It’s ok to seek Help because Masculinity is Toxic/Fragile AF!

By: Virgil Hayes

In addition to the onslaught of Facebook posts concerning the Dark Overlord (aka not my f***ing president), celebrity gossip, and Sean Spicer's complete disregard for facts, that are not alternative in nature, a few stories involving toxic/fragile masculinity have found their way onto my news feed these past couple of weeks. I have to say they definitely got me thinking that it's time for Black men to take a long hard look at the way in which our masculinity is constructed before asking ourselves; "bruh…what the hell are we doing and why?”

Don't get me wrong, I understand that not every Black man is running around taking innocent lives due to a bad breakup, but if I've learned anything from the actions of Steve Stephens and Cedric Anderson it's this; Black men (speaking to black cis-hetero men because I have privilege and don’t want to make assumptions that are problematic for my brotha’s in the LGBT community, because ain’t nobody got time for that) need to have open and honest conversations about the way in which our masculinity is constructed and the belief that seeking help for issues related to our mental health somehow makes us weak.

If we are being honest, then we would admit that toxic masculinity has gotten us nowhere and the fact that black women too often find themselves assigned to the role of a victim/survivor inside our twisted narratives, should be more than enough evidence to convince us that the way in which we go about defining and acting out our gender roles is very problematic for Black men/boys and deadly for the women and girls who we claim to love.

So, let’s be crystal clear. If your masculinity prevents you from:

•    Seeing women as equals in relationships or society in general

•    Showing any type of concern or interest in the oppression of women, specifically Black women because you think that their issues are somehow not Black issues

•    Listening to Lemonade because you feel that the messages being sent on the album were for Black women/girls only and you think that bumping Beyoncé is somehow a threat to your manhood (Beyoncé is a damn GOAT, Jay-z knows this, Kendrick knows this, Adele knows this, get on the winning team and stop hating.)

•    Crying or showing any emotion other than anger

•    Understanding that the title of girlfriend/wife DOES NOT mean that you own the rights to a woman's body

•    Employing empathy rather than shame when discussing stories that involve sexual assault or domestic violence

•    Educating yourself on sexual assault/abuse and its impact on the Black community because you see innocent Black men who are accused of rape as the biggest issue concerning the topic. (Turn them damn Umar Johnson videos OFF, he’s not a doctor and go check out my post on rape culture.)

•    Admitting that you need help in regards to mental health issues or unpacking trauma related to physical/sexual abuse

•    Speaking with a therapist (While I understand that not all POC have access to a mental health professional, as someone who has a therapist let me be the first to say that they are clutch AF! Shout out to my counseling center.)  

GET RID OF IT! Because in addition to freeing yourself from fragile/toxic masculinity, you should do it for your mother, aunt, grandmother, sister, and the Black women who make up 22% of homicide deaths as a result of DM/IPV (domestic violence/intimate partner violence), making it the LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH for Black women between the ages of 15-35.

Do it for the young black boys who are not given the opportunity to construct their gender roles in a way that is not limiting, problematic, basic and/or deadly. Yes, I know that society puts us in a place where we are pressured to be "the hard-exterior black man". But when our need to be tough outweighs our humanity that informs us that we are not immune to mental/emotional health issues and IT'S OK TO CRY, then something has got to give. While I don’t know if the Black men in the above pictures were in fact diagnosed with a mental illness, I do know that the time for these discussions to take place is now.

Black Patriarchy 101

By: Virgil Hayes

“It’s just a really deep-rooted sense of protecting the black man. But everyone is victimizing the black woman, and where is that narrative?” - Anita Badejo BuzzFeed

I would be lying to you if I told you that I'm shocked at the lack of knowledge many Black men have about the oppression that Black women have to endure. For years the media and society at large have focused on the various forms of Black oppression that specifically target Black men. Conversations concerning anti-black violence, the system of mass incarceration, and the institution of slavery have placed Black men at the center of a narrative that portrays Black women as supporting characters. Simply put, we don't take the dueling oppression of patriarchy and racism into account when discussing the plight of Black women, because the previously mentioned narrative leaves no room for the voices and lived experiences of Black women.

