I Can’t Take Any Moore: My Two Cents on This Alabama Senatorial Clusterfuck

I have been looking at MSNBC all day (11/14/2017). Not on purpose, mind you.

I turned it on earlier this morning to see what, if anything, had happened overnight to plunge America even deeper into the seeming Trump abyss, and I just never turned it off.

I dozed off on the sofa, woke up and ate my lunch on the sofa, graded some essays on the sofa, answered some emails from the sofa, and let the TV keep talking.

I sat from nine this morning to two this afternoon, subconsciously soaking up all the convoluted talk from back ass-ward Republican officials and pundits about Roy Moore, hearing his fifth accuser bawl out her horrific story in a sickening loop, and tuning in and out as my outrage and exhaustion alternately impelled me.

And this is what I have to say after listening to the umpteenth white male so-called conservative hedge at being asked whether he would rather have a pedophile or Democrat in the US Senate:

These white men attempting to dodge this question are not nearly as artful as they think.

They keep arguing that if the accusations brought to light against Moore are proven to be true, they will retract their support of Moore and his run for the Senate.

Well, Moore is not being prosecuted for any of the crimes or acts of misconduct of which he has been accused. He will not be prosecuted for any of the crimes or acts of misconduct of which he has been accused. So the accusations will never be “proven.”

Alabama has the shortest sexual abuse statutes in the United States, so when Moore’s victims didn’t go to the authorities on Moore directly after he assaulted them, they gave up their opportunities to go the authorities on Moore.

(In Alabama, in child sexual abuse civil cases, the statute of limitations is two years after the alleged victim’s 19th birthday, and in criminal sexual abuse cases, the statute of limitations for felony sexual abuse cases is three years and the statute of limitation for misdemeanor sexual abuse cases is one year.)

And Moore’s supporters know this.

They know the American public can never receive a legal verdict on Moore’s guilt.

They keep saying they will retract their support if Moore is proven guilty so they don’t have to retract their support.

They pretend to be protecting the rule of law and upholding the principle of innocent until proven guilty when they are really acting on political tribalism and sideways racism (Democrat added to the Senate = slightly higher chance that laws will be made in the US that benefit people of color, immigrants of colors, and individuals in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum).

They are immoral, unethical, transparent, and tiresome as fuck.

Now, along with the “wait & seers,” you have the “technically, he isn’t a pedophilers.” They want to pretend that Moore merely “preferred” to date “younger” women.

To them, I grant that Moore isn’t technically a pedophile. By clinical definition, the pedophile engages in sexual behavior with children 13 years and younger, and the youngest any of Moore’s victims on the record has claimed to be at the time of her assault is 14.

That doesn’t absolve Moore of wrongdoing, though.

Because the age of consent in every single state in the US is 16 or older, and the biggest age difference legally allowed between a person that is the age of consent and his or her sexual partner is 10 years (in Utah, not Alabama, where Moore was working and trolling back in the day, while in his late 20s and early 30s).

In Alabama, the age of consent is 16, and the legally allowable age difference is two years, which means the oldest someone that is sleeping with a 16-year-old can be without committing a crime in that state is 18.

People under the age of consent cannot consent to sexual activity, according to the law, so anyone engaging in sexual activity with them is engaging in nonconsensual sexual activity.

And that is sexual assault. 

That is sexual abuse; that is molestation; or that is rape. Statutory or violent. It doesn’t matter.

So when these supposed conservatives and Republican evangelicals are talking shit on cable TV or online or anywhere else, saying they are unsure whether Moore is worse for America than his Democratic opponent, and they hinge that argument on the fact that he is technically not a pedophile, they shouldn’t fucking congratulate themselves for winning the “clever” semantical game they’re attempting to play.

They are still aligning themselves with a sexual criminal, no matter what they try to say.

Roy Moore is still a sexual criminal – he is still a sexual predator – not according to opinion, but according to the fucking rule of law that the members of his party are constantly referencing whenever they want to justify their heartless actions, or, better yet, emphasize that their unethical actions are not necessarily illegal.

He is a sexual criminal according to the rule of law that he and his kettle (the name for a group of circling vultures) of withered cronies wrongfully use as a hiding place for their deep-seated amorality.

For anyone that remains undecided on the matter, and is interested in truly weighing the veracity of the allegations that have been made against Moore all you need to do is scrutinize the following facts:

  • According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, only 15.8 to 35 percent of sexual assaults in the US are reported to authorities;
  • According to the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, survivors cite fear of reprisal and fear of lack of evidence as reasons for not reporting assaults or attacks;
  • According to the Iowa Law Review, “rape claims [are] often dismissed out of hand with little or no investigation”;
  • According to The Chicago Tribune, misconceptions about rape prosecutions have propagated the notion throughout American culture that “rape and sexual harassment can be minimized, marginalized, or even mocked because the clock has wound down on when the crime could or . . . should be reported or prosecuted”;
  • Public figures like Moore (Weinstein, Trump) foster public goodwill with their personae and so-called accomplishments, or they buy public goodwill with their philanthropy, making it difficult for the typical American to conceive of them as criminals;
  • Public figures like Moore (Weinstein, Trump) possess a great deal of power and belong to powerful networks, making it plausible and possible for them to retaliate against women that go on the record accusing them of committing sexual crimes.

If, when you are considering Moore’s accusers, you group these facts in with these specific others – that none of these accusers can have Moore arrested at this point and only a seemingly small segment of the American public appears to be taking their accusations seriously – then you should be able to deduce that these women stand to gain nothing material from going public. 

They can’t make any real money off of going public with their accusations, and they can’t gain any fame from it – only infamy.
The only thing they could logically or realistically be seeking to gain is the assurance that they tried to help prevent a remorseless criminal from becoming a US Senator. 

Their accusations, if they were lies, wouldn’t be worth telling in this current cultural climate, with its new, intensely virulent strain of misogyny. 
More likely than not, when all of this is “over,” they will have succeeded in doing little more than inadvertently inviting a bunch of mean-spirited mendacious scrutiny into their private lives.

They will have sacrificed their anonymity and a certain sort of sexist dignity in order to reveal a truth that no one really wants to hear.

Honestly, think about it: When has America ever rewarded a woman for calling out her politically powerful sexual attacker? 

(If you’re unsure of the answer to this question, I advise you to ask Anita Hill.)

The answer is never, so how likely are these women to be lying, particularly when the current trend in public debates about women’s safety is to put the onus for the harm they suffer on women and pretend that American culture isn’t laced with a hatred of women that acts like fentanyl when you mix it with heroin.

Just look: The superficial, circular back-and-forth in which the Fed, media, and citizenry are engaging about the matter, without actually doing anything to remove Moore from Alabama’s senatorial ballot, illustrates how little America on the whole respects or appreciates women that take the socially suicidal plunge into becoming sexual whistleblowers.

And one last thing – one last point – for anyone stupid enough to argue – outside of everything else – that being a sexual offender doesn’t automatically mean that a person is unfit to govern.

I want your ass to take a look at the etiology of the typical sexual offender and then tell me that shit with a straight face.

According to science – the other system of laws that Trump and his sycophants like to bend and twist like the wiry hairs of their unsightly toupees into absurd versions of themselves – in addition to having interests and getting aroused by having sexual contact with others against those others’ wills or without those others’ consent, sexual offenders have interests and get aroused by inflicting pain and humiliation onto others, participating in violent and aggressive acts, and watching acts of violence or aggression.

They know that rape, molestation, and other forms of sexual assault are immoral, illegal, and, most of all, harmful to others, but they choose – and it is instrumental that those of us that are not sexual offenders accept this truth – that sexual offenders choose – to rape, molest, and subject their victims to other forms of sexual assault anyway.

Sexual offenders have cognitive distortions and/or pro-offending attitudes that allow them to justify the terrible things they do to others, such as believing a woman that dresses a certain way or that has hurt their feelings “wants” or “deserves” to be assaulted.

They are much more capable than non-offenders of convincing themselves that their deviant and dangerous behaviors are not as injurious or serious as they really are. They are also extremely capable of serially assaulting people because they don’t accurately perceive that they are doing serious harm, or they don’t accurately perceive the degree of harm that they cause when they assault people.

So when we you (because this is all you, Republican Party) push to put sexual offenders in public office, you are assenting that it is acceptable and perhaps even advisable to empower people that deliberately, consistently, and guiltlessly hurt others to inflict their twisted wills on innocent and undeserving men, women, and children.

And, if the evidence of that claim seems too tied into concepts of sexual behavior to encompass non-sexual behavior, then consider that a great number of sexual offenders have what clinicians refer to as a “cluster” of non-sexual personality deficits that also make them unfit to govern, among a laundry list of other social, interpersonal, and intimate things.

