I've previously asked, what comes first: our identity as a woman or as a Black being? Personally, I knew that the answer was and always will be my racial identity at the forefront of my entire being.
My blackness is so deeply ingrained in me that I can't see myself, including my gendered experience without it. One of the most prevalent characteristics informed by this identity of Black womanhood is the obligatory task of hoisting cisgendered, heterosexual Black men on our backs and breathing life into them—even when they're undeserving.
When I say "undeserving," I'm speaking on the men who women experience physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the hands of. I'm speaking of the men who are guilty of their sins and the men that we, sometimes, continue to support.
As Black women, we find ourselves tasked with raising all black men except we aren't always raising them — at times, we're loving them to death. It's as I've heard said so many times before, "we raise our daughters and love our sons." This insulates a sense of entitlement that Black men can't afford to have and the entitlement ensures them the right to a fight for justice with the mighty fist of their women despite the evidence that may accurately and justly prove his guilt.
We remain silent about our own abuse and pain because we fear that we're otherwise contributing to the demise of our brothas and aiding the white folks' agenda to continuously and publicly criminalize them.
Unlike the hegemonic culture, we give the benefit of the doubt to our men instead of our women in cases of sexual assault, which I feel are both dangerous practices, that could result in an injustice for either party. Nonetheless, it's a practice we must find a smart balance with and learn to navigate in the age of social media, where a trial of public opinion is almost always made.
We continue to support entertainers and athletes after reports and, in some cases, admission of abuse in many forms, simply because it's a privilege typically reserved for white men and we tend to relish in the thought of attaining that status. With full assurance from the "What Would White People Do" committee, we find comfort in escaping punishment as if it serves as justice for the injustice we faced during the crimes we were falsely accused of. So, when it seems like our men can escape the consequences and live in a white man's world, we allow them to live out that fantasy.
Even if for only a moment.
We've seen this with R. Kelly who has had a 30-year career unscathed until recently, or in Angela Rye's quickness to defend radio host Charlamagne, who has had one too many misunderstandings and instances of improperly articulating his position on rape culture once too many times for my own liking. This defense was especially prevalent in the early stages of Bill Cosby's accusations coming to light.
I don't like it, but I do get it.
With our culture so closely observed under the microscope of white America, we don't want to provide more reasons to be demonized. We don't want to be the reason another Black man is imprisoned, but we have to realize who we're marginalizing by only demanding justice when it serves the Black men in our community. And it's us, Black women. There has to be a certain level of accountability that we hold ourselves and our men too. After all, a crime is a crime.
We can't tolerate and consciously advocate for a crime to go unpunished to simply "one up" the justice system.
A justice system that does not serve all people is not a justice system that we want, and furthermore, one that only serves to acquit men of their toxic masculinity is one where no woman is safe.
The idea that Black women's hurt has to go on ice to unjustly protect Black men doesn't sit well with me. It's an injustice, and especially to our little girls, as it sends the message that their voices won't ever be heard when they fix their lips to say, "Me too." Not really.
With Ava DuVernay calling for the head of R. Kelly, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement holding men accountable, it's clear that we're making progress. The "woke" rhetoric is spreading like wildfire and even if it is only the latest social justice trend, we need to ensure that we're fanning the flames in the right direction and holding the right dialogues.
This means educating women on the implications of supporting seemingly guilty men. This means understanding what rape is because at its core, it means ending the slut-shaming and victim-blaming that says women deserved it because we were being "fast," whether that be portrayed through an ensemble or actions. But especially deading this whole logic and ignorance, by having these discussions with our little boys and girls.
However, what this does not mean is going on witch hunts for women who we feel aren't doing their part to hold men accountable, as I have seen done to Angela Rye and any other woman who has not verbally spat on those accused of sexual assault. And just one more time, for the people in the back: it does not mean protecting guilty Black men at the cost of further denying Black women safety and peace of mind. That includes creepy uncles, fathers, boyfriends, and strangers alike. It is not our duty to create a safe space for abusers or any crime against women.
Black women have learned how to carry the burdens of Black men since the dawn of time, making ourselves and our self-care an afterthought. We can't continue to be the Black face of vigilantism, not if we're really going to create change in our community.
If we intend to do that, it's time to put them down and lift us up.
Featured image by Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com