In the black community, the oppression of black women and girls becomes lost in the fight against racism. Due to the history of racism, the primary fight of the black community is against white supremacist-capitalistic-patriarchy. To the black community, the white man is “the devil”, and destroying the white man’s evil system is a primary goal of most black people and people of color. Though the validity in destroy the white supremacist’s capitalistic and racist patriarchy is indeed apparent, what about the demons within the black community itself? What about the misgynoir, sexism, and violence that runs rampant within the black community? The recent Lifetime documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly” exposed the sexual and physical violence against black women and girls from a powerful black man of influence. Though the documentary received much praise for finally bringing a large platform to his victims, there was also much resistance from the black community in attempts to say the documentary is trying “bring down the black man”. Even if he is guilty of what he has been accused of with numerous victims telling their personal experiences with their abuser. Due to the fight against racism, black men are also seen to be the primary victims of racism. This allows for many black people to exonerate black men from being offenders, simply because he himself may have been victimized.
This black woman discusses seeking the humanity in R. Kelly. What she speaks on is R. Kelly and his brother speaking on their molestation as children. She wanted to make his abuse a priority over the abuse he has inflicted on the black women and girls that spoke in the documentary. I see this sort of justification often from black women and men. When a black man is accused of acts of violence, they find many ways to humanize him in an attempt to excuse his actions and behavior. The same way they say white men excuse themselves in violent racist acts. The hypocrisy I find in this is that we will label other races of men as “the devil” for their violent actions, but somehow the black man is always a victim even if he is violent himself. They don’t see black men as violent offenders, even if he commits a violent crime. Instead they see the black man as a victim incapable of being held fully accountable for his own behavior. In result, the black women and girls that are victims of black male violence becomes invisible victims to the black male being the primary victim. Just as the woman in the post stated, they are merely just “hurt” and taking their hurt out on others. She doesn’t see that he can be just as “evil” as many black people claim powerful white men can be. She doesn’t see that he is also a misogynist and oppressive. Instead he will fall under the passive category of “hurt people hurts people”. Yet, if this was a white man, I am sure this sistah would call him “the devil”. Can it be possible the R. Kelly may be the devil too? Or in a sense, as a victim of white supremacist’s capitalistic and racist patriarchy, the devil’s advocate? Ultimately who ends up suffering is the black female victims of the black men who are seen as bigger victims than her.
The historical violence against black women and girls have gone unnoticed for decades until the black feminist movement began to bring misgynoir and sexism against black women and girls to light. During black liberation movements, sexism became a problem, but was also dismissed for the “bigger issues” of racism. This was exposed in many incidences within the infamous Black Panther Party (BPP).
The issue of violence against black women and girls was exposed in the biography of Eldridge Cleaver, Soul On Ice. In the most controversial part of the book, Cleaver acknowledges committing acts of rape, stating that he initially raped black women in the ghetto “for practice” and then embarked on the serial rape of white women. He described these crimes as politically inspired, motivated by a genuine conviction that the rape of white women was “an insurrectionary act” (1). Here exposes how black girls are silent victims to the “bigger issues” in the fight against racism.
Despite black women having very prominent roles and being a strong force within the Black Panther Party, the sexism within the Black Panther Party was not widely addressed. Black men were not able to separate being victims of racism from their acts of sexism and violence against black women. Elaine Brown spoke about this in her book, “Taste of Power”. As a prominent leader in the party, she had many difficulties providing a powerful voice for the black women within the party. Her revelation of the disregard for the treatment of black women in the party came after the beating of Regina Davis. ““The Brothers” had beaten Davis up and broken her jaw because she reprimanded a male colleague for not carrying out an assignment. Brown writes that when she told Newton of her anger over the attack, he refused to break solidarity with the men, challenging her to a debate in the Central Committee (2). Outside of this incident, there were other issues with sexism within the Black Panther Party. Elaine Brown also claims that Bobby Seale, co-founder and the initial chairman of the BPP, was involved in advocating the idea that women should “give it up” to revolutionary men in struggle and learn to “shoot as well as cook”. When Elaine was beaten up by underground BPP leader Steve, most members, including leading members like Raymond Hewitt and Huey Newton, argued that it wasn’t the party’s business and was a “personal” matter. Some even argued that because of Elaine’s assertiveness as a woman Panther she “had it coming” (3).
While the black community has been fighting against racism since the end of slavery, the black community has failed to get our own communities in order. Black women and girls have been forced to remain silent about the sexism, violence, and abuse they face. They have been forced to keep the oppression against them out of the limelight to allow the fight against racial oppression to overshadow their causes. Narratives such as “keep it in the family”, and “what goes on in this house, stays in this house” has allowed the sexual and domestic abuse of black women and girls to merely become a “family/community secret”. While black women and girls face abuse, and violence by men (and women) in their homes, families, and communities, they have to then return a brave face when it’s time to strap up their boots and be race soldiers. “Stay strong”, is what many have been commonly told, meanwhile inside shes’s raging, traumatized, and grieving. She dry cries. As she walks around her neighborhood, and community, she is told to smile. While inside she hides her invisible wounds with a fist pump raised in the air for black liberation. Who will fight for the liberation of black girls and women?
© Tanisha R. Coleman and Visions Of A Black Herstorian, LLC 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tanisha R. Coleman and Visions Of A Black Herstorian, LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.