So when two Spelman students made some noise a couple of months ago by speaking out about the sexual assault that they had experienced on Morehouse campus, I was neither surprised nor shocked that Morehouse actively worked to downplay the stories of the students in an attempt to protect the legacy and image of the college. Because the student body at Morehouse consists of Black males, the need to protect the “image” of the college essentially equates to the need to protect the image of the Black male. While Black men have a troubling history of being falsely accused and convicted of sexual assault, studies show that the percentage of false rape reports are…wait for it…2-8%. As the saying goes, “men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t”. Yet in a reality that tells us that only 17% of Black women report sexual assault to the police (as opposed to 44% of white women), Black men continue to uphold rape culture, while simultaneously dodging conversations that would force us to acknowledge our male privilege, and ultimately the hand that we have played in contributing to the oppression of Black women.

 

Brotha's can write dissertations about anti-black violence committed against Black men, but can't seem to locate a Google search bar to educate themselves on topics such as:

·      Womanist movement

·      feminism

·      gender inequality in the workplace

·      victim blaming

·      sexism

·      misogyny

·      slut-shaming

·      the double edge sword that comes with being a strong Black woman

·      the pressure to subscribe to Eurocentric standards of beauty

·      statistics concerning sexual assault  

·      domestic violence

·       rape culture

For generations Black men have consistently found ways to inform Black women that, “we simply have too much on our plate to take your needs and concerns into consideration”. But here is the problem with this argument; when it comes to systems of oppression there are in fact levels to this shit! The solution to the problem is not to overlook the oppression that Black men face in this country. Instead we should acknowledge that while we are plagued by racism, Black women have birthed, supported, died, cried, marched, loved, and fought for the race, while also dealing with the system of patriarchy that comes with a host of social constructs that are specifically designed to target them, while simultaneously providing us with male privilege.

 

But in the land of Black patriarchy silence and loyalty are synonymous, and citizenship is gained by doing anything that ensures the protection of the Black male. As Dr. David Ikard, author of Breaking The Silence Towards A Black Male Feminist Criticism, put it:

Few Black women openly reject patriarchy, in part because black women’s self-sacrifice is widely celebrated in the black community. Women who prioritize the needs/wants of their men and families over their own receive cultural compensation in social displays of gratitude, admiration, and respect. The cultural affirmation of self-sacrifice compels black women to ignore suffering under patriarchy to support black men and preserve cultural solidarity, thereby rendering black women accomplices in their own subjugation.

Even when "anything" requires Black men to overlook the lived experiences of Black women. Morehouse and Spelman are two HBCU’s that have a very long history and relationship with each other.

And while both institutions have encouraged students to see each other as family, it should be noted that family should NEVER require someone to remain silent to protect the image of another family member. After all, what good is a family that requires you to suppress the physical and psychological pain you’ve endured in an effort to prove your loyalty? And what does it say about the Black men in this “family” who are complicit in upholding a culture of silence at the expense of Black women? As a BMF (black male feminist) I find myself wondering if brotha’s care enough to search for the answers to these questions. Or perhaps the truth is just as nefarious as it is revealing. Perhaps the violence against Black women has become so normalized, that the cries of our sisters have become nothing more than background music in a narrative that only seeks to tell our story.

Class Dismissed.

Why I Chose to Embrace Feminism

By: Virgil Hayes

Since learning and writing about the plight of women, and the importance of intersectionality as it pertains to women of color, a few of my friends have inquired as to why I chose to embrace feminism? After pondering this question for a hot minute the kid has finally come up with an answer. As a male, I learned that my ties to patriarchy were not only contributing to the oppression of women, but they were limiting my understanding of my mother, who like many Black women before her, always sought to understand the struggle that Black men and boys face on the daily. For me, feminism was a way for me to cure the maladies of sexism and misogyny that plague men like my father, whose only criteria for a wife was a woman, “who attends church and cooks”. But the intergenerational curse that is patriarchy ends with me. Because of my understanding of intersectional feminism (Fella’s don’t leave home without it), I now see the danger in constantly praising Black women for their strength. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all down for feminism, womanism, or anything that empowers Black women to deal with the BS of racism and patriarchy. But as someone who grew up watching his mother devote so much of her time to being an active member in the church, raising a family, holding down two jobs, maintaining cleanliness and order in the home (I swear the woman could clean bleach), cooking & baking sweet potato pies that were so good they could make ya slap somebody (the pie don’t lie); I realized that the task of saving the world left little room for Wonder Woman to simply be human.

