I thought Ferguson had awakened us, but many of us are still fast asleep.
In the wake of TMZ’s release of a video* of Ray Rice’s brutal attack on his then-fiancee, now-wife, Janay Rice, the responses from many were predictable, boring, and utterly exhausting. Despite the fact that the video shows Ray Rice spitting on his fiancee before punching her, and then punching her unconscious, before casually standing over her body and then dragging her, limp, out of an elevator, many people were more focused on what the victim might have done wrong.
Why did she marry him? Is she a gold-digger? Was she talking too much? Did she, no physical match for her fiance, hit him? Had she really been spit upon?
And then there was the apathy: Despite the fact that the video footage revealed the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens, and the relevant law enforcement officers to be liars, conspirators, and misogynists (yes, even the female prosecutor) who covered up Rice’s brutal attack for a host of financial, commercial, and deeply cultural reasons, many folks have decided that they do, in fact, want and even need to watch Monday Night Football this evening. Because football > women’s rights to be liberated from systemic gender-based violence. Because those watched football this evening are PARTICIPANTS–tacit, or otherwise, in a culture of systemic gender-based violence.
This disgusting response has transcended ethnicity, race, gender, educational attainment, and class. We have all, at some level, been indoctrinated into our culture of victim-blaming, slut-shaming, and rape-condoning. We still believe that what a man does with an intimate female partner is that man’s business because that woman is his property, at some level of our subconscious. In the words of Deion Sanders (words that no one has requested since the late 1990s), we should be praying for the Rice’s marriage and otherwise be staying out of their private business–advice too many Black women have heard in church concerning what to do with an abusive spouse. We have to buy into this garbage and sell it to others, too, if we are meant to be able to enjoy professional football this season.
While that alone enrages me, I am particularly indignant vis-a-vis all the so-called revolutionary, activist Black brothers who were recently on the front lines of protest in support of Mike Brown (though even he seems to be old news now, in September…his murder was sooo August 2014, it seems…we are fickle, and, well, football season is upon us). I have come to accept that though I was willing to spend a Saturday morning in Staten Island marching for Mike Brown, Reverend Al and his ilk will never, ever organize a march for all of the identified and unidentified black women that police officer Daniel Holtzclaw raped in Oklahoma City, neither will they be issuing any statements in condemnation of Ray Rice’s abject brutality. Black women are meant to be supporters of the black male agendae; we are never the agenda. Ours are the bodies upon which Black men practice rape before completing a perfected act upon White women, per Eldridge Cleaver. And if we’re lucky, if we’re very lucky, we get to be pressured into marrying a (Black) man (Black women are still disproportionately expected to date and marry Black men, even though Black men are free to be with whomever they choose) who beats us unconscious because we are taught that we need a man, and that if we find a man with money who wants to “wife” us, we’d better stay with him, because what the hell else are we good for, anyway…
What I cannot accept, and will not accept, particularly after Ferguson, is the rhetorical double-speak in which many of my “brothers” are engaging, concerning Janay Rice. While we righteously protest the attempts of folks in the media and elsewhere to cast aspersions on Michael Brown’s character and personal history, too many Black men have insisted that Janay Rice’s personal choices may have justified Ray Rice’s attack. While we understand that nothing that Michael Brown did warranted him being gunned down by Darren Wilson in the absence of a firearm in Brown’s possession, no matter if he had a criminal record, or stole cigars, or if he mouthed off at the police, too many fail to understand that the same rules apply to gender-based attacks. While we have rejected colorblind equivocations and deflections–irrelevant queries about the much-exaggerated prevalence Black-on-Black crimes and disingenuous claims that Black people systematically brutalize White people or otherwise systematically express anti-White racism–the damning video of Ray Rice literally knocking Janay Rice unconscious in an elevator has been met with purportedly gender-blind proclamations that “well, neither women or men should hit each other”, which are specifically meant to distract us from the reality that men brutalize women daily, worldwide, and discredit brutalized women’s disproportionate experiences of disproportionate violence.
I am enraged because I must now accept that Black men’s deceptive culture of gender oppression is absolutely no different from the modes and means used to maintain and preserve White supremacy and racial domination in the United States. Indeed, it has recently become clear that many Black men, in fighting racism, have never sought liberation from neo-liberal White Supremacy, but access to its tropes, tools, and benefits. They have sought equality with their oppressors, not liberation from their oppressors, and certainly not for Black women. Just as Black people are not human in the United States, but thugs, welfare queens, monkeys, and a host of slurs, hip-hop artists who protested in Ferguson constantly refer to Black women as bitches, hoes, while others refer to us as “light butts” or “dark butts”. Lil’ Wayne, who was recently outraged by a tape of Donald Sterling’s racist tirade, is featured on infamous woman-beater Chris Brown’s “These Hoes Ain’t Loyal” and also talked about “beat[ing] that pussy up like Emmett Till” on another track. As to the latter, much outrage was expressed by his disrespectful reference to Emmett Till, but not to the violent sexual imagery.**
Rape culture was never to be dismantled, neither a culture of domestic violence, neither sexism in the Church or other religious institutions. Patriarchy has always been a key ingredient in many Black men’s recipe for freedom, and Black women, as always, have been expected to do the cooking. After all, just as the United States has always depended upon a permanent Black underclass for its economic, social, and political survival, men will never feel like kings without subjects, or more specifically, enslaved harems. For too many Black men, it seems, racial justice means little more than acquiring the means to make enough money, so that they can afford to buy a wife to slap around. And that’s why they can’t see–won’t see–the parallels between Janay Rice and Michael Brown. And that’s why so many of them will be watching football this fall, angrily dreaming for an end to structural and institutional racism that will never actualize so long as they fail to check their misogyny and knock it unconscious.
* I decline to provide a hyperlink to the video, which, I believe, further dehumanizes and degrades Janay Rice. Even in the absence of the complete video footage, sufficient evidence existed to demonstrate, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Ray Rice brutalized her and should have been held accountable by the criminal justice system, as well as in the court of public opinion, months ago.
** I decline to provide hyperlinks to crap rap misogynoir.