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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