Sexual offenders often have ineffective communication skills; they have difficulty getting along with people; they have a profound lack of empathy; and they lack effective or healthy psychological and/or emotional coping skills.

Many cannot manage their emotions. They tend to be highly impulsive and unwilling to think through the consequences of their actions. They are often isolated because they lack social skills, and they struggle with behavioral self-regulation. They experience a lot of problems in intimate relationships, which tends to make them even less empathic and even more emotionally unstable and allow them to experience even more cognitive dissonance.

Moore is a former judge whose record bears substantial and substantive evidence that the personal issues that have impelled him to sexually attack underage women have very probably affected the way that he performs professionally.

His professional track record proves that he was unfit to be a judge and strongly suggests that he would be disastrous as a federal legislator.

Again, for the hair-splitters, these two positions are not two sides of the same coin. If police officers are, say, pennies, then prosecutors are nickels, municipal and state legislators are dimes, federal legislators are quarters, and executives are dollars.

That means state legislators have much more power than judges. Their power is much more proximal to executive and presidential power, which is even more reason why Moore has no business yielding it.

The US Congress is responsible for making laws that apply to every state in the country; Congress has the power to “declare war, coin money, raise an army and navy, regulate commerce, establish rules of immigration and naturalization, and establish the federal courts and their jurisdictions,” according to ushistory.org.

Congress oversees the annual federal budget and investigates any wrongdoings committed by public officials, including the President.

In fact, the US Congress is among one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world.

US Senators specifically confirm presidential appointments and try impeachment officials after the House initiates impeachment procedures and raises articles of impeachment.

They serve six-year rather than two-year terms, and they approve treaties, so, in a way, they are more influential or powerful than members of the House.

So, if Moore is allowed to win a seat in the Senate, he will be afforded six years of opportunities to inject his deviant attitudes, including his old-fashioned Southern deep-fried blatant blend of fifty-leven types of bigotry, into the American political discourse and possibly even the actual governance of the country.

That thought should be repulsive to anyone that claims to want America to be great, whether again or eventually.

America has been and still is inexorably shaped by its leaders. That is why Roy Moore became a viable, front-running candidate for Alabama Senator in the first place. He hitched his wagon to the pants zipper of our predatory, pussy-grabbing 45th President. 

You can pretend to be unable to imagine how Moore’s tenure in the Senate would unfold, but you know it would very probably be a legislative version of Trump’s presidency: as I said, a fucking clusterfuck.

Now, I know the chances of any of Moore’s supporters reading this blog are nil. I know that my audience of readers is largely liberal, Democrat, or independent.

But I addressed this post to Moore’s army of marauding assholes for a reason, the least of which is I had substantial amounts of anger and frustration to expel.

I addressed this post to Moore and his unfortunate ilk because I feel I need to make the point that Moore’s political ascension is symbolic of an alarming sexist trend occurring in this country’s political culture.

A very small but very powerful white male cis-hetero contingent of the leadership of the Republican Party has become so terrified of the Party losing its political foothold that they have adopted this pro quid pro ethic by which they will work to place sexual deviants and criminals in office as long as these men prevent Democrats from taking office.

This is extremely dangerous because in the process of snatching up presidencies and Congressional seats they are also destigmatizing – they are normalizing – at least in political ideology and rhetoric – sexual assault and abuse.

We who know what a horrific slippery slope down which this can lead American culture cannot stand by while they do this and simply roll our eyes, suck our teeth, and mumble under our collective breath about how “ridiculous” they are and their endeavor is.

We have to speak truth to power. We have to say – whenever we have a chance of being heard – that they are dead fucking wrong. And we have to fight them in whatever ways we can.

I know that anti-Trump Americans are tired of this refrain, but the midterm elections are coming up next year. 

And those of us that care about making this country, shit, safer for women again need to demand that the candidates in next year’s elections explicitly decry this insidious polemical “conservative” vein of misogyny that has crept into our politics, and they back their renouncements with consistent, meaningful action that reverses the damage the Trump White House has done, before we give them our votes.

In an open letter to Sean Hannity in response to the flurry of accusations that has surrounded him, Moore says that his wife Kayla and he have five granddaughters. 

He throws that up at Hannity And Hannity’s Twitter followers as if being a grandparent to girls somehow makes it impossible for him an abuser of girls.

What Moore doesn’t say, in unequivocal language, is that he did not have sexual dealings with the women that are accusing him of having assaulted them.

He denies the allegations of two of his victims, Leigh Corfman and Beverly Nelson, and says he “did not date underage girls.” I suspect, however, that Moore is playing a similar semantical game to his supporters when he says he did not “date” underage girls. Because he didn’t date these women when they were underage. He molested them. He harassed them. He stalked them. He assaulted them.

I think he knows it, and we know it, and we should do something about it. I think that is our obligation as citizens.

We should make America’s political sphere as unsafe for predators like Moore as he apparently made the Gadsden Mall – what appears to have been his favorite place to go trolling  back in the early eighties – for young unsuspecting girls.

We should build a wall around the federal government that blocks out assholes like Moore.

We should lock them out even if we can’t fucking lock them up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fathers, Fairy Tales, and Lies: Why We Can & Should Hold Black Male Celebrities Accountable for Their Crimes

I wrote this back in May of last year, but all the Bishop Eddie Long apologists I’m reading on Facebook brought it back to my mind and renewed its relevancy, at least to my thinking.

I will say the same thing here that I said on Facebook about some people’s refusal to be silent about the sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Long in the event of his death:

You recount the mistakes to distill the lesson.

The black community should’ve held Eddie Long accountable for the wrongs he committed while he was still alive if so many of its members find it distasteful to indict a dead man.

But what the black community shouldn’t do–through its parochial responses to Long’s accusers–is continue to make the black community unlivable for sexual abuse victims or make it a safe space for sexual predators.

That–if you ask me–is a sin.

MRS

Even though I grew up in a household that was an approximation of the black middle class ideal, I still wanted to be a Huxtable.

I wanted more siblings than my one baby sister, who, at eight years younger, could do nothing but annoy the hell out of me; I wanted to live in a brownstone in the biggest and busiest city in the world; I wanted to have all four of my grandparents within walking distance and visit with them regularly; I wanted a mother who allowed my friends to come and visit our home every day after school; and I wanted a father just like Heathcliff.

When I was young, my father was a workaholic with ambitions of becoming the next Johnny Cochrane; he was gone most of the time, and, when he was home, he was still busy with work. He had his own father’s heirloom sarcasm. He wanted his daughters to be ladies even though our mother was raising us to be women. His expectations could loom higher than a Detroit skyscraper at times, but his temper could be as ugly as the Detroit River. He never spanked me once in my life, but he did smack me up a time or two with doctrine—the proxy hand of God—when he thought I was getting too out-of-control with my damned independent thinking and insistence on eking out my own identity.

He was a lot more complicated than Heathcliff Huxtable–less fun and way more demanding–and, since I had that TV image with which to compare him, I often found myself wishing my dad was less himself and more like a sitcom character.

I would fantasize about him reacting to me in the warm, goofy way that Heathcliff reacted to his kids, and I would feel a bit cheated because it was work being his daughter, and no one applauded for me as I did it.

Now, at 39, I realize that work was some of the most valuable that I’ve ever don–that he–my father–and I were building me into a decent, hard-working, and responsible person (with a wicked sense of humor, enviable taste in music, an elegant sense of style, and a deeply-rooted notion of fairness).

I understand now that navigating one’s relationship with one’s parent(s) is one of the most influential parts of growing up, and I wouldn’t be anyone close to the thinker, writer, teacher, mother, sister, or friend I am if I hadn’t been my father’s daughter–and mother’s daughter–first.

I also see–in thinking through why Heathcliff Huxtable was such an appealing character to me–what a juvenile concept of the “father” most of black people retain throughout our lives.

This is important to point out because I think it has a lot to do with why so many us, who love(d) Heathcliff Huxtable, are having such a difficult time accepting that Bill Cosby is a rapist that deserves to be punished for his crimes.

Rather than an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, whispering to black people about what fathers are and are not, we have a fairy tale weighing on one shoulder and a pack of racist lies weighing on the other.

These two false images make it difficult for us to be realistic or real about our fathers and father figures.

The fairy tale is of the white father–a romanticized figure that is an amalgam of the Judeo-Christian God and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. This man–because of his social privilege and inherent moral superiority and intelligence–conferred by his whiteness–is the perfect father. He is always there for his kids; he always has to proper solution for their problems; he can provide for his children’s every need; and he never fails them. He is the polar opposite, conceptually, of the paradigmatic black father.

