It’s been a long time since I’ve heard the term “hotep”. But, unsurprisingly, it has made a comeback since the death of Nipsey Hussle and the arrest of R. Kelly. 

What can possibly connect these two matters, you ask? 

Well, the answer is that both matters have brought back the popular use of the term “Hotep”, in an insult form. As for the Nipsey case, those who believe there is a government conspiracy behind his killing, with no substantial evidence, have been called “hoteps”. And the black men that have taken on to social media to defend him (alleging it’s yet another conspiracy to take down a successful black man) have also been dubbed hotep like behavior. 

But what exactly does “Hotep” mean?  

Ancient Egypt is well known for its culture and heritage since, well, since we can remember. People all over the world are drawn to their beliefs, pyramids, hieroglyphics and other societal systems. The word ‘Hotep’ is yet another of such fascinating words that originated from Egypt.

The original meaning of Hotep can be transcribed to being ‘An offering to a deity or dead person’ or to be ‘at peace’. Its origin can be traced far back to the names of some Egyptian pharaohs such as ‘Hotepsekhemy’.

In modern times, the meaning of this word has been somewhat altered and now considered a slang used mainly by African Americans. Different groups have their own respective views on what Hotep truly means.

The Root‘s Damon Young defines hotep as “a person who’s either a clueless parody of afrocentricity or loudly conspicuously and obnoxiously but anti-progress” That’s harsh. How does a word that has such peaceful origins turn into an insult?  

It has everything to do with how words evolve. Hotep’ can either be used as a noun when used in referring to the “pro-black” person in particular or as an adjective when used in qualifying that individual. But it’s not in reference to all types of pro-black people. It is specific to those who are “pro-black” but anti-progress. That means, those who are anti-LGBTQ, anti-interracial relationships, and, in some cases, anti other black groups like Black Lives Matter

A prime example Hotep haters uses as the head Hotep is Dr. Umar Johnson. If you’re not familiar with Dr. Umar Johnson, then you have a lot of research to do, my friend. It’s something like Pan Africanism gone wrong. 

For the record, being pro-black is not the issue

We are all pro-black, as in, we strive to bring prosperity and growth to the black community. But the problem arises when different groups have a different means of accomplishing this goal. Is defending R. Kelly no matter what he has done to dozens of young black women just because he is a black man really pro-black? Is ignoring the obvious situations that lead to the death of Nipsey to focus on unfounded conspiracy theories that lead us away from solving the issues that are fostering in our communities really pro-black? 

In response to Hotep being used as an insult, a writer on Hotepnation.com writes, “To me, being Hotep means self-accountability, not being a victim, not having an oppressed mindset, healthy living, black economics, financial responsibility, and maintaining the black nuclear family. These are key elements that are the core o the Hotep movement.” 

In theory, all of that sounds good. But, how does it get achieved? If a Hotep insults and harasses a black person that chooses to date outside their race, is that pro-black progress? Pro-black progress is supporting a black person’s right to choose. The same theory goes for those who harass black women for wearing weave. Being pro-black women is not about being against straight hair and weaves. It is about supporting her right and encouraging an environment where she can choose to do as she pleases.

You see, that environment did not exist before. Black women HAD to straighten their hair or wear wigs in order to fit into certain situations, especially at work. Now, the point is to make it so they don’t have to. They can if they choose to. Those in power can choose. That’s the point of power. We want that power for us, too.  

Granted, not everybody that considers themselves to be Hotep is practicing these behaviors, but you can see where the labeling comes from. It is spreading the superiority of black straight men above everyone else disguised as being pro-black. 

The problem many people have is not with the word Hotep, but with the behavior of those who have embraced the word.  

Have we misunderstood Hoteps completely? Let us know below what you think of this matter. 

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Author

Roman Debotch is a filmmaker, photographer, and co-founder of blackexcellence.com. Through the platform that is Black Excellence, she has been able to marry her passion for story telling with her passion for issues affecting the black community. Roman earned her B.A. in Film and TV Studies and ventured into the world of video production after college. She produced music, corporate, and event videos for years before co-founding BlackExcellence.com. Since then, she has been working as a contributor to the platform as well as continuing her video production business. The very limited time Roman is away from either writing or shooting a video, she can be found hiking or enjoying one of Southern California's beautiful beaches.

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