“I admit that I am often vexed by the behavior of my own people. Yeah, vexed is a good word.” ~Huey Freeman, The Boondocks
This ain’t for everyone. But fam, you know who you are. It is time we had a chat. You may not like what I got to say and that is cool. Kanye still walking around so I figure I am good. On April 26, 2018, Bill Cosby, beloved comedian, actor, and philanthropist was found guilty of 3 charges punishable by up to 10 years in jail, each stemming from allegations of sexual assault from 14 years ago. Also, Kelis, singer and former wife of Nas, arguably a living hip-hop legend, revealed details of the mental and physical abuse she endured during their marriage. I think this news hit me harder than Cosby. I am a child of hip-hop and I absolutely adore Nas. My son’s middle name is Najzir, inspired by Nas! Alas, I am felled and interpret each of these stories as closely linked and related. Both by social conditioning and Black folk response.
I am not going to spend time on the Cosby trial, the history of past trials, past accusations or his admissions of Quaalude purchase and use to “ready” the honeys. Nor will I focus on the 60 women, Black and White, that were his accusers. That will continue to be covered ad nauseam. I am more concerned with the conversations that have taken place across social media and in the kitchens and basements of Black folks. This is a time of comeuppance in many regards for us around the physical, mental and sexual assault of Black women and our longstanding refusal to see it or our denial that such an issue exists or deserves our investment to address it.
The abuses of the Black woman’s bodies and struggles for gender equality have been historically a secondary concern in the Black community, often back-seated for the larger and more “noble” aspiration of Black racial justice. It is widely accepted in Black communities that the maintenance of Black manhood and leadership is premier to such ancillary desires. Still trying to recover from interpretations of the Moynihan Report, that Black women were the real leaders of the Black community, we have made disproving such tall tales and cementing the power of Black men priority number one! No one stopped to consider why the notion of Black women as leaders served to undermine Black people in the first place. But we were sure it should not be that way.
We know men of high regard in our communities that beat, verbally berate, and abuse their wives, girlfriends and children. They are still our policemen, mayors, principals, legislators and esteemed community leaders- no one dares confront their behavior. She must have done something to make him respond the way he does. We still consider such men great examples of strong Black manhood without question! When Eldridge Cleaver, former leader of the Black Panther Party revealed, in a damn BOOK, his hate for Black women and women in general, inclusive of raping them, there was no Black community discussion to unpack this realization. Most notably, no uproar to his relative dismissal of poor, Black women being used first, as his practice rapes. This admission was forgiven and understood as the necessary collateral damage of movement work.
While notions of intersectionality have begun to slowly seep into the common parlance, it remains crystal clear, that any REAL BLACK WOMEN, dedicated to the cause, must understand that racial progress- which will largely be decided by the Black men in her midst- supersedes any violations experienced by her body, spirit and mind. Her role is to serve as the runway of righteous violation. Women in abusive relationships must balance considerations of their safety and that of their children with the possibility that a call to the police could end badly for her abuser. Calls for help are interpreted as “just trying to get attention.” Her value in the equation is clear. In the Black hierarchy of struggle, gender and sex are lower to all race concerns. Thus, we have come to understand the improvement of the Black man as synonymous and inclusive of the improvement of the whole of the Black race. This is why accomplishments by Black women are not lauded as a win for the race by our own people. Black women who acquire some lofty semblance of a position are often portrayed as too loud, too angry and man-haters by our own people. Imaginings of a female consideration are engulfed via the insatiable appetite of Black manhood aka Black Male Leadership.
Every Black family can tell you stories of the uncle they knew wasn’t quite right, but they let that go. Just don’t have him in a room with the kids alone. Or of the accusations by daughters who were told to be quiet and stop telling family business by their own mothers, who were themselves survivors of incestuous assault. These same daughters were punished for being too fast and “asking for it”, with their short skirts, quickly maturing breasts or slick mouths. Yeah, we see you. Over there asking to be pissed on! We have long decided that the bodies of Black women are the just sacrifice for the illusion of Black uprightness and progress which can only be realized by Black male leadership.