The lies on the other end of the binary are that black men are inherently bad fathers. That slavery stole the ability to parent permanently from them. That institutional racism bars them–across the board–financially, emotionally, and spiritually–from adequately supporting their children. That being the victims of oppression, suppression, deprivation, and violence makes them ineffective and even damaging.

Charles Blow of The New York Times does an excellent job of describing this manifold misconception: “[We believe],” he writes, ” . . . there is something fundamental, and intrinsic about black men that is flawed, that black fathers are pathologically prone to desertion of their offspring and therefore largely responsible for black community ‘dysfunction.’”

Both of these mythoi–of the good white father and bad black father–conveniently–or inconveniently for black men–ignore the facts–which must be considered in order for black people to gain a more realistic–and serviceable–concept of the “father.”

The first is that, historically, many white men have failed spectacularly at parenting. See Joseph Kennedy, who had his daughter Rosemary lobotomized at age 23 without his wife’s knowledge or agreement, or Woody Allen, who had an affair with the adopted daughter—Soon-Yi Previn—of his long-time girlfriend Mia Farrow. They have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that white men in general are not automatically “better equipped” for parenting.

On the other hand, black men are more than just the “serial impregnators” portrayed in the racist mainstream media.

Though 72% of black women having babies are single mothers, this doesn’t mean that they don’t live with the fathers of their children. It actually means they aren’t married to them. Many still live with the fathers of their children. Only 55% of black children live in single mother households.

And even though a lot of black fathers don’t live with their children, about 2.5 million black fathers do live with at least one of their children.

Too, according to the CDC, black fathers–in and out of the home–provide more actual child care than white or Hispanic fathers. Yes–black men regularly feed their children their meals (78.2% black>73.9% white>63.9% Hispanic), dress their children (70.4% black>60% white>45% Hispanic), and read to their children every day (34.9% black>30.2% white>21.9% Hispanic). They are not all flailing or failing to fulfill their parental duties, despite what even a large segment of the black community maintains.

It is fair to acknowledge, too, that many of the black fathers that are missing from their children’s lives are missing because of factors related to institutionalization.

As reported in The Washington Post, “Incarceration [is an]  overwhelming [driver] of the gap [in the number of black women and men in the free population].

“Of the 1.5 million missing black men [out of 8 million] from 25 to 54 [the prime age span for fatherhood]–higher imprisonment rates account for almost 600,000. Almost one in 12 black men . . . is behind bars, compared with one in 60 nonblack men . . .”

These numbers prove that black men are not pathologically neglectful of their children.

Black fathers are still more absent from black homes than white fathers, but their patterns of abandonment can be linked to the historical legacy of slavery–how it has shaped today’s law enforcement and justice system, created genetic pitfalls for black people in terms of their health (which result in earlier deaths), and facilitated the demonization of black men in order to justify its reprehensibility.

Often, it is their internalized self-hatred–their own belief in their badness–that impels black men to leave their children alone–in the wrongheaded attempt to protect them.

Because black men struggle on a lot of levels to be present for their children at the same rates as nonblack men, and black people as a whole have a lot of misconceptions about how structural racism impedes parenting, the absences of black fathers lead many black people to cling to idealized father figures like Heathcliff Huxtable.

They set these father figures, usually found in entertainment, on pedestals because these men seem to have overcome whatever obstacles they needed to overcome in order to “get it right” for their children and co-parents (which are more often than not their wives).

Those that actually are or that just feel fatherless worship these figures in a sense, and this may be because one of the predominant figures in this improvised pantheon of imaginary surrogates is, in fact, the Judeo-Christian God.

Just listen to the way that many black religious leaders speak about God. They very liberally and munificently humanize Him. They do this because they know that so many black people suffer from an acute psychological sense of fatherlessness. They want to fix it, so they offer their congregants a God that is an eternal, omnipotent father.

They take that Biblical address, that ancient, enduring metaphor—“Our Father”—and literalize it–to effect some sort of spiritual healing from parental abandonment. They create a model of fatherhood that–while it may not shape the way that real black fathers do their jobs–shapes the way that the fatherless envision the role of the father. Then, celebrities, cultural icons, and imaginary characters like Heathcliff Huxtable do the same thing, but on a lesser level.

These famous “fathers” provide the fatherless with an unrealistic ideal that they attach to as “theirs” to fill the absence of an actual father. These “fathers” give the fatherless ridiculously high standards for what a father is, but, since they appear to meet these standards, they also inspire immense amounts of love and loyalty. It is this love and loyalty–and the painful prospect of losing yet another “parent”–that make it so difficult for people to accept it when father (or maybe it’s more apt to say “fatherly”) figures like Bill Cosby commit terrible acts.

Since so many black people do suffer from fatherlessness–or even from the idea that their “regular” black fathers are inferior–they do not want to give up their adoptive fatherly figures.

They do not want to face the fact that a character like Heathcliff Huxtable is a personage and not a person.

They want their fatherly figure to be innocent, or, if he cannot be innocent, they want him to be exempt.

So when their fatherly figure is put on public trial, these “children” argue that his positive contributions to society or culture or the black community must outweigh his crimes. They vilify his victims in order to lessen his culpability and depravity. They deny that his behavior is actually harmful, or, worse, they say that his victims are the ones doing the harm, by ruining the fatherly figure’s so-called legacy.

They make that same tired argument every time–that if Guilty Black Fatherly Figure were white, he wouldn’t be held nearly as accountable for his transgressions, as if that somehow justifies his transgressions. But the truth remains.

Despite how prevalent fatherlessness is in the black community, or how painful it is, we—the collective—cannot use it as an excuse to dismiss the crimes of our famous black men. Our imaginary “fathers” are no less responsible for their actions than our actual fathers. Fame, wealth, and talent–while they are rare–impressive–enchanting–still do not cancel out brutality, cruelty, perversity, or decidedly unchecked psychopathy.

The ugly truth is, then, that Bill Cosby is somnophiliac that–because he prefers to secretly drug women rather than gain their consent to have unconscious sex–has allowed the pursuit of his paraphilia to make him a rapist.

He has admitted on the record to drugging women and raping them. He has paid these women–by order of the court and on his own—as his atonement for raping them.

He has exploited his image as a fatherly figure, his power, and sexist stereotypes like that of the female groupie or gold digger to ruthlessly cover for his crimes.

He has been allowed and–yes–encouraged–by his wife, entourage, the Hollywood establishment, the legal system, the patriarchy, and, yes, the black community–that deifies him–to violate a group of 50 women–that we know of–between 1965 and 2008–without suffering any losses to his fame, wealth, reputation, or freedom.

And before any of you reading can make the reflexive argument that erroneously links the veracity of their accusations to how long it took certain of his victims to come forward on the record, let me let you know–

American culture and the nation’s justice system are criminally inhospitable to female rape victims, and this has a profound effect on their willingness to report their attacks.

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that only 15.8 to 35 percent of all sexual assaults are reported to police.

This is because when women are assaulted by a friend or acquaintance (neighbor, classmate, coworker, boss), they fear they will not be believed.

They fear retaliation from the accused, other people finding out they’ve been assaulted, being branded as a rape victim, and/or being disrespected and/or mistreated during the trial process.

They believe that the police will not do anything to help them.

They believe that they have a lack of adequate proof or evidence.

They have their own misconceptions about what actually constitutes rape and do not actually know or believe that they have been raped.

Men may not be able to relate to these reasons–or they might refute them in order to abstain from inverting and being implicated by them–but women–if we’re being honest–know that they are very real.

Too many of us have either been raped or molested and experienced these paralyzing fears or doubts firsthand, or we have imagined being raped or molested and projected these fears and doubts onto our imaginary selves and into our possible futures.

Another reason not listed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics that women don’t report sexual assaults is the terrible lack of credibility attributed to them by certain principles of rape culture.

Patriarchal notions that men hold–about how desperately women want to please them, how deserving “promiscuous” women are of punishment, and how important maintaining a “good girl” image is to women–make it easy for men to believe that women are lying when women say they’ve been raped.

Men like this think women are so universally “afraid” of being typed as sluts that any and all of them would lie about having consensual sex–call it rape–to avoid retribution or requital for exercising their sexual freedom.

And these men hold to the unfortunate truth that some women have lied about being assaulted—they have falsely accused men to avoid shame, exact revenge, or hide infidelity.

In the case of Cosby’s accusers, we must also concede they were up against the unlikelihood that a woman that is a “nobody” would be believed over a cultural icon.

Look baldly at how his accusers have been treated, and it’s easy to see why so many of Cosby’s victims felt for so long that reporting him to the authorities would be pointless.

People conflate Cosby with Heathcliff Huxtable. They think Bill Cosby is Heathcliff Huxtable. And, as devotees of the character, it is impossible for them to imagine Heathcliff raping a woman. So they struggle with believing that Cosby is a rapist. Still, the numbers of victims—as well as Cosby’s own accounts of his encounters with them and court settlements to which he has agreed—make it impossible to ignore that Cosby is guilty of a pattern of illegal behavior for which he deserves to be punished.