There are days when my memories of her kidnap my attention, and force me to replay conversations with my mother that bring about an array of emotions. While reading Sister Citizen and learning of the ways that strength can bind and oppress Black women, my mother’s words begin to echo in the halls of my consciousness; “(insert nickname here), I’m so tired”. As simple as they were, her words seemed to carry a complexity that she struggled to articulate. I imagine that there was a part of her that was fed up with the gender roles that so many women are often times forced to play, or maybe she was exhausted after years of understanding men who couldn’t grasp the simplest parts of her identity. There were times when I became so consumed by guilt that I blamed myself for my mother’s death (a side effect of depression following the loss of a loved one). Feminism became my "Balm in Gilead", a catalyst for an internal revolution that has challenged everything from my use of oppressive language, to my spirituality (look if Christians are going to claim that God has no gender than I see ZERO reasons as to why God cannot be imagined or portrayed as a woman).

 As you all know this past Sunday was Mother’s Day, a time of celebration and praise for the women who have given us life, love, and their unwavering support. Rather than uploading the usual “Happy Mother’s Day status”, I chose to channel my energy into my writing, a gift I inherited from my mother. I find myself rejoicing when thinking of her reaction to the words I’ve written. The joy orchestrating the smile on her face as she whispers; “You go boy”.

Much love and many blessings, and Happy Belated Mother’s Day!

 

Don't Believe The Hype! The Hunting Ground is a Game Changer

By: Virgil Hayes

In 2013 I was one of many who cheered for the Florida State Seminoles as they went on to win their third National title. An achievement that fans believed would be the beginning of a new era in FSU football and an end to the sexual assault allegations surrounding Jameis Winston. Three years following FSU’s successful title run I found myself in an auditorium style classroom patiently awaiting the screening of The Hunting Ground; a documentary that tackles the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.

In addition to winning a plethora of awards from film critics, the documentary has received praise from President Obama, prompting his administration to launch the “It’s On Us” Initiative. Following the screening of the film I was able to speak with Sofie, an anti-sexual violence activist and co-founder of End Rape on Campus. What follows is an interview between yours truly, and an activist that has sparked a MUCH NEEDED revolution. One that empowers sexual assault survivors and calls for accountability amongst any who are complicit in upholding a culture of silence. Because much like feminism; education on sexual violence is for everyone.


Virgil: So thank you first off for doing this interview.

Sofie: Yea Sure.

Virgil: Ok to start off, can you summarize what rape culture is, and a few ways that it manifests itself on college campuses?

And also there is something that a lot of people are unaware of when they are framing sexual assault with only being a women’s issue; 1 in 6 boys are sexually assaulted before they are 18.

Sofie: Yea, basically rape culture is the societal acceptance of sexual assault and it’s also its kind of hard to simply define it. But I think that the way that we often see it play out is when people are not found responsible for sexual violence cases, when people don’t believe survivors when they come forward, and when you basically have an entire culture turning a blind eye to the issue and prefer to ignore it rather than addressing the issue. That’s part of it certainly and also this notion that women have very little control over their own sexuality as well.

Virgil: So the next question would be, how important is it for guys to understand what rape culture is and what are some of the things that guys should do to dismantle their support of rape culture?

Sofie: Yea, um, so I think it’s really important to engage men in the conversation because you’re not going to be able to address the majority of perpetrators; which are men, if you don’t talk to them. So it’s something that’s really important, and also there is something that a lot of people are unaware of when they are framing sexual assault with only being a women’s issue. So 1 in 6 boys are sexually assaulted before they are 18.

 

So that’s actually a really big problem that we’re not talking about and also because of rape culture, this really toxic expectation that we have for masculinity, meaning you determine how masculine you are by being powerful and not talking about things like that. And so you’re actually more likely as a guy to be sexually assaulted, than to be a perpetrator of sexual assault. So rarely do we actually talk about that, so it’s really important to engage men because they can also end up being sexually assaulted. So we want to make sure that everyone is being engaged in this conversation because it does impact everybody.