While the woman in the center of the most recent trial regarding Cosby was White, the lessons taught to Black women during the trial and its’ conclusion were loud and clear. The impending discussions also revealed a ton of the misconceptions we continue to have around sexual assault-which sustain its inevitability. Comments on how she looked -when sexual assault is about power and not attraction or how beautiful a woman is perceived to be. A continued belief that sexually promiscuous women either can’t be raped or are the cause of the rape continue to run strong powered by Bible verses and hip-hop lyrics of who is a hoe or a THOT. Black women have long been denied control of their own bodies and any perception to regain that control is labeled promiscuous or lost. Black men are the unwitting “real victims” of a women’s come-hither game and once caught, must be excused for any uncontrollable actions that result.
Regarding both Kelis and the Cosby accusers, refrains of “Why did she wait so long?” fill the air. As a self-proclaimed “Strong Black woman” who understands that the realization and personal acknowledgment of domestic abuse may, in fact, be separated by years of actual abuse, this is a very triggering refrain. For Black women especially, we are taught to believe pain, in all of its forms, is a essential part of “real Black love.” We should just take the emotional, physical, and spiritual pain as part of the hazing process to acquiring a strong, alpha male. A little name-calling. No big deal. A side chick and couple venereal diseases. That’s light work. A little push, pull or drag. Part of the process. A couple bloody noses. We raising Ride or Die chicks. Your death. She should have left.
Divorcing oneself from that trek of thinking is a mental journey that often requires outside intervention, intense support and time. Much like drug abusers, women in abusive relationships may live in denial to protect themselves, their children and/or the actual abuser. Women who are sexually abused and/or raped must battle the widely enforced narrative that they brought it on themselves. Demands to adhere to a specific, ambiguously prescribed time frame for reporting, places the onus on victims to speak quickly – instead of on perpetrators to never commit the act in the first place. This additionally reveals a belief that the time span between violation and revelation either proves a woman to be a liar or that if it were true, she should have let it go. Thus, the simple passage of time serves to forgive the crime. Why would a “good” woman tell of long-ago slights? A “good” Black woman would not set out to destroy the reputation of a good Black man! Girl, let that go!
The next set of statements are around the narrative that these accusations were organized and deployed to destroy the Black race via the demise of the strong Black man. “He was going to purchase NBC”, “He sent Black kids to college, so they had to destroy him”, “He uplifted the Black family, so he had to be eliminated”. I will have to stay here for a moment because this ideology is thick and laced with the very real history (and current iterations) of the racial oppression of Black folks. Therefore, it has become the inarguable, go-to position of defending Black, powerful men accused of horrific acts- regardless of guilt. This has led to a volley of unrelated correlations and false equivalencies between our history as an oppressed and wronged people and the righteousness of possible rapists and murderers to get away with their crimes. This mal-use and abuse of reasoning only serve to dilute the actual struggles that the legacy of oppression actually visits on our people. We should be embarrassed that Cosby’s publicist fixed his lips to equate the murder of Emmitt Till to the struggles of Bill Cosby! Talk about pulling the race card! Cosby’s acquittal would not have served as some sort of criminal justice reparations. “We stood behind O.J. and we should stand behind Cosby!” Did any of you get your OJ check?
We know that the system still exercises the legacy of slavery and jim crow which disproportionately negatively affects us in a myriad of facets. I just don’t believe that some of the most powerful men, most aligned with imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist ideologies, regardless of race, are the casualties of a justice system where the majority of us often can’t afford bail nor defense. Of ALL the brothers and sistas caught up in that matrix, I find it interesting we are vociferously rallying around “Mr. Pound Cake.” How soon we misremember.
If the White, supremacist power structure wanted to bring down the Black race, I am not sure they would have targeted Bill Cosby. Follow me: Some of my more “revolutionary” friends are staunch believers in the notion of Black “unity” for the progress of the race. That is another post for another time. But, if “Unity” is the goal, one could argue that Cosby did more to separate the race on his own than any White person could have ever done. During his famously infamous Pound Cake speech with the NAACP, the old bourgeois African-Americans and them “other niggas” trick was employed. While we can go into the obvious hypocrisy of claiming the position of public moralist while admittedly cheating and drugging your way into ‘outside of your marriage’ pussy, lets focus on his effort to blame single Black mothers, folks named other than Eurocentric variants of Bill and those that wear saggy pants, for the continued second-class status of the race.