It looks as if the same thing, unfortunately, can be said about legendary hip hop culturalist Afrika Bambaataa, who has been accused in the last couple of months by four men of sexually abusing them during the 1980s.

Allegedly, he showed them—as boys—pornographic materials then performed oral sex on them.

Along with assaulting them, he gave them shelter, food, and money when they needed it, and he maintained a “father-son” relationship with at least one of them into adulthood. That is—in fact—what the boys called him: “Poppy.”

It’s reasonable to assume that fatherlessness, shame, machismo, and a distorted sense of loyalty are what kept them from reporting their abuse until now.

Again, before those of you that are inclined start doing that victim-blaming “thing” we so often do when we hear that victims of sexual assault have waited to name their accusers, I want to go back to one really significant concept I brought up previously, and that’s loyalty.

I honestly believe that malformed and misdirected loyalty are what keep a lot of black people silent about the terrible things that other black people do to them or in their presence.

We have such a profound mistrust of law enforcement and the courts that we do not want to turn a supposed “brother” or “sister” over to them if we can help it.

So many of we black people refuse to report crimes committed against us by other black people—and we uphold our own abusers in a lot of instances—in order to show our racial awareness and solidarity.

We romanticize our victimization as a sacrifice of sorts, and we shame those that don’t adhere to this dysfunctional “code” of honor and silence. But this behavior is a throwback to the plantation and the inhumane treatment our ancestors often suffered when they didn’t cover and/or lie for each other.

As a people, we have to start moving past our past, in this sense. We either have to abandon this anti-“snitching” ethic and turn the offenders in our community over to the law, or we have to figure out our own ways to hold them accountable for their choices to damage others and refuse to seek help for their sicknesses.

I said it before—navigating one’s relationship with one’s parent(s) is one of the most influential parts of growing up. James Baldwin even said that loving someone—that act in itself—is a growing up.

It’s a process of shedding the pretty, pretend ideas we get from fairy tales, and the hyperbolic or fantastical ideas we get from lies, and embracing new ideas about ourselves—bolder concepts of ourselves—that protect and empower us, female and male.

And here are a few—

We can love Heathcliff Huxtable—what he represents—the will to father black children lovingly and joyfully—without reifying him.

We can admire Bill Cosby as an entertainer, philanthropist, actor, and producer without deifying him.

We can condemn Bill Cosby for raping those women without killing the image of Healthcliff Huxtable.

We can support a conviction of Bill Cosby’s guilt and maintain a sense of our highest and not our basest form of integrity.

We can condemn Afrika Bambaataa without indicting hip hop culture or erasing his contributions to the culture from its history.

We can support a conviction of his guilt.

We must.

Nothing can justifiably counterbalance wrongs like the ones Cosby or Eddie Long committed except confession, contrition, reparation, and rehabilitation.

So we cannot keep perpetuating this cult of fragile black manhood—this concept that black men cannot answer for their actions—if we want black men that ultimately inspire more than pity, mistrust, resentment, or fear in us. Or that can only truly be great when they are standing framed in our blind spots.

We cannot keep perpetuating this cult of fragile black manhood if we want to evolve into a culture that is characterized by more than its pathologies.

In order to grow out of the desperation of fatherlessness and demand what is actually attainable from our famous men–decency–we have to leave the childish notion that fathers are faultless behind us, once and for all.

We have to process the ugly truths about our fatherly figures. Topple them from their pedestals. Let them shatter and clean up the messes they’ve made.

This will help us to not only heal from their abuses, but it will help us to better appreciate our real fathers.

It will open us up to accepting that many of them are bending over backward, being their best for us.

 

Being Insecure: The Complication of Wanting Romantic Love as a Cis Hetero Black Femme Feminist

So I watched the final three episodes of “Insecure”–

If you don’t know “Insecure,” then you should get to know it. It’s entertaining as hell.

Even though it trades on some of the most tired paradigms of black entertainment–my least personal favorite being the funny fat friend (since she is who I battle with myself on a daily basis not to be–another blog post for another time), it also delves into some new and poignant territory with its portrayal of the darker-skinned protagonist, her even darker-skinned best friend, and their shared plethora of confidence issues.

It gets a lot of things right about twenty-something, thirty-something educated black women trying to navigate adulthood with the kind of exquisite baggage that only America can gift.

SPOILER ALERT: The protagonist is Issa. She is characterized by her deep ambivalence. She hates her job at a non-profit that runs after-school programming for inner city kids, but she doesn’t have the balls to pursue music, which is her love (she raps). She loves her boyfriend, Lawrence, but she resents him for having sat, unemployed, idle, on their sofa for the past two years. She admires her best friend, Molly, for having achieved a high level of career success and financial stability, but she questions whether her approach to dating is strategic or self-destructive.

Lawrence lost his job and invented a computer app at some point previous to where the timeline for the season starts, but, unfortunately, the app failed to take off, and he was left with dashed hopes and minimal income. His own confidence took an understandable nosedive, and, correlatively, Issa’s did, too.

At the post at which the season starts, she is the breadwinner in the relationship, and she is resentful and I think embarrassed because she has opted to stay with a man that can’t seem to get it together and doesn’t fit the textbook definition of “successful.”

Rather than break up with him, she starts texting her ex to boost her confidence, though she doesn’t see that. She doesn’t recognize that classic pattern of romanticizing an old relationship when the one you’re in isn’t satisfying you. Daniel is someone with which she’s always had chemistry, but never a healthy dynamic, yet she pushes that aside when they begin communicating again.

She remains with Lawrence in the meantime. They go back-and-forth for a few episodes, but then he realizes how unattractive his situation has become to her, and he goes out and gets a retail job to tide him over until he can get more gainful employment. He and Issa pledge to work at their relationship; he starts interviewing for better jobs; and things get better.

That is until a video of Issa at an open mic, rapping, goes viral. She is afraid it will affect her job, and she goes to the ex–Daniel–for help to track down the person that posted it (he had been at the club the night of the open mic) and get it removed.

Daniel agrees to help her, but, when they have no luck finding the person that posted the video, he proposes a detour, and she goes to the studio with him to sit in on a recording session (he’s a producer) and clear her mind.

There, Daniel gasses Issa’s ego; he tells her she is an amazing writer and emcee, and they make a track that is passably decent. She lets the excitement of the experience–exercising her creative muscles and having her art be accepted and appreciated–totally overtake her.

Issa has sex with Daniel, but then realizes it was a mistake and sneaks out of the studio. She spends the next few weeks scrupulously avoiding him and focusing on Lawrence and the planning of a work fundraiser instead.

The fundraiser is, of course, the place where the shit hits the fan. Daniel comes to confront her about cutting him off, and Lawrence sees them arguing through a window. He waits for Issa to get back to their apartment after the event, and he confronts her as well. She confesses, and he stalks out on her.

Fast-forward: Lawrence has a really grim moment in the champagne room at the strip club and thinks maybe he better take Issa back. He calls her, on vacation with her girls, and says he is going back to their apartment, and he is willing to talk to her when she returns. She jumps the gun and leaves her vacation right away to meet him there.

Apparently, though, returning to the apartment triggers him because when Issa arrives, he is gone with all of his things, and the only thing she finds is Lawrence’s Best Buy polo, hanging in the closet.

The epilogue is the dramatic portrayal of the cliché that men do not know how to process romantic pain except with sex. Lawrence is going harder than he ever did with Issa onscreen with the flirtatious bank teller that used to cash his unemployment checks and give him cute little pep talks in-between reckless eyeballs. Cut to Issa, and she is curled up in Molly’s lap, sobbing.

The whole time I was watching Issa go back-and-forth with the ex, previous to the sex, I kept warning her aloud to be smart, be strong, stop playing, and stay away from him. It was only partially because he had told her in the first episode he wasn’t looking for a relationship, though. The other reason was I thought she would ruin a solid relationship–with Lawrence–if she messed around and fucked Daniel.

Now, I didn’t think Lawrence was this amazing catch because I am at least feminist enough not to think of men as catches–because I am adverse to the idea that women should chase men for love, sex, or validation.

However, I did find myself thinking Lawrence was a “nice” guy, and Issa should be careful with his emotions not just because he was her man, but because it might not be easy to find an equally “nice” man if she and Lawrence broke up.

I’ve read quite a few other responses to Issa fucking Daniel–from black women–some of them feminists–and many of them cheered her on for scratching her sexual “itch” and leaving Lawrence stuck in his career rut with his failed app and pretentious refusal to take an entry level IT job.

