As I sit in South America typing this instead of getting ready for work, I can’t help but wonder how the United States must look to an outsider.
Within the last months I’ve teared up explaining to a co-worker about the militarization of the police and how–as a black person–it’s your norm to just hope you don’t get a phone call saying your black father, brother, husband, uncle, boyfriend, cousin, lover, or friend was gunned down by the cops. I’ve meditated on my fear of raising a black son in the United States while, according to one poll, plenty of whites don’t see anything wrong with current police tactics.
I guess the names Michael Brown, Amadou Diallo, and Rodney King mean nothing. I guess our loved ones’ names mean nothing.
Within the last months I’ve participated in an amazing book club about the prison-industrial complex using Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and a study guide from Veterans of Hope and the Chico Peace and Justice Center.
And within the last months I’ve watched the Ray Rice drama unfold.
Here was an NFL player, a player who trained his body to function as closely to a machine as humanly possible, knocking out his fiancé.
And so the blame game began this summer.
I agree with the blogger fivefifths’ Stephen A. Smith assessment when he writes that people are quick to spew vitriol (online when their faces are hidden) when someone disagrees with them instead of engaging the person in a debate that can lead to learning.
In my opinion, what causes some of this vitriol is the fact that excuses are constantly being made for certain groups. What does Stephen A. Smith have to say now that a gossip site, of all places, released a video showing how Ray Rice punched the woman he allegedly loves in the face to the point where her head hit the elevator guard rail on the way down? What does Mr. Smith have to say when seeing that Ray Rice doesn’t pick her up–which clearly he’s strong enough to do? He drags her out.
Is there a conversation to be had there?
Yes, and it’s one that blames the victim.
Of course it is. This is the United States of America where 1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetimes.
This is the United States of America–a country that has managed to perfect the art of the blaming the victim when it comes to racism (well, Michael Brown was a suspect in a robbery); when it comes to economic exploitation (well, at least that minimum wage–not living wage–job is better than nothing; be thankful); and when it comes to gender dynamics (well, she’s the one who knows how he is. If she still wants to be with him, why should we punish him?).
Yea, she’s choosing to stay, and she’s publicly defending him. I’m not surprised.
Why are you?
She’s using the same reasons a mother with a black eye, broken arm, or damaged spirit with no physical signs of scarring tells her scared, wide-eyed child that they won’t be leaving today: Daddy’s sorry; he loves us; it won’t happen again; I caused the fight.
What amazes me though, as a woman of color, is how race, gender, and money can create a fierce storm that says I am the one to blame for the violence.
As I wrote in an e-mail to my best girlfriends: ‘If we didn’t do “some bitch shit” to provoke an altercation, then we must’ve done something ignorant because, you know, “that’s how Black people are.’
We’re Black (strike one). And we’re female (strike two).
And, if we didn’t do anything where our race or gender can be faulted, money is always a good reason to turn a blind eye. Hence why The Ravens originally posted on Twitter “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”
Thinking like a businessman instead of thinking like a man (a real one with female family members, not a chauvinistic one that happens to have male anatomy) is the reason why Roger Goodell originally suspended Ray Rice for a mere two games. Now the NFL is claiming it didn’t know about this new video.
And I didn’t know video cameras were inside AND outside elevators too! Please.
I’m not surprised at all that people are defending Ray Rice and blaming his wife. In my opinion, this is one of the major failings in the Black community. We’ll support Michael Jackson, R. Kelly, Ray Rice, Mike Tyson and any other man of color who has some suspicious activity (let alone video proof that an incident occurred), but when’s the last time we can say we rallied around a woman of color like that when publicly judged for a misdeed?
What about our girls?
What about our women?
That’s where, as Damon Young writes, the double-speak comes in.
The Black community can rally around issues of racism, but we can’t rally around issues of gender. We can hold marches and write books about police brutality (against black men), mass incarceration (concerning black men…though women of color is the fastest growing prison group), and the like, but we are divided when The Issue at hand (in this case, domestic violence) affects women more than men.
In other words, the Ray Rice conversations throw into relief what happens when all too often people assume all women are white (when addressing women’s issues), all blacks are men (when addressing issues of racism), and none of us are brave (when addressing Black women).
We–as a Black community–are divided when The Issue may put some men in a bad light when there is already too much negative media concerning black men.
Why add something else to the media’s negative portrayal of black men to the mix, right?
Because despite all of the failings in American society, despite the men who have fallen unnecessarily before police guns, despite the men behind bars for minor drug charges, my body is not the space for you to act out your frustrations.
But many women of color stay–as an allusion to the powerful Twitter hashtag #WhyIStayed–for just these reasons. We have to show our “support,” our “love” for a Black man even if it, literally, brings us harm.
And, for some of us, this is why we stayed.
It’s why I did.