Much like those that look at tapes of unarmed Black people being shot by police and say shit like, “He should not have ran!”, or “He should not have been wearing a hoody, it makes him look like a thug.”, or “Why did she say anything at all?” -this line of thinking places blame for oppression on the actions of the victim, thus we are the perpetual architects of their own brutality. There is always something they could have done to prevent their fate. Additionally, it progresses the acceptable negro tropes of old to enforce the idea that all injustice is the just desserts of the misbehavior of unacceptable negroes. If we want to live, we better walk the White, middle-class normative line or else!
Being a single Black mother from the projects, I understand all too well the ease of blaming Black women for the demise of our people. It is our “loose ways”, our openness to white men and our overall lack of structure for our Black boys that is the real culprit and the justification for our people’s symbolic lynching. Never mind systemic issues of bias, unemployment, poverty nor all that we have accomplished in the face of such odds. See the bleeds between Black state violence, Black women’s behavior regarding single motherhood, abuse, and sexual assault. If I had not “A, he would not have “B”…
This spreads into the separation us Black folks love to make between good negroes and “ghetto” or “ratchet” negroes. The dress is problematic, the names are problematic, the talk is problematic. We want to disassociate with the same hood that brought us up as soon as possible. Interestingly, that same hood gave “made it niggas” their grind to be able to “make it”. In short, I will say we need all “them” negroes too because it is very clear, many of the acceptable ones ain’t losing an inch of income to progress the “revolutionary” struggle. We need each other. Cosby was not about that life. Cosby was not the revolutionary we nostalgically suddenly recall him to be.
“Well Trump is still in the White House and he admitted to grabbing pussy!” “Well they do “A” and get away with it, so we should be able to do “B” and get away with it!” The last line of thinking makes me saddest as it unveils not a desire for justice, but for replacement, making all calls for a society of equity and righteousness disingenuous. If we are a people who claim to be lovers of justice and social improvement for humanity, these are sentiments that should never be embraced. Why would we have any desire to mimic the actions of our oppressors? Any wish to take their place should be seen as a sickness we have contracted. As I tell my children often, “I don’t give a damn what they doing next door, cause in my house..!” This reveals a desire to be something better than the status quo. I am often with my “revolutionary” friends and they go into the years of stolen bodies and slavery and Jim crow and systemic oppression and then say, “It is time we are running things!” My question always is, “Are we trying to remake the system or just trying to be at the helm of the old one?” Sounds like we are running into the burning house Martin Luther King Jr. noted before his death to me. I don’t want that.
I have been trying to get an invitation to the meeting for Black unity for years! If I get an invite, I wonder who will have decided what is on the agenda? I know some good brothers doing the dayum thang! I see yall! Are you on the planning committee? Because, there is a shameful track record of divorcing the actions and words of Black men towards Black women, from actual accountability within our own communities. Thus, I fear that work of gender equality and an end to domestic and sexual violence in our communities will never be on the agenda. Somehow this morphs into the fault of Black women not knowing their place, or seeking attention, or not really loving Black men -instead of a call to action for Black men, especially those that claim to be about the work of justice and the righteousness of all humanity, to champion for the just treatment of Black women (and children) against all potential purveyors of ill will, Black and White! This is how you make sure the Trumps and Weinsteins are also held accountable- if that is what you legitimately wish to see! Unfortunately, we often position calls for a recognition of and action against the continued sexual, physical and mental abuse of Black women and girls, which is so pervasive in our midst, as the trick of feminism that is a trojan horse sent in to bring down our people. Ironically, Black women are the least to be believed and least likely to report in all circles, regardless of worldview, no matter the assault. Kelis and other women will continue to be castigated and blamed as being accomplices to the fall of the Black race (read Black man) for their admissions. These stories will only work to ensure Black women at least, continue to hold in their experiences and submit their bodies lest they betray their people.
There are many of you reading this that are cussing me out and debating if I am problematic to “the cause”. I still got love for you. I just need yall to not ask me out and stay the hell away from my kids.
“A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men”~ Alice Walker
By Dawn Demps