They thought Lawrence was a masquerading “nice” or “good” guy, and the fact that he’d fallen into that rut disqualified him from deserving a certain level of respect and affection.

They made sure to say that Issa was messy for ending their relationship by fucking Daniel, but they also insisted she was right to end their relationship and should’ve ended it months earlier, before Daniel re-entered the picture.

I’m not going to lie. Reading these responses led me to question my own: I wondered whether it was heteropatriarchy that had me thinking about the situation the way that I did.

First, I thought it was compassionate of Issa to stay with Lawrence while he struggled, not weak, and that was a healthy reaction in the context of a long-term relationship.

I have this concept that people have their own developmental paths, and one of the mistakes we make in relationships is trying to pull people off of these paths or insisting they take shortcuts so the relationship can follow some fairy tale or rom-com narrative.

In order to insist, as a cis hetero black femme woman, that my man allow me to make decisions about my life that further my growth even if they stretch the relationship out of conventional shape, I feel like I have to extend him that same space to explore his individuality.

And, when those decisions lead me to fail, in order to request or expect compassion and comfort from him, I have to be willing to give it. That’s equality.

In that same vein, I thought it was unevolved of Issa to consider breaking up with Lawrence over money and not an issue in their dynamic.

Again, as a feminist, I don’t expect a man to support me financially; I expect us to sit down and map out a sensible and fair plan for how we will navigate money matters as a team.

The only thing I need a man to do, if we are paying bills together, is to cover what he says he will cover and take care of his own needs with his own money.

If he isn’t able to do that, I am willing to stay with him, but I will move out or make other living arrangements so that I am not supporting him financially because I am not his parent or caretaker. That, to me, is making sure the relationship is reciprocal and as balanced as it can be.

Too, I thought it was unfair for Issa to expect Lawrence to take a job he didn’t want just because she had a job that she didn’t want.

That was her decision to make, as was her decision to continue living and paying bills with Lawrence after he lost his job.

Like I said before, I want the space, in a relationship, to make choices for myself that are empowering and affirming, and I don’t want my partner putting pressure on me to subvert my dreams or desires and “take one” for the proverbial the team. That shit can be soul-crushing.

So I have to be willing to give my partner that same space and not invoke the whole “breadwinner male” ethic, which is just as much a product of heteropatriarchy as the ethic of the “dutiful wife.”

Finally, I thought it was codependent and unrealistic for Issa to think Lawrence “should have” gotten off the couch and out of his funk to save her from her own decisions to stay with him and take on paying the lion’s share of the bills.

Issa is a grown woman, and it is her job to be honest with herself and the people around her about what she wants and needs.

If she told Lawrence that she had his back, but, then, she changed her mind, it was her job to say that. It was her job to extricate herself from their situation; it wasn’t his job to solve himself for her; he is his own problem.

In playing the “dutiful wife”–when she wasn’t even his wife and her heart wasn’t in it anymore–Issa played herself and put Lawrence in the position to play her–the exact reason you never play the “dutiful wife” or any role that subverts your real identity or desires(.

Yes, Lawrence was wallowing in his disappointment, but people wallow–depression is real and alienating–and we all have to be our own protectors and advocates against unhealthy influences, even in romantic relationships.

If we are going to insist on being treated as strong, intelligent, evolved women, then we can’t play the damsel and wait for men to save us, on any level, and especially not from themselves. That is when we become the unrealistic ones.

(To me, a feminism that expects men to voluntarily come out of their conditioning to care about our struggles is like a black consciousness that expects white people to voluntarily give up their white privilege.)

When I originally thought about writing this post, I played with the title “‘Insecure’ & Conundrums of Cis Hetero Black Femme Feminism.”

Because I think that we feminists that are cis, hetero, black, and femme have to navigate very carefully in order to ensure that we are not operating out of our heteropatriarchal conditioning when we deal with men.

It is easy when you love men romantically and sexually, and they are black men, to prioritize their needs and wants over yours because that is how most of us are taught: We are taught that we need a man, should want a man, are lucky to get a man, and should do what is necessary to keep a man because of the supposed scarcity of livable hetero black men.

Many of us are taught that a man that doesn’t beat you or cheat on you–or a man that discreetly cheats on you–is a “good” man. A man that makes more money than you and/or has more education than you is a “catch.” The endgame for romantic relationships is “catching” a man–getting him to marry us.

We are taught to pursue “successful” men; to put price tags on our time and attention and sex; and to dismiss men that cannot afford to pay these price tags. We are taught to objectify ourselves in anticipation of being objectified by men and break our necks to look a certain way and fit into whatever mold of respectability or sexuality in order to please men and “keep” men.

One of the first things you do–or at least that I did–when I became a feminist was to dissect all of these teachings in order to identify which of my ingrained behaviors were oppressing me. Then, I brainstormed ways to change them.

However, I’m not going to lie and say that I am a feminist warrior in my romantic relationship every single hour or every single day. There are those conundrums of feminism that come up when you want to be true to yourself, but you’re dealing with a black man and all his patriarchal baggage, and you want things to go smoothly.

One of the most frequent ones, for me, is wanting very badly for your relationship to work. That in itself can feel anti-feminist because it can very easily slip into codependency and unhealthy attachment.

You are always walking a fine line between being invested and committed and allowing yourself to be misused and possibly even abused in the name of “love.”

When I was watching “Insecure,” I was compelled to ask myself over and over whether Issa was settling for staying with Lawrence, which, to me, is a benign (when the man is not violent or abusive) form of self-abnegation or self-denial.

I thought she was being a committed partner, but, then, after I read what some other smart women had to say, I wondered whether I was wrong. Then, I wondered whether attempting to partner with a male period is a form of self-abnegation that cis hetero feminists just have to accept and navigate as carefully as they can.

Any cis hetero black woman or femme black woman knows how delicate black men’s egos can be. You know how lightly you can feel impelled to tread in their emotional landscape, which can feel like it is nothing but a maze of booby traps.

When being strong, independent, and self-determined is a mandate, dealing romantically with men can very easily lead to endless power struggles and really ugly splits because they can’t handle you. Mind you, they can have a hard time handling you because they refuse to do more, or you are doing too much, but I digress.

Being a feminist and hetero is complicated, yet, as a human being, you crave companionship, sex, love, and maybe even commitment. Take me. I’m big on monogamy. I want marriage. Yet, I feel guilty for wanting these things, and afraid of them, because they seem almost intrinsically not just anti-feminist, but anti-female, with all the double standards, antiquated thinking, and stringent politics that govern both.

It occurs to me that I am insecure at times. Not about my cis hetero black femme femininity or womanhood, but about my feminism. I can be really shaky sometimes when it comes to enacting all these concepts I have about how to conduct myself in my romantic relationships.

Because on one end, I am afraid of playing into patriarchy, and, on the other, I am afraid of enacting a feminism that doesn’t allow me to be who I am.

I am a romantic. I am a monogamist. I have a fiancé. I think women are sexy as hell, but I only want to sleep with men.

I want to wear make-up and earrings and still be taken seriously. I want to be fat and still be considered sexy. I want to be loud and opinionated and still be romantically and sexually attractive (though I do not just want to be attractive).

I want to be educated and make money and not be subject to male hostility or inconsideration. I want to be sexually open and expressive and not be subject to attack or disrespect. I want to be vulnerable, compassionate, and affectionate and not be mistaken for weak or treated like shit or an idiot by inadequate, insecure, or manipulative men.

But I also do not want to be mistaken for weak or treated like shit or an idiot by women when I am vulnerable, compassionate, or affectionate toward men. I don’t want other feminists dog-walking me because I refuse to vilify men or refute tenderness.

I want to be free (imagine that) to exist along the full spectrum of emotions and behaviors. That, to me, is the aim of feminism.

Yes–all of this from a sitcom. I thank Issa Rae and her writers for coming up with a plotline that was so provocative. I love when black entertainment isn’t the typical slick, manicured minstrel show.

And I guess what I am saying is–the way we view “Insecure” or the lives of the real women we know can provide some really interesting and useful clues about what we feel about our relationships and ourselves.

With “Insecure” and my own engagement weighing on my mind, I forced myself to spell out–for myself–what I think about issues surrounding support and money in relationships–very important ideas to parse when embarking on a lifetime partnership.

And I don’t fault Issa for staying with Lawrence or wanting him back in the end. I don’t think he’s a “good” guy or a “bad” guy. I reject that binary. I don’t think it helps to think of people in types because it impels us to act off of scripts and not our true feelings, desires, and needs.

I also don’t think that cis hetero black femme feminists like me are betraying ourselves when we try to work it out with men that don’t fit neatly into boxes–that aren’t knights or panty-droppers or alphas, but just regular, decent men interested in healthy, constructive love with a woman that is in control of herself.

