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It all started with a phone call. Between the background noise, commotion, and my boyfriend’s frantic tone, it was hard to make out what exactly was going on, but I could sense that he was in serious trouble.  In our brief conversation he told me that he had to “lick shots” and asked me to throw some clothes together for him. He was obviously bugging. Instead of asking questions, however, I anxiously threw a change of clothes in a backpack, and waited for him to call me back. In that instance I had been transformed. I went from being a straight-laced graduate student to a ride-or-die chick in less than a minute.

Ride-or-die chicks have been heralded in hip-hop since it’s inception. From Ice Cube and YoYo’s “Bonnie & Clyde Theme” to Jay-Z’s “Me and My Girlfriend,” women who hold their partners down, no questions asked, have been revered by a culture that demands loyalty above all else (see hip-hop’s embrace of the Stop Snitching Campaign if you have doubts). Recently, the conversation surrounding ride-or-die chicks flared up again when T.I. and his wife, Tiny Harris, were busted for drug charges.

After the newlyweds were arrested in Los Angeles for allegedly possessing methamphetamines and marijuana, some hinted that Tiny should claim responsibility for the drugs to protect T.I. from violating his federal parole, and possibly being sent back to prison. 50 Cent even took to Twitter and encouraged Tiny to swallow the charge for her man. “Man TI and tiny done got picked up again for methamphetmines and ecstacy dam manTiny gotta take that charge. Say it was yoursBaby.”

The fact that many were even suggesting that Tiny claim responsibility for the drugs simply to protect her husband was extremely problematic for a few reasons. Those arguing that Tiny cop to the charges weren’t doing so because they were concerned about T.I. potentially facing years in prison–they wanted her to admit guilt so that T.I could be free to continue making music, thus satisfying their interests, not Tiny’s. Furthermore, even suggesting that Tiny cop to the drugs shows a lack of concern for her children, largely because she has been their primary caretaker. Once again, many were asking a woman to “hold down her man” with a blatant disregard for how it would effect her.

Being a ride-or-die chick comes at a steep price. A few hours after my boyfriend’s hysterical phone call, six NYPD detectives showed up at my door asking to search my apartment. Although I had a vague idea of where he was, an overwhelming sense of loyalty prevented me from being completely honest with the officers. The cops tried their best to pressure me to share any information that would lead to my boyfriend’s location, but I didn’t budge. Luckily, I didn’t end up in handcuffs, charged as an accessory (although they threatened this), however, for many unintentional ride-or-die chicks, it doesn’t always end up this way.

In the late 90s, Kemba Smith, a Hampton University student, was the poster child for the pitfalls of being a ride-or-die chick. After her boyfriend, an abusive drug dealer, was murdered, she was charged with running his $4 million drug operation. Although there was no evidence that she was involved in distributing narcotics, because she was a low level participant and had transported drugs and guns at her boyfriend’s request, she was convicted and sentenced to 24.5 years in federal prison.

Kemba’s story is not unique. Many women have been unwittingly caught up and charged with conspiracy because they were involved with questionable men. While Kemba, and many other women, should have walked out long before they were arrested, and perhaps even cooperated with the authorities, they didn’t. Driven by an unyielding and naïve sense of loyalty, they stayed and paid the price with their freedom.

Let’s take a step back. Even though our culture sometimes glorifies women who have risked it all to protect their partners, the term “ride-or-die chick” isn’t a literal one. Most women who fall into this category would never think to actually kill or be killed for the sake of their partner.  Furthermore, most of the women who fall into this category look strikingly familiar: educated, gainfully employed, law-abiding. Being an accidental ride-or-die chick happens in subtle ways. Many women have found that they’ve had to sometimes compromise their values, point of view, or own self interest just to support their partner’s.

Think about it.

How many times have you compromised yourself, minimized your intelligence and success, or blurred the lines of what’s right to help your partner succeed?

To those of us who yell, “that will never” be me ask yourself . . .

Would you pull some strings to get your partner a job?

Would you threaten another woman to protect your partner? (i.e. Lala Vazquez riding for Carmelo in his beef)

Would you help your partner cheat (or write a paper) so that he/she can finish school?

Would you lie to protect your partner?

Although most women would never knowingly straddle the line between legal/illegal behavior, and risk possible prison time to protect their partner, loving someone and being loyal can often thrust you into shades of gray. And sometimes, being a “ride-or-die chick” just happens, even if we think we will never be that girl.

