Cardi B: A Beacon of Light for the Unapologetic Hood Girl
Cardi B, a regular-shmegular girl from the Bronx, came on the scene and changed the game for all of us. Last month, the rambunctious rapper dropped her first album Invasion of Privacy that, within a week, broke numerous records proving to the world, and her naysayers, that her impact on the industry would be nothing less than impressive. The success of her album is a direct consequence of hard work and dedication as Cardi is the perfect example of a person who displays impeccable work ethic. I mean, headlining Coachella while pregnant? Who wouldn’t be proud of a person who started with very little and built an impressive career?
Cardi grew up in Highbridge, a Bronx neighborhood that was astonishingly under-resourced in comparison to other affluent areas of New York City. She has detailed her experiences growing up and being told that she would not achieve anything special in her life because she was just a girl from Highbridge. Those of us who grew up in neighborhoods similar to Cardi’s have faced the same negativity because these ideas are pervasive in underprivileged neighborhoods. Mostly due to people in our communities internalizing racist and classist notions forced upon us through government policy, social stigmas, and harmful representations in the media. These ideologies are then taught to younger generations and the vicious cycle continues.
Those of us who grew up with these ideologies were taught that to be successful we had to learn to speak without our accents, we had to keep our opinions to ourselves, we had to watch the tone and volume of our voices, and we had to be aware of how approachable we were. For those of us with heavy accents, colorful personalities, and take-no-shit attitudes, it seemed as though success would be difficult to achieve. In response, we may have tried to participate in a performative display of the stereotypical successful person and fought to separate ourselves from the neighborhoods we called home, but ultimately still felt out of place. We tried to hide our accents, to tone down our attitudes and to be less opinionated. Overall, we attempted to mute our real selves to be seen as great candidates for success, just to end up unhappy because we knew we were not being who we really were.
Recently Cardi came face to face with the harmful ideas we all grew up around. In an interview with "The Breakfast Club", fellow rapper Azealia Banks called Cardi “an illiterate untalented rat” and a "caricature of a black woman." Banks further pressed, "If my spelling and grammar was that bad, I’d be canceled."
Needless to say, an attack on Cardi for these reasons is an attack on all of us who relate to Cardi B. For those of us who see ourselves in Cardi, hearing and reading the words about her was like hearing it from the people we have encountered in our lives who took it upon themselves to try and diminish our worth and intelligence based on elitist ideas of how we carry ourselves or how well we speak, read or write the English language. A bitter pill to swallow when, only a few decades ago, these elitist ideas were used against people of color to deter them from exercising their Constitutional right to vote or to secure employment. Azealia Banks, who grew up in a Harlem neighborhood only three miles away from Highbridge, is the perfect example of how people most similar to us can internalize such detrimental ideas and in turn, use them to belittle others. In response to the criticism, Cardi made it very clear that she would not apologize for the way she speaks or writes because those things do not define her worth nor her intelligence and are simply part of who she is and who she will always be.
For the sake of ourselves and future generations, we should no longer accept the idea that we cannot be intelligent because we misplace commas or mispronounce words. Little girls and women of color should not be admonished because they have a loud and contagious laughter or because they’re free-spirited. We are not caricatures simply because we do not adhere to archaic, sexist and misogynistic notions that women should always be quiet and polite. Cardi’s authenticity is one of the most intriguing and respectable aspects of her journey to success. She has shown us that we do not need alternate personas to be accepted and we should always be who we truly are. Cardi has proved to us that we do not have to lower our volumes, hide our unique accents, be less “ratchet”, hide our sexual liberty, or change ourselves to reach the success that everyone ultimately seeks in their lives.
While Cardi has never asked to be a role model, she inadvertently became a beacon of light for all of us who do not want to mute ourselves to make others comfortable in our presence. Her authenticity and beaming personality proves to us that we do not need to be less assertive take make people less intimidated by us and we do not need to stop giving our opinions because some people may not like them. Cardi’s unapologetic nature has shattered years of harmful notions which imply that success is exclusive to people who fit a certain mold.
Cardi B represents so many of us girls and women of color who do not want to compromise our true selves to each success. She has gone against every trait that society tells us we should have. To all the girls and women out there who see themselves in Cardi, always stay true to yourself and be unapologetic about the real you. As the quote says: “no one is you and that is your power.”
Copy by: Juliana Barona
Juliana Barona is a current law student in Orlando, FL. Her passions range from social justice issues affecting people of color to poetry and other creative arts. Her poetry was recently published in the literary journal What Oft Was Thought and is working to publish her own collection of poems in the near future. After law school, Juliana plans on securing a spot in the world of intellectual property and art law. She hopes to build a career helping creatives maintain ownership in their works and help make some sense out of an unregulated industry that is the art world. One of Juliana’s ultimate goals is to open and curate her own gallery and provide creative opportunities for young artists of color.
You can read Juliana’s poetry on her Instagram page @jujuforevr.
Images Courtesy of: Charley Gallay, Larry Busacca, and Dimitrios Kambouris for Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images