I think we need to embrace this ethic expressed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: “I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.”

Because if we are letting any rule tell us who to love or how or what to do in general, we are not free or independent.

If we are not living out our own individual ideas of what it means to be female, or we are suppressing our femininity, whatever that is for us, we are not feminists.

Being the Change: Ryan Lochte, Bresha Meadows, and What Black Parents Need to Do for Their Own Kids

All the clamor over Ryan Lochte has passed, but I still have some lingering resentment of it, so I’m writing this weeks after it may seem relevant.

Please forgive me, though. I’m actually talking about something bigger and more important than Ryan Lochte; I’m just using his bullshit antics as an entryway into the conversation.

Ryan Lochte went to Rio last month to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, didn’t medal, very probably started feeling sorry for himself, and decided he needed to “blow off some steam”–all good, nothing wrong with any of that, whatever, good for Ryan.

Where he fucked up is he got drunk, tore up a gas station, got caught by Brazilian security, caught an attitude, and tried to get the security in trouble by claiming they were crooked and robbed him.

His horrible, entitled decision making throughout the night of August 14 took him from international idol to international asshole in record time, and the media had a field day reporting on “poor” Ryan as, first, the victim of a fabricated robbery and then the victim of a fabricated developmental delay.

Now, this is where the media fucked up–in its collective decision to portray Lochte as an overgrown adolescent that should be let off the hook without any accountability rather than a grown man that willingly vandalized public property and deliberately lied about it.

By discussing Lochte like an overgrown adolescent, the media exposed just how real and deeply entrenched the racial bias in the portrayal of black males in American news reporting is.

Because when Trayvon Martin (17-years-old), Mike Brown (18-years-old), and Tamir Rice (12-years-old) were discussed in the news, they were habitually called “males” or “young men,” not “kids” or “boys,” and regarded adults, capable of making more “appropriate” decisions in response to Zimmerman (28 at the time he murdered Trayvon), Wilson (28 at the time he murdered Mike and a trained police officer), and Loehmann (26 at the time he murdered Tamir and a trained officer as well).

Ryan Lochte was older than even Zimmerman, Wilson, and Loehmann–he was 32–when he went into that Brazilian gas station, broke the soap holder and a mirror, ripped up flooring, tore down a sign, and urinated all over the property with his teammates.

He was definitely too old to be called a “kid” or extended the forbearance we give children for being relatively unformed in terms of decency, morality, integrity, and responsibility.

And black people all over Twitter and the rest of the world spoke up about this fact. They dragged the American media for the routinely discrepant way it portrays black boys–as intrinsically violent or anti-social rather than age appropriately defiant or immature.

But what I have to say is–black people–we need to watch the ways in which we adultify and parentify our own children because we do, even though I hate to admit it.

We need to be vigilant about our own tendency to regard grown black men as “kids” that cannot make responsible decisions and cover for their lapses in judgment or into dysfunction, which puts a rubber stamp on head games like the one the media tried to play in its defense of Ryan Lochte.

I say this because at the same time that Ryan Lochte was touring the morning talk shows, trying to slip out of giving a proper apology for what he had done, a 14-year-old black girl named Bresha Meadows was being peripherally discussed; she was standing accused of having killed her father for being abusive toward her mother.

Her father was a 41-year-old man that had reportedly battered her mother for years.

After years of witnessing this, and some say being abused herself, on July 28, Bresha allegedly shot her father with a gun he routinely used to threaten the family–a girl with no history of personal violence.

The family immediately rushed to her defense, justifying her actions by corroborating reports of her father’s abusive behavior, and her mother made sure to tell reporters, however sincerely and/or strategically that Bresha was “[her] hero.”

“I wasn’t strong enough to get out and she helped me,” Mom said. With tears in her eyes and sorrow written all over her face, I’m sure.

And this is where I want to insert my argument–right in this place where Mom allowed circumstances to become such that Bresha–a kid–had to step up, stand in, and do a woman’s job.

Or a man’s job if we buy into the concept that as someone with an obvious problem, Dad, too, could’ve and should’ve sought help. Which I do.

Either way you want to look at it, the bottom-line is Bresha Meadows is not an adult. She isn’t a woman. She’s a little girl.

And so she shouldn’t have had to end her father’s abuse; she should’ve been cloistered from it by the other adults in her life.

Her father, on the other end of it, wasn’t a child; he should’ve been held accountable by his wife and other adult family members for his unwillingness to seek help for his obvious issues with violence.

It’s important that black people take time to reflect on these concepts because if we do not want white people or people in authority positions to adultify our children, then we can’t adultify our children. We have to acknowledge, protect, preserve, and respect their childhood just like we want other to do.

Black kids are often perceived as less “child-like” because they are physiologically more developed than their white counterparts, yes–they are heavier and undergo puberty much earlier–but a lot of the time they signify as older through psycho-social cues–the way they talk, the way they act, the way they appear to think.

This is because too many black kids are made to deal with situations that are “older” than they are or than the situations with which they should be rightfully dealing at their age.

I’m not talking about having to go without the new Pokemon game for your Nintendo 3DS because the electric bill was higher than usual this month, and the discretionary or miscellaneous budget for the house is smaller. No. That sort of thing is understandable, minor aspect of life for working or poor families with limited resources.

I’m talking about having to take care of your younger siblings because of your mother’s incessant dating and/or partying or adamant refusal to use birth control.

I’m talking about being made to get on the phone and ask your father about his child support payments because your mother refuses to do it.

I’m talking about having to fend off your parent’s predatory lover because he or she doesn’t have high enough self-esteem or a high enough level of self-reliance to separate from this person and put you out of their reach.

I’m talking about having to shoot your father to protect your mother because she won’t get help to grow mentally strong enough to leave her abusive marriage, your father won’t get help to stop battering your mother, and the other adults in the family won’t intervene and take you and/or your siblings out of the household in which the abuse is taking place out of some misguided notion of “respecting” your parents’ rights.

If those of us that actually walk the walk of adulthood know one thing, it’s that being an adult necessitates that we make tough decisions and deal with painful circumstances as a matter of course.

But if we have decided to take on parenting or the custodianship or guardianship of a child or multiple children–if we have adduced our status as “adults” in that way–in order to “qualify” for that level of responsibility–then we have to be women and men about it.

We have to be the adults that we claim to be.

Black people love to talk about how “grown” they are. That’s a favorite phrase of ours. “I’m a grown-ass woman/I’m a grown-ass man.”

But being a grown person is more than a matter of standing in the middle of the floor and making declarations.

And claiming to be an adult then displacing responsibility for a situation onto a child, or simply leaving a problem for a child to solve, because you don’t have the guts to do it yourself is unfair and actually somewhat unsavory.

If you create a problem using the autonomy and agency that adulthood affords you, then you should solve it, not leave it up to your kids to solve.

Because I believe that when we adultify and parentify our kids in this way, it makes it that much easier for white people to do it–to propagate a concept of black children as pathological that they can then use to frame them.

The reason Zimmerman was able to get off in his trial is because it was easy for the jury to believe that a 17-year-old black boy can pose a lethal threat to a 28-year-old man.

It was easy for the jury to believe this because so many 17-year-old black boys are forced by their home situations to act like men–to physically defend their mothers and siblings against older men, to physically care for their siblings like a father, to work full-time rather than go to school so they can earn enough money to pay bills, to fend for themselves in the streets for survival because they were kicked out by frustrated or overwhelmed parents–I can go on and on.

This isn’t exclusive to our boys, and it isn’t exclusive to our kids, either, but I do think that adultifying and parentifying our children may have more dangerous ramifications than we like to entertain as we go about our day-to-day lives. Serious cultural ramifications.

This is why we as actual black adults should do everything we can to allow our kids to live as kids while they are kids and develop into adults at the natural, appropriate pace, in as much as we can do so.

Whether we want to admit it or not, when we don’t slay our own dragons, we are inviting our children to do it for us out of love and loyalty, and this isn’t conducive to anything but causing them undue damage most of the time.

Let me say that more plainly: It’s not our children’s place to be our heroes, rather it’s our obligation to protect and take holistic care of them.

That’s what raising kids is. Bracing their backs and picking them up when they fall. Bandaging their wounds and kissing away their tears.

Ryan Lochte is not a kid, but Bresha Meadows is, and, now, she’s being charged with aggravated murder.

There is no lie that can get her out of this, and the truth, though moving, might not acquit her either.

She doesn’t belong in prison for what she’s done, but it’s very likely that she might end up there, considering how little anyone seems to believe in black innocence or value black lives these days.

