Untangling the absolute mess that happened on Twitter over the weekend (no, not that The Weeknd) about Doja Cat is gonna be tough, but we’re here to help you try and parse it. For the quickest summary before we get into the receipts, rapper and viral “Say So” singer Doja Cat was recently the subject of a bunch of trending Twitter hashtags on the weekend, including #DojaCatIsOver and #DojaIsOverParty. Only a few hours later though, and before she could even address the behaviour that caused her “cancellation” the hashtag #WeAreSorryDojaCat began picking up steam.
So what exactly happened here?
One of the main accusations being levelled at Doja Cat is that she was and is an active member of racist chatrooms that are populated predominantly by white men who are alt-right white supremacists or incels, which is a bit of a giant yikes, to say the least. Doja Cat is of South African and Jewish descent and her presence in these rooms—though it’s still kind of a bit hazy as to whether they’re just white men, white supremacists, incels or a combination of all three—has been incredibly concerning for some of her followers.
People on Twitter are claiming that Doja Cat is either trying to disavow the black parts of her identity or at the very least is dealing with a lot of internalised racism in less than ideal ways. Various screenshots discussing her time in these TinyChat rooms claims that she pandered to white male viewers, gave people “passes” to say the n-word and generally did a lot of things for a grotesque kind of shock factor.
Whether it’s “just pandering” to the white gaze or for attention, people aren’t happy. People have also matched the outfits she’s wearing to ones from just last week, so unfortunately for fans in the #WeAreSorryDojaCat camp, what spurred the #DojaIsOverParty are very recent receipts.
Only one interview, from late 2019 with PAPER has touched in-depth on her presence in these chat rooms. According to the article, Doja Cat had “a near-“religious” obsession with a chatroom—which she declines to name or share any further details about, citing the fact that “people are fucking crazy” and will try to hunt it down—that she still frequents to this day.”
If this is the same chatroom that she’s now being called out for participating in, it could have been the breeding ground for a lot of the internalised racism and anti-black sentiments people are charging her with. Talking about her time in the chatroom, which she apparently used to skip school to hang out in, the singer explained that “People would pick on me and use horrible, horrible language, just the worst, and I just didn’t understand why people were so crazy on there.”
Some Doja Cat fans who rushed to her defence in the tag #WeAreSorryDojaCat claimed that she’d suffered a lot of emotional abuse and had intense self-esteem issues. To a degree, it sounds like Doja Cat did try and cope with the online chatroom by leaning into it. “So I became the person who would make offensive jokes and do things sort of out of the box,” she told PAPER.
Perhaps the most damning thing in this whole saga is Doja Cat’s resurfaced 2015 song “Dindu Nuffin.” The phrase is an offensive bastardisation of “didn’t no nothing,” which is usually deployed in protest when black communities and individuals in the U.S. face unfair treatment and racial profiling by law enforcement. Its origins are known to be from the “politically incorrect” board /pol/ on 4chan in 2014, where it was used to make fun of defenders of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American man who was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
The phrase has since been associated and commonly used by alt-right and white supremacist groups, including being deployed in 2015 to mock the death of Sandra Bland. Bland was a 28-year-old African-American woman who died in custody, which many people believed was due to racial violence against her.
To use the phrase “Dindu Nuffin” in a song, even in an attempt to reclaim it, smacks of insensitivity. While Doja Cat doesn’t mention her by name in the song, Bland died in July of 2015 sparking protests that lasted for months. The song was released in November 2015 and many people claim it was a direct response to the events of that year.
Doja Cat’s social media messiness
In now-deleted tweets, Doja Cat does seem to trace a certain kind of anti-black sentiment, saying “thinking about being Black can make any sensible person depressed. like just think about it wouldn’t being White make soo much more sense. life would have value.” Nobody other than Doja Cat can know the mindset she was in when she wrote these tweets, and they could have come from a very low place, but it’s still a pretty damning sentiment to put out onto the internet forever.
It’s not the first time tweets have gotten her into trouble either. Back in 2015, she wrote tweet that used a homophobic slur against Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. After going viral for for “Mooo!” and as is the nature of the internet, the tweet was resurfaced and circulated. Her initial response to the very justified backlash against her tweet was also extremely tone-deaf, “I called a couple people faggots when I was in high school in 2015 does this mean I don’t deserve support? I’ve said faggot roughly like 15 thousand times in my life. Does saying faggot mean you hate gay people? I don’t think I hate gay people. Gay is ok.” She did eventually issue a more serious apology, but the internet is written in ink.
People have since surfaced Islamophobic tweets and a post in which Doja Cat referred to an apparently Asian fan as a “lil yellow n*****.”
Even if it’s said in a complementary—we guess?—way, “yellow” as a term has a distinct racist history from its use in the phrase “Yellow Peril.” Basically the idea existed (and exists) that East Asian people are somehow a cultural threat to the White western world. The U.S.’ current sinophobia and Trump’s insistence on calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” is a strong example of this continuing mode of thinking. There have been movements to reclaim the term “yellow”, but as with anything, using a term like that really relies on reading the damn room.
Doja Cat’s apology
Earlier today, after three days of radio silence, Doja Cat has taken to Instagram with a post apologising. She seems to admit that, yes, some of those chatrooms probably were frequented by alt-right incels, describing them as chatroom sites that “I shouldn’t have been on,” but that she has “personally never been involved in any racist conversations. I’m sorry to everyone that I offended.”
Doja Cat went on to say that she is a black woman, and that she’s “very proud of where I come from,” though she didn’t specifically address the reasons why she’s made anti-black tweets in the past. With regard to the 2015 song, she said, “it was in no way tied to anything outside of my own personal experience,” whether this means her experiences with racism or being in violently racist 4chan boards isn’t quite clear. She continues that “it was written in response to people who often used that term to hurt me. I made an attempt to flip its meaning, but recognize it was a bad decision to use the term in my music.”
All of this is, to say the least, awful. African-American communities in the U.S. are being brutalised for “not social distancing properly” while wealthy white neighbourhoods chill en mass in parks. Police handcuffed a black doctor, Dr. Armen Henderson, outside of his own home as he was preparing to go out and test members of the homeless community in Miami for COVID-19. In countries all over the world, Asian people have faced violent racism, vilification and xenophobia due to racist associations with coronavirus.
However the hive-mind of the internet decides to fall on Doja Cat’s supposed cancellation, the injustices that people face as a result of racism and bigotry continue. While we can’t police how someone uses their massive platform—and no matter what they do women always receive the most vicious of dog pile Twitter’s ire by far—it’s incredibly disappointing to see the receipts and watch it, seemingly justifiably, go down.