alongside (and sometimes within) the tweets about Miami’s homophobia are those that harp on her thick Miami accent and her perceived lack of education. More than a few people straight up called her dumb.
The real tea is that “Wokeness” is often, and incorrectly, associated with education and intellect. Those calls for the community to wash its hands of Yung Miami are, arguably, elitist respectability politics operating in disguise. It’s a lazy way to brag about our own level of intellectual competence without attempting to bring a Black woman who lacks the same language and perspective into a meaningful conversation. For example, empty threats of violence from parents are a shared experience amongst many Black millennials. So Miami’s analogy about the table as a way to clarify that she wouldn’t actually beat her son for being gay makes sense in that context. To ignore that feels like willful misinterpretation, and it allows us to double down on our own self-righteous disapproval of both corporal punishment and intolerance.
To quote writer, lawyer, professor, and one of my favorite tweeters, Preston Mitchum, “We confuse ‘dragging’ and ‘accountability’ way too much.” I would add that discerning which response is necessary is a critical part of actual radical inclusivity. I believe in cancelling abusers — like R. Kelly — because their access to wealth and influence make it easier for them to prey on people. I believe in cancelling people who create and build platforms on principles of intolerance — like the late XXXtentacion — because they’ve embraced the benefits of keeping others oppressed. I do not believe in cancelling people for simply being wrong.
Taking away Miami’s ability to feed her son by disengaging with her career is not how I think we should hold her accountable for ignorant remarks. Suggesting that she retreat back into obscurity because of the way she talks is not going to help her unlearn bigotry. Instead of Miami, that was homophobic. You have to go. Bye., I hope to be a part of a community of Black folks who might instead say: Miami, that was homophobic, here’s why. We need you to do better. And actually give her a chance to do so.
R29 Unbothered presents Trap Glazed, a bi-weekly column where Senior Entertainment Writer Sesali Bowen looks deeper at what’s happening in Black pop culture.