Shut Your Pretentious, Faux-Emotionally-Developed Ass Up

There is no human trait on Earth that I find more repugnant than self-righteousness. As human beings, we may be separated by millions of different identity traits, but the one thing we share in common is infallibility. And I don’t mean that in a theological sense as in we’re all imperfect in the eyes of God, but rather in a practical and tangible sense – we are walking mistakes. We hurt the ones we love, we harm ourselves, we engage in all kinds of extraneous, irrational, and destructive behaviour from our first step to our last breath. Our lives are marked by an endless series of triumphs and tragedies from which we either grow or fall. The smartest people on Earth realize that our lives are one big continuous teaching moment, but self-righteous folks are the ones who believe that emotional, mental, and psychological growth is an aged-act, that should occur at set points on an arbitrarily specific timeline, and if someone fails to do that then they have consigned themselves to being inherently unworthy. And I don’t think I’ve witnessed as much pretentious, self-righteous hand-wringing as I did after Jay-Z’s 4:44 album was released.

I made sure to stay up ’til midnight on June 30th of last year to not only hear the songs the second the album was released, but to also track the album’s mentions on Twitter and Instagram to get an idea of how other’s were responding to the album. While I give no fucks about what people think about my own personal taste in music, I’m always intrigued to hear why people like or don’t like the art they consume. The initial response was mixed, with mostly positive reviews. I’m not sure if this was because so many of us old heads were just happy to have a new, high quality, Jay product, but in an age of annoying, purple-dreadlocked, eyeball tattooed, lean addicted teenagers screaming “HUYYAHH!” every two-seconds, his album was like biting into a piece of perfectly cooked homemade oxtail after eating weeks of stale-ass McDonald’s double-cheeseburgers. It was like drinking perfectly-aged whiskey after weeks of shotgunning Four Loko’s. The album had great content, profound lyricism, and bangin’ beats, but it also featured something we’ve never really seen from Jay-Z before: vulnerability. Whether he was talking about his mother being lesbian, his feelings about looking imperfect in his daughters eyes, or his extramarital affairs, he offered us a glimpse into his emotions, past his ego – he showed us his fallibility. Now I don’t know whether or not everything was facts or part of a story he concocted for sales and public intrigue, but I do know that the character Jay-Z has never presented himself as anything less than a connoisseur of fine cars, fine women, and stacks of cash. But that wasn’t what 4:44 was about.

I respected this piece of art so deeply because whether you’re a famous, multi-millionaire mogul, or a regular Joe/Jane working 40 hours a week to keep your head above water, publicly expressing your vulnerabilities is an emotionally traumatic event, regardless of whether you’re baring your soul to millions or a room full of family members, or even just your spouse. It requires great courage to confront your shortcomings, and commit yourself to the hard work of correcting your mistakes and improving yourself. But what pissed me the fuck off about so much of the responses to 4:44 was the fact that they were predicated in a self-righteous rage about infidelity. So much of it was “this is why men are trash.” Jay-Z admitted that his Solange physically assaulting him was his fault, and a large portion of the listening population dismissively shrugged like “tough break nigga.”

Now, to be clear, I don’t believe that Jay-Z deserves a cookie for admitting he fucked up. I also don’t believe that he deserves a cookie for experiencing emotional growth after hanging on the precipice of losing his family. But, I also don’t believe that anyone criticizing his vulnerability and attacking his growth deserves a cookie either, especially when you’re not directly related to the situation or the offender. When someone says ‘sorry, I know I fucked up, and I’ve now taken steps to become a better person’, you don’t get any fucking props for responding with “UGH! YOUR TRASH! YOU’RE SO OLD AND YOUR ONLY REALIZING THIS NOW?! UGGHHHH TRASSSSHHHHH!”

Man, if you don’t shut the fuck up.

Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with personal extrapolation (i.e taking a situation that someone else has experienced and relating it to something that you’ve either personally gone through or witnessed someone else deal with) and making a larger critique based on that. Some brilliant Black women writers did that – but there was also a lot of TRASH-ASS THINK PIECES that developed out of 4:44 that intentionally lambasted the whole point of the expressive vulnerability to make a useless, self-righteous point that was completely self-serving and absolutely fucking stupid.

My larger point is this: to be far ahead in the game of emotional growth is something to be personally treasured, not used as a cudgel to browbeat others who aren’t as far along in their own personal journeys. This is one of my biggest problems with the so-called “woke” crowd. Too many muthaphuckas see being #woke as an opportunity to condescend to the less knowledgeable, rather than teach the uninformed. There’s far too many Black men and women running around our society full of self-congratulation because they can quote bell hooks or Audre Lorde in any conversation, and they ironically use this “wokeness” to separate themselves further from the same community of people they claim to be fighting for. Some of the same niggas who got woke in the summer of 2014 are out here walking around like they were pulled out the womb clutching an original text of The Fire Next Time.

I fucking hate y’all.

I saw this same annoying shit last week when Mathew Knowles, Beyonce’s dad, did an interview in which he fully admitted that the colourism he was taught by his mother affected the attraction he ultimately had for Tina. In fact, he says he didn’t even know she was Black when they first met – he just thought he got himself a fine-ass white woman. 66-year-old Mathew has been in therapy and he has learned a ton about himself, his flaws, and his mental hangups, much like 48-year-old Jay-Z allegedly did as well. It’s impressive as hell that both of these brothers could acknowledge the scale of their interpersonal flaws and then commit to seeing a therapist for the sake of their mental health and improving their family life. Doesn’t mean they deserve a cookie, but to use it as an opportunity to shame someone for where they’re located on the spectrum of inner-growth is fucking gross.

This Is Your Conscience

Lincoln Anthony Blades can be found on Twitter at @LincolnABlades and on Instagram at @ThisIsYourConscience