 

But also some of the things that we’re trying to do on campus, are to require states to have consent education for high schoolers. Because it’s way too late to be talking about this before we get to college. So we want to make sure that when people are forming their sexual behaviors that they are getting used to the idea of confirmative consent from the get-go. So we’ve been pushing or confirmative consent education for the high school and middle school level. But other ways that men can help, is if you are in a fraternity or some group that regularly has parties, designate someone to be a sober monitor.

So essentially like, making sure that everyone is having a good time and nothing shady is going on. And that person can be a designated bystander because all too often because of rape culture, people see things that could lead to sexual violence occurring but don’t take action because they don’t want to be a “c***blocker”.

Virgil: As a survivor of sexual assault, what are some of the myths concerning sexual assault that you have heard? And how do you think these myths contribute to rape culture?

Sofie: Some of the other very common myths, are that it’s only straight white girls who are the face of sexual assault and that is also very problematic and not true. The rates of sexual assault for indigenous women and women of color are much higher than sexual assault rates for white women. So that’s also something really important to be aware of, and then other common myths are that; “Oh you know, I know this person who was falsely accused one-time”. Like people think that the rates of false accusations are around 50%, when actually it’s between 2-8%. So no one ever says, “Oh you reported a robbery are you sure? Are you sure he really stole your phone?” (laughs)

Virgil: (laughs) yeah exactly, exactly. At the event on campus, you stated that the way that you and other survivors were treated by the institutions/schools was far worse than the experience itself. Can you give a couple of examples of the harsh treatment that you received and why did you choose to stay and challenge the institution?

 

Sofie: Yeah so, basically what ended up happening is that I was assaulted and I found that there were several other people that were assaulted by the same guy, and so we first decided to try and pressure him to resign from his leadership that he had in his club. He was a respected leader and it didn’t seem appropriate for him to be there. And we also wanted to send a message that this would not be tolerated. So he had to step down from that position, but then less than a month later he sexually assaulted yet another person. So at that point we realized, oh my God we have to go to the school because it just didn’t work. So um, we went to Berkley and like four of us at this point and reported him. And they basically acted like there wasn’t really anything they could do about it because it was so close to the end of the year and then never involved us into any investigation after that.

 No hearing, no opportunity to bring in other witnesses; nothing. So I just gave them (Berkley) the benefit of the doubt. But then it turned out they were just working out some stuff behind our backs with him so that he would be on disciplinary probation. So that if he sexually assaulted a fifth person then maybe they would care, and it wasn’t a part of his official sanction but he ended up graduating a semester early. I was trying to find out what was going on in the midst of this because nobody was talking to me; and I had found out that he was going to graduate early through a friend. And so when I reached out to Berkley like “Wait what is going on?”  They just passed it off and passed it off, and didn’t get back to me until two days before he graduated.

He now goes to a very prestigious law school because Berkley did not take action against him, and that law school happens to be 15 minutes walking distance from where I grew up. So every time I go home, I’m just in a complete state of anxiety because I haven’t seen him in like four years.

Virgil: Rather than merely offering lip service, what do you feel students need to see from institutions such as the police department (whether on campus or city) and various colleges that will allow them to truly feel safe on campus?

Sofie: (sigh) yeah there is a lot of lip service and its really frustrating that colleges are dealing with this as a public relations issue. But essentially some of the main things that they can do, is to educate their students about confirmative consent, bystander intervention, and what sexual assault looks like and various myths that surround it. And to actually have those conversations in a small group setting that will allow people to speak honestly and to learn in ways that can actually translate into their own lives tangibly. So having that small group interactive training towards the beginning of the school year or at student orientation is really important. I think it’s important to have annual campus climate surveys that have uniformed language, so that schools are asking and identifying how many people on their campus have been sexually assaulted while there and if they reported, what was their experience? Was it positive? What were things that they didn’t like or thought could be done better?

