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Common, Thanks For Talking About Black Male Molestation. We Need To More Often.

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Real Common fans can name at least five of his songs off the rip. Here's my shot at it. In no particular order of faves, there's "The Light", "Come Close" (which has one of the sweetest visuals ever), "Go!", "Geto Heaven" and I Used to Love H.E.R." But if there's a song that particularly hits home, it would have to be "Retrospect for Life". I've shared my abortion story on the site before. If you're not familiar with this particular Common tune, the relevance it has to my story is this line—"From now on, I'm gonna use self-control instead of birth control/'Cause $315 ain't worth your soul". No matter what or how you feel about abortion, you can't tell me that line doesn't cause you to pause and think. Maybe even ponder or reflect.


Yeah, Common is definitely one of the reasons why I feel some type of way when people generalize rap music or don't give hip-hop the honor that is due. He's a living and breathing example that there's more to the genre than misogyny, money and mayhem. These young kids betta recognize.

Anyway, although over the past several years, it's more likely that you'll see Common on a movie screen than hear him over the airwaves, (for starters) if you follow his Twitter page, you'll see that he remains quite conscious. He's a huge supporter of Chicago (where he's from) youth and prison reform. And, aside from all of the other titles that he can put behind his name—artist, advocate, philanthropist, etc.—he can now add another: author. Let Love Have the Last Word is his new memoir and in true Common form, the book is already gaining national momentum in everything from music mags and on gossip blogs to malls and churches. He wrote:

"At some point I felt Brandon's hand on me. I pushed him away. I don't remember saying a whole lot besides 'No, no, no...' He kept saying, 'It's okay, It's okay,' as he pulled down my shorts and molested me. After he stopped, he asked me to perform it on him. I kept repeating 'No' and pushing him away. I felt a deep and sudden shame for what happened."

Although I've yet to read the book myself, I did catch his under-two-minute interview on TMZ that featured him addressing that he was molested at the age of 9. His standout quote—"It's something that I know a lot of people experience; especially Black young men…and the only way we stop the cycle is to talk about it and that's why I chose to say something." After doing that, I did some digging around and also discovered that it wasn't until he did some self-work with actor and friend Laura Dern that the memory of what happened came back to him.

As someone who is also a survivor of sexual abuse, I must admit that the first thing that came to my mind—with a great amount of irritation, I might add—was, "Lord. Who hasn't been molested?!" Then I thought about the sobering stats that reportedly 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some sort of sexual abuse before turning the age of 18. The next thing I thought about is how more and more Black male celebrities are speaking on the issue (Charlamagne, Lil Wayne and even R. Kelly come to mind). The next thing that came to me was, what continues to be one of the hardest scenes to watch in the movie Antwone Fisher; you know, when, as a little boy, Antwone runs out of his babysitter's house, half-dressed, after a grown woman molested him in her basement.

And then I thought about the more-than-on-two-hands Black men I can count who've shared with me that they too were sexually abused when they were young.

Two stories that particularly stand out are two attractive and accomplished Black men I know that I've personally had "So, what's up with you and Black women?!" conversations with. What I mean by that is it's very common for me to see them (at least openly) dating anything and everything but a sistah. As a Black woman, on the surface (and even a couple of layers underneath that), it has caused me to feel some type of way. However, they both are blaring reminders of why we shouldn't be so quick to judge or determine someone's reasons or motives for what they do.

When I asked one of them why he was rarely seen with Black women (sometimes but not much), in a low voice, almost as if I was talking to a little boy, he said to me, "I mean, the woman who molested me was a Black woman." And when I said to the other—someone who admitted he has never had a romantic relationship with a Black woman—that I hoped he'd at least be open to experiencing that kind of intimacy someday, he shared with me that between his parents basically being swingers (sometimes even putting him out of his own bed in the middle of the night so that they could use it for their sexcapades as he laid on the floor) and both of his brothers raping him for years while he was growing up, "I wish I could see that happening, but I honestly don't associate the words 'Black' and 'love' together."

I was molested by a Black man and I still have every intention on marrying a Black man, so please look as deep as you can into where both of those men were coming from. I know for a fact that they weren't demonizing Black people or Black love; they were just sharing their truth.

And I'm sharing it now because both of their journeys are reminders that love and life can be complex; that sometimes what we do—or don't do—is tied to other things than ignorance, shallowness or even personal preference. Sometimes, it's tied to pain.

Profound, unnerving, and in some ways, totally debilitating pain (a read worth checking out when you get a chance is "Why We Need to Pay More Attention to the Sexual Abuse of Black Boys"). This takes me full circle back to Common. When he shared his reason for why he decided to share something so private as his own childhood molestation, he was spot-on when he said that 1) it happens a lot to Black men and 2) it's important to talk about it.

As a Black woman who strives to support the Black men who have entrusted me enough to share their own stories of sexual abuse (for the record, the two examples I just provided have publicly talked about their experiences before now), I feel that Common's courage is a reminder that this is as good of a time as any to encourage every Black woman reading this to do a few things.

One, if there's a Black man in your life whose relationship with Black women, in general or his emotional or sexual perspectives as it specifically relates to Black women somehow "rub you some sort of way", don't be so quick to stereotype him or even write him off. There are plenty of studies to support that any type of childhood abuse has a way of stunting emotional development and maturity; especially until a victim/survivor gets some help in that area. He may not be relationship material at the moment (maybe even ever as it relates to you specifically), but he may just need a friend. Or, at the very least, someone praying for him and sending good energy his way.

Sometimes what we chalk up to as being "immature" or even "shallow" is walking pain personified.

Two, for Black men who are, shoot, heroic enough to share with you what they've been through as it relates to sexual childhood abuse, molestation or even assault as adults, please purpose in your mind to be a safe place to listen and a soft place to land. It really is sad that there continues to be so much ignorance and/or low-level tolerance surrounding men and sexuality that a lot of them don't even get that a grown woman or man messing with them as children is just as horrific as a grown man or woman messing with a little girl. Or, that they are no less of a man by talking about how they were taken advantage of as little boys. LITTLE. BOYS.

And finally, if you are currently in a relationship with a Black man who's recently shared with you that molestation is a part of his history, encourage him to seek out a counselor; not because something is "wrong" with him (check out "Chances Are You're Not 'Damaged', Just Broken"), but so he can "unpack" how his experiences have impacted him. Also, if the two of you are considering marriage or already married, consider getting into couples counseling as well. Sexual abuse has a way of altering the way we process things on so many levels, including relationally and sexually. Oh, and please be patient with his journey.

Again, as a survivor myself, I know that childhood molestation is not something you "get over"; it's more like something that you work through. Love, acceptance and support make it so much easier.

See Common? It's only been a day since your book has hit the scene and you're already sparking conversation and inspiring change. Personally, I believe that your words have had a way of doing that for a while now.

As an appreciator of your music and a bigger one of your strength, I'm grateful to and I salute you for that. Well done, sir. This Black woman—as I sure do many others—totally have your back.

Pre-order Let Love Have the Last Word here.

Featured image by GMA

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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