And I’m guessing one of the arguments the prosecutor will make against her–to get her there–is she should be punished as an adult since she acted as one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebellion: Against Hypocrisy, Gender Racism, & Rape Apologetics

I can’t fathom, for the life of me, how men have such a hard time comprehending why raping an unconscious woman isn’t “sex” or consensual or why rape is such a destructive act of misogyny, but I thought I’d try to explain it here. In terms that might make it plainer for them.

My students always respond better to scenarios than a stream of decontextualized facts and statistics, so I’m going to create a scenario. Bear with me. My fiction writing isn’t as sharp as my nonfiction writing, but I believe my gift for metaphor transcends both genres.

So, imagine you’re leaving work one night. You drive by your homeboy’s apartment and think, I wonder what this nigga’s getting into tonight. It’s Friday; you have tomorrow off, and so does he. You text him: “What’s good?” He says drop by.

You hit a U-turn, go back to his building, park, walk up to his floor. He opens the door, and the music and conversation happening inside of the apartment spill out into the hallway. “We lit,” he tells you and holds a smoked-down blunt up to your lips. It’s obviously on.

You go inside. There are a few other dudes you know, but none of them as well as your boy. Y’all greet each other, and one of them hands you a beer. You thank him, and he introduces himself. You recognize him from a few night spots you frequent, and you tell him your name. “Nice to meet you,” he says.

Y’all start chopping–about Lebron, Trump, this, that, the other. Everybody’s in a good mood. It’s the weekend. A hour or so later, the beer is gone, but the vibe is still good. Dude that you just met offers to buy a few bottles for everybody because he just got a bonus check. You’re not sure what he does, but you don’t care; free liquor sounds amazing to you right now. “Ay, go with me,” Dude says. And you don’t mind if you do. That way, you get to influence what bottle he buys.

You jump in the car, and he starts playing the new Kendrick. Some of it is garbage, but some of it goes. You talk back-and-forth about music, then you pull up to the state store. He buys four bottles including the Jack you want. “That’s all you, nigga,” he says. You figure it’s because you just told him about your son’s mother–how she keeps playing on your phone. He sympathized with you because he has a son, too, and his own “crazy” baby-mama.

You’re heading back to your homeboy’s apartment. You tell Dude you wish you had your vaporizer because your homeboy’s weed is medicinal. It’s some of the best shit you’ve smoked in a really long time. “Let’s go by your crib, then,” he offers. “We can get your shit, and then we can go back.”

So you give him the directions. He takes you back to your apartment. While you change clothes and put your vaporizer in your bag, he gets a text from his brother or cousin or somebody. It’s blurry because you’re finally starting to feel those shots you took back at your homeboy’s.

“He’s trying to get up,” Dude says, “but he doesn’t want to drive all the way back out to So-and-so’s.” Fuck it, you tell Dude. Tell him to drop by here. You open up your Jack and start sipping. You break out the vaporizer and some shit that Dude has on him. Y’all smoke up.

You turn on the TV and start watching “Fear of the Living Dead” on demand. Dude’s phone buzzes. It’s his brother or cousin or whoever. He has another dude with him. They come in with beers. Y’all chop and watch the show. Shit is crazy. Y’all empty out the Jack and start on another bottle.

Your homeboy texts you: “Where you at?” You text him back: “I’m at the crib.” You need to piss and drop your phone on the way to the bathroom. You forget about it.

You keep drinking. Laughing while these niggas talk shit about the zombie apocalypse. You start feeling super sleepy and go lie down on the couch. You black out in slow patches.

Imagine waking up a few hours later. Surfacing. Your head is pounding, and your anus is on fire. You’re naked from the waist-down except for your socks. Your ass is damp, and, when you feel the cushion underneath you with your fingers and bring them back around to your face, you see blood.

You shoot up from the sofa, and you see Dude, sitting in your lounger, laughing and wiping the barrel of a gun clean with your discarded boxers. “I robbed you, bitch,” he says. “You tried to fight me, so I put this pistol up your ass. Calmed you right the-fuck down.”

He snatches a stack of bills from his pocket and fans them at you. You know where he got them; they were hidden inside the cover of your Bible.

“It’s stupid of you to keep money like this at the crib,” Dude says. “It’s stupid of you to drink all that shit with a bunch of niggas you don’t know. You a stupid nigga.”

You don’t even have the vocabulary to describe the things you are feeling or what those emotions are doing to your body. Your heart is flopping in your chest like a fish stranded outside of its bowl.

You want to lunge at Dude and do any- and everything you can to hurt him. You want to kill him. But he’s holding that gun on you. He’s laughing and taunting you.

“You like these bitches out here,” he says. “Getting fucked for a bottle.”

He says if you report him to the police, he’ll put the pictures he took on Facebook.

“You look like you’re enjoying that shit,” he says as he scrolls through the gallery in his phone. “You probably did. Enjoy that shit. Ugh, nigga. You’s a fag. I knew you was a fag.”

He starts laughing again and gets up from the lounger. He tosses your boxers at you, and he walks out of your apartment like nothing just happened.

He leaves you sitting in a dried puddle of blood, assed-out, in nothing but your tee shirt and socks.

Tell me now, all my cishet black male readers–

Would this be all right with you?

Would this be “nothing” to you?

Would you just “get over” this and move on?

Would you shrug this off as just another Friday night?

Would you feel like you deserved to be sodomized with a gun, robbed, and blackmailed simply because you let down your guard and hung out with a guy you didn’t know that well?

Or you drank too much and blacked out?

What would you do if this man that assaulted you actually went ahead and posted those pictures of you being sodomized on social media?

Would you call the police and tell them what he did to you? Would you tell your friends or family members?

Would you tell your woman?

I venture to guess that if someone violated your sense of self–your sense of sanctity, safety, privacy, personal agency, and masculinity–in this way, you would feel like you awakened in a whole new world as a whole new person.

And not someone that you want to be.

You’d feel ruined. You’d be destroyed.

Shame and rage and panic and regret would subsume you.

You might even kill yourself because it would be impossible to return to the man you were before you were assaulted.

You could never go back to a time before you were raped.

You could never forget what happened to you.

If you can comprehend the hellishness of living with this sort of victimization, then you can understand what a supreme violation of a woman’s humanity it is to rape her, especially while she’s unconscious.

Like Nate Parker at Penn State.

You can also understand why Parker’s involvement in his victim’s rape cannot and should not be swept under the rug simply because he is famous or he made a “good” movie.

You can understand, too, that silence doesn’t equal consent.

Parker’s victim didn’t “deserve” to get raped because she went to a guy’s dorm room, drank too much, or passed out.

They didn’t get a “pass” because she wasn’t able to say no. They took one.

But if the scenario that I sketched out at the beginning of this post horrifies you, then you get that. You understand what they did was wrong.

You understand that rape is not sex, and women are not faking or exaggerating the degree of damage they experience when they are raped.

You understand that rape is a crime tantamount to murder in that it annihilates a person’s identity and replaces it with a pathology.

So this is what you should do. To show that you’re men and not lemmings or monsters.

You should stop defending rapists just because they are men.

You should have the integrity and decency that they lack.

You should hold them accountable for making a choice to rape, not treat them as if they fell into some “trap.”

The DSM-5 does not recognize the drive to rape as a symptom of any mental disorder.

Men rape out of things like anger, hatred, contempt, resentment, vengeance, and egotism. Controllable emotions.

So you can only excuse a man for “losing control” and raping a woman if you can excuse a man for “losing control” and committing a crime like the one illustrated in my scenario.

You can only make light of what Nate Parker’s victim suffered if you’d be willing to suffer that same fate yourself.

Her pain only stops mattering when human pain and suffering stop mattering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Black Feminist on the Blame Game

I’m a proud and adamant black feminist.

And ever since I took on that designation, in my late teens, I’ve had a lot of men and women argue with me about how “problematic” it is for me to call myself a feminist as a black woman.

The standard explanation that they give me–for why feminism is so destructive to black life and community–is it emasculates and displaces men.

But the meme that I saw on Facebook earlier today explains why I think black feminism is absolutely necessary:

meme

Black feminism is necessary because it helps black women to see the fallacy in misogynistic bullshit like this.

It helps us to cope with the undue hostility with which so many black men treat us in an attempt to hide from culpability for what they’ve done with their lives and to themselves and their families.

Tonight is not the first time that I’ve read this particular story of the destruction of the black family, in which black women are the scapegoats for black men’s inability to fight effectively against certain destructive influences in their lives.

It’s not the first time that I’ve read this fucked-up fable of what “feminism” did to the black family, but it’s the first time that I’m going to argue against it on this blog. Because it’s untrue.

In the 1950s and 1960s, yes, there were far more married black people than there are now. But we have to look at the factors that contributed to that outside of the absence of feminism.

The church played a much more encompassing role in black life at that time.