But then also asking people who didn’t go through the process of reporting, like why do you feel that that was the best decision for you? And asking questions to learn more about this issue, and then the results of that should be published. And also to publish the numbers of sexual assault reports they are getting, where they have found perpetrators responsible. And in the event that they have been found responsible, what type of sanctions did they end up getting as well.

If you haven’t already, please follow the hyperlink for more information on The Hunting Ground and End Rape on Campus

 

 

 

 

The Horror Show

By: Virgil Hayes

Personally, I was never a big fan of The Cosby Show, but as a black person I applaud all of creative minds who played a hand in making the show such a huge success. During its reign, The Cosby Show gave America the image of a Black middle upper class family to counter racial myths that framed Black families as poverty ridden, broken, and uneducated. With well over 30 million viewers tuning in at the peak of the show’s success, it seemed that The Cosby Show had struck a powerful blow to the harmful pervasive ideologies that plagued (they still do) the Black family.

 While Bill Cosby was embraced as America’s favorite Dad, many Black Americans hailed him as our Black hero. And much like the heroes sketched into comic books and our imaginations, we believed him to be impervious. I get it, I understand that historically we have watched Black men inch their way towards the mountain top, only to be cast down by representatives of the dominant group. During chattel slavery we were castrated and torn from our families, during the Jim Crow years we were (and still are) being ushered by the thousands into prison cells to help create what we now know as the system of mass incarceration, in 2015 they used Laquan McDonald (1 of many) as a reminder of the lack of value, if any, that is placed on the lives of black men and boys. So when we as a people see men of color being torn asunder by the media, we fight to protect the few who have made it, while remembering the countless black men and boys who were shown the grave before being able to quench their insatiable thirst for life.

            But as a Black male, I find myself questioning this toxic form of “racial solidarity”, that is conveniently brought up when the lives and bodies of Black girls and women are devalued, degraded, and dehumanized by Black men. As of late numerous men of color have used social media to articulate their “Conspiracy Hotep Third-Eye Race Theories”. Not only are these “theories” lacking empathy, logic, reasoning, and progression; they prove that the “conscious Black men” who use them are nothing more than rape apologist, who knowingly or blissfully use a call for racial solidarity, to suppress the voices and lived experiences of Black women and girls.

 In 2004, at an event hosted by the NAACP to celebrate the anniversary of Brown V. Board of Education, Cosby gave what many at the time viewed as a stirring speech about accountability within the Black community. This speech was in fact rife with respectability politics and inaccurate statistical data. During the speech Cosby repeatedly opined that the Black high school dropout rate was 50%, when in fact the dropout rate amongst Black high school students in 2004, had plunged to 13%! (he was off by 37 percentage points, that’s not a small miscalculation its bullsh!t) Cosby’s “Pound Cake Speech”, as it came to be known, was also filled with inaccurate assertions about Black on Black crime & the Black family structure(shocking). All of this from a man who admitted in a court of law, that he acquired drugs with the intent of giving them to young women for sex!

LETS. BE. CRYSTAL. CLEAR. When 55 women, some of whom are Black, gain the courage to speak up about the traumatizing experiences that have been engrained into their psyche, only to be told in a plethora of ways that more evidence is needed before anyone listens, or so much as gives a hint of a damn; that my friends is rape culture! The message that you are sending is that Cosby’s list of victims is simply not enough, you need footage; you need facts rather than mere “accusations”; you need some type of damning evidence, before you accept the disappointing reality that “America’s favorite Dad”, was preaching about respect for Black women, while drugging and sexually abusing Black women.

            To those of you who seemed to be possessed with the idea that the media’s focus on the “accusations” leveled against Cosby are a ploy to distract us from seeing the “bigger issue” at hand; know that your call for Black solidarity is smothering the voices of the same women that you claim to love and protect. I’m curious as to how Black men can question the victims, but somehow not feel the need to ask what evidence Jill Scott was exposed to that caused her to withdraw her support for Bill Cosby. Did you forget that bit of information while constructing your conspiracy theories?; or are you just not ready to admit that the statistical data and studies concerning Black women’s experience with sexual assault, are never going to be factored into your narrow minded view of Black liberation? Are you ready to admit that Black men have contributed greatly to the normalization of violence against the bodies of Black women; or are you still adamant about romanticizing the sexually deviant acts of monsters? 

