Listen, Black men! Black women need us. More than ever, they need us to be the men that we claim to be. They need us to understand their loneliness the same way we need America to understand ours. They need us to remember that victims deserve help rather than suspicion. We, no doubt, have Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, and Kajieme Powell. Black women (and women, in general) have millions of the unnamed and the faceless. We cannot allow our fear of examining ourselves to cloud the fact that those suffering need a supportive voice and a comforting hand.
When we play semantic olympics and throw out empty anecdote after empty anecdote to support the idea that “sometimes a man can hit a woman,” we become the same cadre of armchair analysts that say “Well, Michael Brown stole some Swishers, what does that say about him?” We have to understand that, as men, we will almost never feel the same fear that a woman will feel in the presence of an incited male. It’s a different experience and we just are not privy to it. That is a privilege of ours. The same loneliness we feel when some people just don’t understand how we feel as Black men in this country, we have to come to terms with the fact that women feel that same loneliness when issues regarding female safety come into view. We do not and will not understand it, but that does not mean that we cannot help them with it. Rather than questioning “what she did to provoke him?”, we should question “why do we as men feel like we can be provoked to such levels of violence?”. Rather than interrogating the beaten, we should examine ourselves and how we may be contributing to the cycle of violence. Why? Imagine this…
The video of the Ray Rice assault just appeared. You, a man, are angry at a woman’s rant about domestic abuse and how men should never hit a woman. You go on a reactionary rant, mentioning how women can “push a man’s buttons” or “if women want to be equal, they shouldn’t hit men. If they do, they should expect to be hit.” One of your Facebook or Twitter affiliates reads this, admires your eloquence, and begins to agree with you. Three weeks later, after the words have really set in, this Social Networking friend gets into an argument with his girlfriend. She “pushes his buttons” and he remembers the supportive environment for this train of thought as he raises his hands to this woman. Now, another woman is beaten, bruised, and psychologically damaged.
Our words have more impact than we think. What we choose to support has more impact than we think. If people know that there are others out there who think like them, they become more steadfast in their thoughts. We can’t support the mentality that justifies abuse. As Black men, we specifically cannot support this. The same way some bolster the “pushed buttons” or “she shouldn’t have done ___” model, our lives are threatened by the “don’t talk back to an officer” and “he shouldn’t have stolen those cigars/worn that hoodie/been holding that toy gun” model.
It’s time to look at ourselves. Our manhood isn’t under attack by this discussion. Letting a woman talk disrespectfully to you, or even slap you, and walking away or refusing to punch her is not an assault on your manhood. It is a reinforcing of it. We need to be smarter. Rather than telling women what they can’t do, we need to think of solutions to resolve our conflicts without using the greatest advantage we have over women. This is not to take away from our struggle, but to understand and support our complementary parts in their struggle. Black men, Black women need us. Take some time to hear and see the results of domestic abuse and reconsider your thinking about it.
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