*This piece was inspired by the Aziz Ansari’s sexual assault allegation a few months back. “White Women’s fear of Black men and men of color as dangerous is often wrong” and that is the danger of “Grace’s” allegation against Aziz Ansari. *“Grace” is completely anonymous and we have no idea of her race. I am assuming she is White in this essay.
Race stuff is really really hard and uncomfortable to talk about.
Sexual assault conversations are really really hard and uncomfortable to talk about.
Being a Black woman, who is a victim of sexual abuse and racism, makes this discussion one of the most difficult ones I’ve ever had.
However, just because something is hard, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to happen.
So, today, August 28th, 2018, the anniversary of the brutal murder of Emmett Till, I bravely post this hard, controversial, but honest and needed assessment of the dangers when race is a part of #metoo discussion.
With a heavy, fearful heart, I ask the spirit of my ancestors, especially Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, who bravely, selflessly, exposed the torture and brutalization of her son to the world to give me courage, I want to bring up the intersectionality between race, gender and sexual abuse and sexual allegations. Specifically, talking about the historical narrative of the “helpless, vulnerable White woman” and the “savage, animal-like Black men” who sexually attack these White women and how protecting “white women from savage Black men” has been one of the main tools of racial aggression in America.
Because of the historical and present way that White women’s fear, real or perceived, is used as a tool of racial oppression, I can not support “Grace” or the #metoo movement, that includes White women accusing men of color, of sexual misconduct, based solely on how a White woman perception of danger.
In the search for justice truth and an ending of all sorts of oppression, we have to have these difficult conversations. The conversation that needs to be had now is the American narrative of White women’s purity and the fear that Black men will rape them and the responsibility of White men to “save them.”
This narrative is as old as America in the movie, “Birth of a Nation.” This narrative is as recent as the manifesto written by Dylann Roof, the terrorist who assassinated 8 members of the church in South Carolina.
This idea of White women being fragile and in need of saving from Black men or POC is still seen and used as a tool of racial oppression today.
While it a new academic field of study, that of White fragility and White women being perceived as helpless as a tool of racism, it is something that Black folks and POC know intimately.
Just the sight of a White woman crying is enough to halt all progress to address how to make the White woman feel better.
But the idea of the fragile White woman being sexually assaulted by the black man is still a powerful narrative. As a personal anecdote, my doctor, a white guy who lives in liberal Chicago, who was also a self-described “hippie that marched with MLK,” once mentioned to me “my daughter is a blonde hair blue-eyed girl. She can’t walk down 95th by herself. Could you imagine how many Black men would want to rape her?”.
I was stunned silent. Not because of the thought of women being raped. Women are raped all the time. Almost every woman, Black, and White, that I know has been raped. Most of the black women I know that raped or raped by a black man and White women are raped by White men. But the idea of a white woman not being safe around a black man, because they can’t control their urges, is rooted in a dangerous racist narrative.
I believe we cannot overcome anything that we don’t face. And we have to face the truth that white women, virginity, and purity, is a form of racial control and oppression.
The other unfortunate uncomfortable truth that we have to deal with as that white woman and black women stories of abuse are not equal. White women are seen is fragile and in need of protection. Whereas a black woman, even young black girls, are seen as sexually promiscuous bass and that it’s OK to wait and use them without penalty.
Rape and sexual assault it’s not something that happens to just one group of people. However, it is primarily the sexual assault of white women, usually rich white women, done by rich black men, that draws attention. The tons of black girls that are sexually assaulted every day are barely worth a mention. Black trans women are worth even less. No one cares about the stories of black women and their sexual abuse.
Rape is real. Rape is real. Rape is real.
Black women since our arrival in the Americas were seen as property and rape and sexual assault is something that happened to us all the time. In fact, Thomas Jefferson raped his slave, and in 2017 people are still referring to Sally Hemmings as his mistress!
There is overwhelming evidence of historical rape of Black women by White men and a convenient lack of naming those White men as rapists, is part of the #metoo movement as well.
When we have white women claiming to be raped by a black man in the #metoo movement, we have to talk about the racial aspect of White women fear of Black men. We can’t talk about anything in the contemporary setting without understanding the historical context. And for me, the historical context has always been black women don’t matter. White women, only matter if black men are attacking them.
So, as a black woman who side am I on?
- Do I side with all the women, of all races and ethnicities, that I know that get sexually abused?
- Or do I side with the black man who I know I’ve had their lives destroyed with the idea that interacting with a white woman would kill them?
Because all sexual abuse against women isn’t the same; there is a powerful racist tool that exists solely because of the narrative of helpless White women needing protecting from Black men.
This is why it is so dangerous to have nuanced conversations about sexual consent based on “the feelings and signals” of women. Right now, the perceived feelings of pain, uncomfortability is already used to further racism.
And because of the current climate, it is dangerous for me, as a Black woman rape survivor, to believe that White women feminist are on my side.
I wish I could believe that sexual abuse is a feminist issue, for all women, and that all women are on the same side. To do so, however, would ignorant and dangerous. Time and time again, White women choose to defend whiteness over their feminism. 56% of White women voted for Trump after he admitted to grabbing a woman by the pussy. A whopping 80% of White women in Alabama voted for Roy Moore, who was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. White women are invested in Whiteness, and, their role of “victim” and “weak” is a tool that helps perpetuate racism.
As we get into the conversation of consensual sex, with spoken and unspoken signals of consent, we have to acknowledge the historic and present role of White women “fear” and the consequences that have on Black men and other men of color.
“Grace’s” story is more complex than the current dialogue. We can’t talk about sex, abuse, and the consequences of “non-verbal” feelings, without understanding the power that White women have when they feel “uncomfortable” by men of color.
My challenge to White women is this: accept your role in racial oppression and work to eliminate unconscious racial biases. Understand what it means for Black men and Black people when you to cry. Understand what it means for you to say a Black kid made you feel uncomfortable. Lastly, as we continue with #metoo movement, make sure your stories are clear, unequivocal instances of sexual abuse when it comes to men of color. Men of color may not/probably are not, reading consent and enjoyable sex the same way; but White women may not/probably not reading fear or uncomfortability clearly either. Or White Women might be lying and those lies can be potentially deadly.
Rest in glory, precious child of God, Emmett Till. Emmett Till, born July 25, 1941. Murdered August 28, 1955 based on the lie told by a White woman, Carolyn Dunham, that Emmett sexually harassed(whistled at her and made her uncomfortable) in Money, Mississippi.