 In high school I was one of many who laughed at Dave Chappell’s infamous R. Kelly skit. Being a teenager who was COMPLETELY unaware of the privilege that I held, I brushed off the “accusations” against Kelly as just another fangirl who was trying to take advantage of a high profile male celebrity. After reading Jim DeRogatis scathing article exposing Kelly’s nefarious actions, I realized that my laughter came at the expense of nearly two dozen Black girls (now women) who have accused the singer of pursuing and engaging in sexual relationships that have negatively impacted them in a plethora of ways. When recalling the victims and family members who were brave enough to share their stories, DeRogatis states, “I will never forget sitting with a girl who showed me the scars where she slit her wrist when her relationship with Kelly ended”

Prior to Kelly being acquitted of 21 counts of child pornography in 2002 (yes you read that number correctly), his relationship with Aaliyah, whose album he “coincidently” titled Age Ain’t Nothin But A Number, would be the first of many intimate relationships that Kelly had with young Black girls. As a people we are not so desperate for representation in the media, that we need to cling to a man who at the of age 27, married a 15 year-old Aaliyah!

Recently the singer made a video encouraging Black folks to purchase his new album after experiencing a drop in sales, in the video Kelly states, “I feel like for a long time our culture hasn’t really supported each other in anything, whether its music or anything else. We’ve been putting each other down a lot, and I think that needs to change.” 

For the record, this statement serves as an example of what can happen when the need to support representatives of our group, become more important than the voices of Black women and girls, who are taught in the vilest way, that a legacy is more important than a victim. 

While there are Black women who have echoed the need to “Support our Black men”; as a Black male who has contributed to the oppression of women, I do not feel that it is my place to criticize Black women who have bought into the sexist, patriarchal, “black solidarity” that is being sold by Black men. This “black solidarity” requires the victims of sexual assault to remain silent for the sake of preserving the image/legacy of the same Black men, who will not hesitate to frame them as victims, in a nefarious plot that is crafted from rape culture.

 At some point, the Black men who continue to support Cosby and Kelly are going to have to admit that their idea of Black solidarity and liberation, is nothing more than a twisted fantasy comprised of sexism and misogyny, where the fight against the White man trumps the painful experiences of Black women. If your freedom is not inclusive; if you refuse to acknowledge the importance of intersectionality; if you believe that the stories of the accusers (victims) should be set aside to prevent the canceling of a T.V. show, or the promotion of an album; if you think that feminism and or womanism is designed to emasculate Black men; understand that your disdain for Black women and girls has become palpable. Your ideologies, hotep conspiracy theories, and insular idea of Blackness serve as indisputable evidence, that there are monsters who do not hide in caves.

To the Black women who have been victimized, it is my hope that you can forgive me and numerous Black men who have blissfully contributed to you remaining silent; while our intentions may have been good, it has become evident to me that our actions were fatal. For the rape apologist who will chose to overlook the facts for the sake of preserving the legacy of monsters; rather than questioning the validity of the victim’s stories, ask yourselves, how many Black women and girls have to become victims, before you realize that you’ve been watching a horror show?

 

           

                 

 

                 

                 

                 

 

For Anyone Who “Agrees to Disagree”

By: Virgil Hayes

When the video of the 16-year-old black girl being assaulted by Deputy Fields surfaced; I was hesitant to watch. As a black male who grew up in the south I’ve seen racism manifest itself in a plethora of ways and truthfully; I felt that a large part of me had become numb to it. After watching the video, I scrolled through my news feed reading and reposting any status that could accurately convey my thoughts. Like any other act of racism that circulates on social media; I knew that it wouldn’t be long before racist commentary from the white majority and respectability politics being advertised by “conscious” black people, Don Lemon, and Raven Symone made its way to the spotlight. The comments and post concerning the “rebellious” behavior of the girl and her lack of respect for authority told me what I already knew. Between chattel slavery and 2015 “progressive” America, violence against black girls and women had become normalized.

