Over the years, I have constantly heard people in the black community use the term “Hotep brother.” It has permeated our music, literature, television shows, and more. There are several definitions of this term, but I think Damon Young captures it best in his article on The Root. He states that signs of Hotep brothers include:
- a steadfast belief in illogical conspiracy theories
- an arrogant adherence to respectability politics
- sexism and homophobia that vacillate from “thinly veiled” to “If being gay is natural, how come there ain’t any gay elephants?”
- unbowed and uncompromising support for any black man accused of any wrongdoing, even if said man’s guilt is clear
- ashy ankles
While some of these ideas may be meant to be tongue and cheek, the overarching idea is that there are brothers and sisters (especially brothers) in our community who could be considered “trifling” (sneaky, shady, insignificant, etc.). There is an inherent danger in using the term “Hotep brother” as a derogatory term. The problem is that I couple this term with another term that has made its way into the American lexicon—ISIS.
If you google “ISIS”, 99% of hits on the first page will tell you that ISIS is a terrorist group meaning Islamic State In Syria as well as Iraq. In other countries, the term Da’ish or Daeshis used to refer to ISIS in other countries but ISIS has taken hold in America. Chances are you probably have casually used the term ISIS in casual conversations about terrorism but why is this is a problem for black America?
Imhotep was an ancient Egyptian deified polymath or a person with wide ranging knowledge. He was a poet, judge,engineer, scribe,astronomer,astrologer,and a physician. Isis was an Egyptian goddess and part of the original holy trinity along with her husband Osiris and son Horus. In short, these are two of the most powerful symbols that we as black people have tracing back to the earliest days of civilization and we allow these terms to be used negatively.
Between “Hotep brother”, ISIS, “nigga”, “bitch” and several other terms that fall in between, we should not be using terms that refer to our ancestors as demeaning and degrading terms. In the era we live in today, we are having several conversations about our direction. We are looking at ways to become more active in the political process, take control of our education like LeBron James and others, create and support more black businesses, and so much more. Part of our conversation about nation building has to focus on not using language that degrades us or our history.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen parodies of Harriet Tubman having sex with her slave master, our first African American President and First Lady of The United States be portrayed as monkeys and terrorists, history books being re-written to reflect Slavery as a system for voluntary migrant workers, unarmed members of our community being slain by law enforcement and then their character further slain in the media, people calling the police on us for just living #whileblack, and so much more. We are in a continued battle in this country to preserve our history and culture. We have to be more intentional about the language we use towards each other. We can challenge the members of our community whom we do not feel bring out our best without degrading our ancestors and the few symbols that have stood the test of time. We can and must do better if we are serious about nation building.