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  • Lisa

    Eh, being a ride-or-die chick doesn’t just happen.

    Nothing just happens. People make choices. But folks like to excuse poor choices in mates by saying that things “just happen.”

    Nah, not hardly. Please do better.

  • “Ride-or-die?” Seriously!?

    …and, once again, the narrative returns to the same ol’ tired line of “Save A Brother At All Costs.”

    50 Cent is another common, dime-a-dozen, self-centered idiot with an apparent sense of entitlement and belief that women should be at an undeserving dude’s beck ‘n call, always having his back and loyal to the end — even if they’ve not shown one ounce of reciprocity or, at the very least, displayed the common sense to stay the hell away from the criminal justice system.

    From the Civil Rights Movement (possibly even before) until now…haven’t females witnessed the truth and read the ‘Writing On The Wall’ to know how this type of stance plays out???

    I’m echoing those who stated that a real true man that loves his woman would never even think of b!tching up and asking/wanting her to take the fall for him!! …as if his freedom and happiness is more important than hers! And any chick that would even entertain such retardation should glady accept the fact that she.is.stupid!

    “Ride or die?” Not me, never have, and never would in this lifetime. There are far too many foine wonderful men out there just waiting to treat a woman like a princess, so why settle? …and females should learn early on to be a little more selfish (in a positive way) and aim higher as I find it hard to grasp that the concept of being a “ride-or-die chick” even exists.

    • For once I agree with you and you’re not spewing vitriol. Why don’t you try this positivity more often?

  • Can we just do away with the title of a “ride-or-die chick” altogether? I’ll ride for you, be there for you, but to die? That’s asking for a whole lot. But at the end of the day, to each it’s own. There’s a huge difference between being loyal and supportive vs stupidity and naivete. There’s a vast difference between being their for your partner while he does a bid if you choose to vs taking a case so that he doesn’t have to sit and do time. These are all totally different animals and by all means should not be assumed to be the same things.

    To yield the title of a “ride-or-die chick” is a problem altogether because our babies, our little girls are shouting this now. And that’s a problem. A woman CAN be educated, a working professional, eloquent, and down to earth while also being there, being supportive of her partner. This do not mean that she’s a ride-or-die chick though.

  • K.G.

    What a coincidence! I used to work in a barber shop and I was just having this conversation when I went back to visit the guys the other day.

    How many jail sentences do I have to sit through? How many lies do I have to hear? How much money do I need to spend to bail you out? How many nights do I have to stay up worrying? How many chicks do I have to find out you have on the side, how much **** do I have to put up with, how many crimes do I have to commit before I get that “ride or die” label? What exactly are the requirements that I have to meet, because I find that when men get that girl that’s “down/loyal/supportive” they act like they don’t know they’ve got something good. THAT’S why I don’t believe in that ride-or-die mess. Because you’ve got to risk and endure far too much to prove that you are one. When did listening and rubbing your feet after a long day at work not become enough anymore?

    “Aww babe, you look so good sitting there in that orange jumpsuit. You really do love me…”

    WTF? You realize this now?!

    I can truly say, that’ll NEVER be me. There’s a huge difference between helping someone with their homework and getting a criminal record for them.

  • Do you know that only recently did I even hear the term or found out what it meant, this “Ride and Die Chick” nonsense. You see I don’t normally associate with uneducated people who, in my estimation, are the ones likely to be a “ride and die chick”.

    However, my sister, who associates with people I would not, was telling me about a friend of hers and her man troubles and mentioned that she stuck with this looser because she was a “ride and die chick”. I had to ask her to explain the term because I had never heard it before. When she told me what it was, I was like, “Are you serious? How dumb can she be? I would NEVER be that for someone! That’s just stupid!”

    Anyone, of any race, who would be a “ride and die chick” is an utter fool. However, this term, I guess, is often in reference to those in the “ghetto” lifestyle or mentality. What these woman should remember is that we came into this world alone and we are going to leave that way. Do not devalue yourself for anyone, no matter if they say they love you, because when push comes to shove, I bet they won’t be “riding and dying” for you.

    Btw, this term, “ride and die chick” is another “ghetto” slang term that just sickens me and it’s unfortunate that, once more, it’s a term coined in the black community. When will we black people stop devaluing ourselves and giving the mainstream community more ammunition to shoot at us?