College and professional careers were only possible for a small segment of the black community, so adult rites of passage boiled down to getting a job, getting married, and having babies.

Segregation made it so people socialized almost exclusively with other black people, so they paired off almost exclusively with other black people.

Black people made–believe it or not–even less money than they do now, so men and women used marriage to combine incomes and strengthen their chances of survival.

Marriage was much more of a necessity than it is today.

Yes–the feminist movement of the 70s gained women better pay and more work opportunities, making marriage less of a economic mandate and more of an option, but let’s be realistic about how much the feminist movement of the 70s–the mainstream feminist movement–the white feminist movement–really benefited black women. It didn’t do as much as people like to pretend.

In fact, according to the Census Bureau, black women still make less income than white men, white women, Asian men and women, Hispanic men and women, and black men in 2016.

So in actuality we stand to gain more than anyone when it comes to creating two-income households.

This has been true for us since Emancipation.

Because welfare doesn’t make single black women so financially stable that they would discount the prospect of marriage and a two-income household.

According to the statistics, unmarried women receive an average of $337 in monthly benefits compared to $447 for households headed by single men and $420 a month for households headed by married couples.

In all, people on welfare received an average of $404 a month in food stamps, SSI benefits, TANF, or general assistance in 2012.

To be middle class in America–which is what most people–black, white, purple or polka-dotted–desire, you need to make anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 a year, depending on where you live. If you receive $400 a month from the government, you’re only getting $4800 a year. That’s far below the poverty line.

Even if you’re getting other forms of assistance–Section 8, Medicaid–along with the cash, you’re not a middle class existence. You may be benefits rich, but you’re cash poor.

Plus, the capacity to live off most forms of welfare usually only lasts for about 60 months (five years), thanks to President Bill Clinton. It’s not a legitimate replacement for a financially contributing spouse. It’s not a legitimate replacement for a living wage or job.

But we can even step away from the money discussion. We can deal with the whole “independence” thing. Perhaps once and for all.

The story says black women “were told” they were independent in the 70s, and that’s what caused us to separate ourselves from black men–to “remove” them from our homes.

Well . . .

Because of the circumstances by which we came to America, black women have had to be independent. Independence wasn’t some revolutionary concept that feminism introduced to us in the 70s.

Slavery required us to learn to survive without the protection of our men or their participation in family life.

The continual disfranchisement and murder of black men that continued through Reconstruction and Jim Crow made it so that many of us had to play breadwinner either because we could acquire more gainful or steady employment than our men or our men were taken from us by lynching, incarceration, war, and disproportionately poorer health.

Yes–in the 90s, mass incarceration became the most destructive force to the black family alongside drug abuse and homicide. So the story gets at least part of it right. The government has used certain forces, historically, to remove black men from black homes.

The story is wrong, though–I think–in making black women seem complicit in the disappearance of black men from the community through some collective, antagonistic choice to pursue “independence.”

I think black women have chosen survival, from slavery until now, because a certain level of dependence on black men has been impossible, and I think it’s unfair to vilify us for that when we are victims of institutional racism too, and black men have not done everything that they could to avoid certain racist traps or overcome certain psychological and social pathologies that keep them from being as healthy as they need to be in order to function.

I also think the story that black women chose independence and welfare over black men ignores a really important truth about how most black women feel about love and marriage.

Black women by and large want to get married. They want partners. They want co-parents. They’ve been conditioned by religion and tradition. They seek to be socially and psychologically validated by marriage like other women do. You see it all the time in the media–educated, professional cis hetero black women lamenting the fact that they can’t find cis hetero black men to marry.

If independence robbed them of the desire to be married, this tired-ass news story wouldn’t still be circulating like it does.

So the story in the meme doesn’t reflect the reality–that black women are just as conditioned by patriarchy as anyone else.

N0–the story in the meme tells the lie that black women’s independence destroyed the black family–it makes black women the “enemy,” if you will–to cover up for how culpable black men are in helping to destroy the black family.

“Angela Sams” may be who posted the story, but I doubt very seriously that she–or another woman–composed the story, and, if a woman did, she did it more than likely to ameliorate the resentment–male to female–that gave life to the prejudiced lies it tells.

Because let’s be real here: Institutional racism does account for the absence of a huge number of black men from black homes. But if we go back to the 60s and 70s, it was integration that began the noticeable shift away from marriage in the black community.

Once black men were able to go to college and pursue professional careers, they lost interest in getting married (and they still get married later than white, Asian, and Hispanic men or remain unmarried at a higher rate than white, Asian, and Hispanic men).

Once they were able to socialize with women of other races, black men began dating and marrying them (25% of black men that married in 2013 “married out” versus 12% of black women that married in 2013).

Then there’s the personal choices that a lot of men made in the 80s and 90s that took over their lives.

A lot of men chose to use crack  and became addicted and unfit to participate in family life. A lot of men chose to sell crack and ended up murdered and incarcerated. Some men contracted AIDS from bad lifestyle choices and died from the hateful disease.

And we can go back even further and be even more frank.

A lot of black men have simply abandoned their families. They’ve walked away from their women and children; they haven’t been dragged away.

So many men that migrated from the South during the Migration never went back to get their families.

So many black men from Emancipation to now have been invited to leave their families because they were abusive, shiftless, or unfaithful.

In various ways, and through their own decisions and actions, men largely subtracted themselves from the black home, then and now.

The myth of the impeccable black family of the mid-20th century is just that. The black American family has never been the pillar that we’ve wanted it to be because it originated in slavery–it was besieged from its inception.

And it’s also true that the overwhelming lack of father figures has made it difficult for black men to be effective parents. That the lack of married models has made it difficult for black men to know how to be partners.

But these crises within the black community have just as much to do with what black men have chosen for themselves as they have to do with what black women have chosen for themselves.

Again, millions of black men–across generations–have fled their responsibilities, not been pushed out of them.

They have either put themselves, knowingly, in positions where the government was entitled to remove them from their homes, or they’ve left of their own volition.

The misconception at the center of the argument that black women wholesale “removed” black men from their homes in the 80s is that black men are total victims of some unholy alliance formed between black women and white men.

It conveniently glosses over two truths that I think contribute directly to the estrangement of black women and black men.

The first is that victims can be aggressors.

You can be oppressed by institutional racism but then turn around and oppress those that are stacked under you on the social totem (women and children).

In fact, it’s likely that you would because white patriarchy is your model for leadership and “success (For example, black women are almost three times as likely to die as a result of domestic violence and intimate partner violence than White women. We only make up 8% of the population, yet 22% of homicides that result from DV/IPV happen to us).

The second thing the story tries to blanket over is the fact that black men can’t have it both ways.

You can’t portray yourselves as devoid of autonomy, agency, respect for women, or intelligent understanding of the black American condition but then blame black women from turning away from you as a source of protection, support, love, or assistance.

By making an argument that seeks to absolve you of responsibility for your role in destroying the black family–that it’s all black women’s fault–you undermine your subargument that the black family needs you.

You make it sound as if you have nothing to offer black women but the opportunity to strap your pouty, powerless asses onto our backs with the kids and our own racist and sexist baggage and try to make it over the proverbial finish-line of respectability before collapsing from prostration first.

You make it sound as if you’re holding a grudge against us because we’ve developed our own set defense mechanisms to navigate the negative effects of slavery while still retaining some level of pride, dignity, and sanity, and I think it’s only natural–it’s only logical–for us to be apprehensive of what you might do to us when given intimate access to our bodies, hearts, and minds to relieve that grudge.

I also think it’s fair to say that you–black men–do just as much deflecting from your choices as black women do.

You’ve done just as much to hurt the black community as black women have done with our entrenched attitudes about the need for self-sufficiency or so-called high-achieving partners.

And of course you have. James Baldwin tells us that dealing with racism’s constant onslaught distorts our personhood in a myriad of ugly ways. Toni Morrison’s whole fictional oeuvre illustrates the ways that racism corrupts the most fundamental of our human characteristics and behaviors.

Morrison has even said, “Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly . . .”

Black people love in a lot of mistaken ways because we are wrong about ourselves. We don’t realize how amazing we are. We don’t realize how undeserving we are of the horrible way American treats us. We don’t realize how powerful we actually are to stop so much of the pain we put ourselves and each other through.

We don’t realize that love is the answer to so many of the problems that we have. Love for ourselves and love for each other. Across all those falsely drawn color, gender, class, and sex lines.

And until we learn to talk about what really makes it difficult for cis hetero black women and men to love each other–until we grow brave enough to get emotionally and intellectually naked with each other about our true wants and needs, hopes and fears–our dealings will remain as one dimensional and masturbatory as that fucking stupid meme.

Our homes will never become the incubators of greatness and exultant blackness that they can and should be.