 When I learned that the 16-year-old had recently lost her mother and grandmother I immediately replayed the video. My frustration became palpable; the anti-black violence against the young girl, the fear that gripped the young black males in the classroom, the reminder that black youth don't get to be rebellious teenagers, the officers’ excessive force, and the plight of black girls, was all a sick and twisted joke that America loves to tell. I watched the video searching for something that made sense; when I found it, my heart shattered. The girls silence was just as haunting as it was familiar. Coping methods and responses to such a loss can vary from person to person. Isolating yourself from the rest of society becomes easy, depression turns into anger, and at times that anger leads to rebellion. While I have never experienced the loss of a grandmother, I know that losing a mother can bring about a rage that's so volatile it scares you. You shut people out as a way of protecting them from the storm that is tearing you apart on the inside. At times, you find yourself being forced to interact with others when every part of you is begging to be left alone.

While this is obvious to me, I understand that there are many who “don’t get it". As of late I've heard and read arguments centered around victim blaming. These statements that are devoid of empathy, usually start off with, "The officer was out of line, but....". If you find yourself investing time, energy, and effort into such arguments, regardless of your intentions, your statements are as harmful as the actions of the officer. When a 16-year-old black girl whose world has been destroyed by the loss of loved ones, is physically assaulted by a police officer, your parenting advice, cries for black liberation that clearly don't include black women/girls, and any other commentary that provides damning evidence that you are in fact basic beyond belief, is neither wanted nor needed. As a black man I am well aware of the oppression that black men have to deal with. I am also aware that our oppression, both historically and in the present, has never been equal to the plight of black women. The dual oppression of patriarchy and racism is physically, emotionally, and psychologically damaging to black women/girls. For centuries black women have fought, cried, pleaded, and prayed for black men only to have their needs pushed to the back of the line. If you watched the video of the 16-year-old black girl being assaulted by a white police officer, and saw this as an opportunity to offer up advice on “what we as a people” need to do, you are in fact a part of the problem.

 

As a race of people we have spent centuries constructing ways to avoid and dodge racial oppression. I personally have never experienced police brutality, but I’m aware that racism is ubiquitous and complex in America. I have no doubt in my mind that if the 16-year-old had been a black male the number of “conscious brotha’s” engaged in victim blaming would significantly decrease. But here are the facts, it wasn’t a young black male, it was a 16-year-old black girl who has recently lost the only world that she has ever known. Instead of providing examples of how she could have “gone about it differently”, invest that time and energy into educating yourself on the intersectionality of race and gender. There are a number of books, articles, blogs, YouTube videos, and hopefully friends, who can provide you with the knowledge needed to see the ONLY issue at hand. For every black woman or girl who has been able to avoid or dodge racial myths, there has been thousands who have been crushed. It is not fair to hold a representative of an oppressed group responsible for knowledge or power that they do not possess. Any black man engaged in victim blaming, is supporting ideologies that seek to add weight to the shoulders of a black girl who has recently learned, that if she sustains bruises while fighting oppression, the same men who call you “Queen and Goddess”, will criticize you for not being fast enough to dodge a punch! When discussing things such as race and gender, I find it easier and dare I say healthier, to speak on facts rather than focus on opinions. As a black male, I’m wise enough to know that I don’t know enough, but reading Sister Citizen, Living for the Revolution, and We Should All Be Feminist, have caused me to be sensitive to the needs of a group who have always placed our struggle above their own.

For those who are interested in severing ties to systems of oppression that plague black women/girls, I hope that you take this criticism to heart and use it to grow. For those who are adamant about blaming the victim, I’ll leave you with this. As someone who has lost a mother, I know what it feels like to cherish anything that contains the memory of a loved one. That phone might contain a video of her mother and or grandmother and maybe she watches it to hear their voices, maybe she stares at pictures to see their smile, maybe she dials their numbers just to see if they’ll pick up, maybe she wanted to believe that this was all a dream, and if she punched and kicked hard enough she would wake up to the voices, smiles, and faces of loved ones who are no longer here. If you read this and say something to the effect of “I understand what you’re saying, but (insert basic logic here)”; as I stated earlier we cannot “agree to disagree” because doing so would imply that I’m ok with you having your opinion. I refuse to break bread with someone who will howl at the moon, hunt and kill sheep, and then ask to be called anything but a damn wolf! Take that to the face, straight no chaser.