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
· gender inequality in the workplace
· victim blaming
· 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:
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.