What if We Loved Black Women Like We Love Black Male Rapists?

2011_Bill_CosbyWhen I was seventeen, I was groomed and preyed upon by a high school basketball coach. He told me to stop wearing panties if I wanted to get a ‘real man.’ He invited me to drink, smoke weed, and hang out with his twenty-something-year-old friends. He explained to me that part of becoming a woman was wrapped up in how men viewed me. For months, he did these things. Then, when I had ongoing issues with my abusive dad, he coerced me into sex (an act of statutory and coercive rape) after I asked for his help and called him on a school day seeking safety.

Oddly, even though this happened to me over a decade a ago, I was only able to admit and come to terms with it just before my 30th birthday. This is mainly because his actions, taking advantage of, manipulating, and coercing a teenaged girl at his place of employment (a public high school) into sex, are normalized in a country consumed by rape culture. In fact, they’re defended especially when the rape survivors are Black women.

I remember when I first told someone about what had happened to me. I told her that I was a virgin before it happened and she didn’t believe me. She accused me of lying about my virginity but never questioned the actions of the man who preyed on me. Another person I told indicated that I should feel honored or special because the man involved was attractive and a lot of other girls at the high school wanted to “go with him.” More and more young Black men and women found innovative ways to valorize the man who preyed upon and manipulated me into sexual intercourse when I really just needed help and safety. Because he was a role model for the basketball team and a “nice guy,” they undermined my experiences. Eventually, I began believing their arguments. I stopped talking about it altogether.

Like the man who sexual assaulted me, Bill Cosby did all the things sexual predators know to do in order to avoid public ire. He gave money to schools. He presented himself as a pillar in the Black community. He became “America’s Dad.” With a rap sheet like that, imagine how difficult it would be for anyone to believe he wasn’t an honorable, pure, and just human being?

In my case, the man who coerced me befriended me and made me think he was an older brother figure. He listened to me discussing my issues at home with the intention of exploiting those hardships later on. All the while, I’m sure he considered that, by building this relationship with me – an impressionable, vulnerable girl, he’d never have to worry about being accused of rape. Sadly, he was pretty much right.

My experiences in high school echo many of the recent defenses of Bill Cosby. Originally, singer Jill Scott jumped to Cosby’s defense. She has since recanted. Now, after news broke that Cosby admitted to procuring drugs for the purpose of raping women, comedian and TV host Whoopi Goldberg joked about drug use and claimed that Cosby still hasn’t been “proven a rapist.”

To be clear: Even after over 40 women came forward describing being drugged and raped or otherwise sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby and he admitted to procuring drugs for the purpose of raping them, some people still don’t believe it. I have seen posts on social media where people are blaming media bias for the revelation of Cosby’s drug procurement. Others have latched onto this being a conspiracy to bring down the Black man. All the while, the dozens of women whose bodies were violated and lives were infringed upon by Cosby’s predation have had to sit by watching people scramble to the aid of their rapist.

Yes, Bill Cosby raped and abused over 40 women and people are more concerned about him and his legacy.

Perhaps, the most disappointing aspect of this conversation is the fact that Black people, Black men in particular, have been some of the most consistent voices in defense of Cosby. Like R. Kelly, the fascination with his fame and on-screen persona seem to outweigh the love these individuals have for their mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, aunts, and friends. But what if we all loved women as much as we loved rapists? Specifically, what if we loved Black women as much as we loved Black male rapists?

I imagine, in a world where we actually loved Black women, rapists like Bill Cosby and R. Kelly and the countless others who remain unidentified wouldn’t have the cloak of reputation to hide under. They wouldn’t be able to use our mental commitments to disbelieving Black women against us. They certainly wouldn’t have the power to silence the women who they victimized with threats, bribes, or other forms of manipulation.

In a world where we loved Black women as much as we loved Black male rapists, this article wouldn’t even exist because sexual justice wouldn’t be seen as a euphemism, a silent attack on Black men. In this world, the very real attack on Black womanhood in the form of sexual and domestic violence wouldn’t be seen as less important than the imaginary assault on Black manhood. Sex would be understood as an agreement between two consenting parties. Consent wouldn’t be relative. Plausible deniability wouldn’t be a “Get Out of Jail Free” card to be wielded even after folks are found guilty of sexual assault and violence.

I don’t have confidence we will ever love Black women as much as we love Black male rapists. In fact, I don’t think patriarchy will ever allow us to love Black women as much as we love Black men in general. But, I do wonder what that would look like and feel like. My life has been affected by our love for Black male rapists. So have the lives of tens of thousands of other Black women. In my mind that will, one day, be important to us. Not today though.



White Fear: The Single Greatest Killer of Black People in the US

From Water Cooler Convos

news-missouri-shooting-1-slWhile writing a piece yesterday about John Crawford – the 22-year-old killed in Walmart for playing with a toy gun – I became aware of another story of ‘homicide by cop’ inflicted upon an unarmed black teenager. Michael Brown, 18, was seen running in his home town of Ferguson, Mo, a suburb of St. Louis, and moments later, he was shot dead in the streets by Ferguson Police. I am just so tired of covering these stories. And I feel overcome with powerlessness as white fear claims yet another innocent life in the black community.

Explanations as to why Brown was killed abound. According to the AP, the FBI is already looking into the causes of his death. But, initially, police authorities were not releasing any information regarding the homicide to anyone including the teen’s family. Following the shooting, police sectioned off the area and left Brown’s body lying in the streets for hours as the community looked on in anger, hurt, and rage. As the crowds grew and organized into a protest, over 100 cops with assault rifles, shotguns, and dogs were called in to ‘protect the crime scene.’


hile watching this horror unfold, all I could think about was the multitudinous historical events of terror inflicted on blacks since the 1790s. From the mass beheadings and maimings on the heels of Nat Turner’s Rebellion to the destruction of private property in the 1920s burning of Black Wall Street conveniently called the “Tulsa Race Riots” (although only whites were rioting), white fear has taken the form of terror for black folks attempting sanctity and mobility in their own lives.

White fear has manifested itself in outright violence post-slavery through the imposition of Jim Crow segregation. White fear has manifested itself legislatively via redlining laws and cruel lending practices barring blacks from owning property in ‘white neighborhoods.’ White fear has manifested itself in so many structural ways that it has become part and parcel with the fundamental functions of every private and governmental institution in this country. White fear is inescapable.

The fear that black people would become too wealthy or accomplished was what caused early twentieth-century southern whites to strategically lynch some of the most accomplished black families, the ones who owned a horse and buggy or a nice suit jacket. The fear that black women would steal white ‘massas’ from their whites wives resulted in the intentional objectification of black women’s bodies and hair, demoralizing them, bestializing them, making them into sexual beings rather than human beings. The fear that blacks were thinking too highly of themselves and threatening white business ownership was what caused them to burn it down on June 21st, 1921. White fear has systematically and by design demolished and suppressed black wealth, mobility, and familial progress for over three centuries. What we are witnessing today is no accident.

When black families were lynched, whites would congregate, often taking pictures with the corpses of black bodies post-mortem. They would leave the bodies for days – and sometimes weeks – hanging in trees birthing the phrase “strange fruit.” This was a primary point of control for whites because seeing the swinging corpses both struck fear into other blacks, potentially dissuading them from rocking the boat, and also made clear that whites deemed blacks absolutely worthless. While we rarely see hanging nooses now, we often see dead, dying, or demoralized black bodies struggling for humanity in streets, Walmarts, apartment hallways, etc. We see them and their purpose is identical.

White fear doesn’t just exist on an individual level. Yes, it was to blame when Michael Dunn shot and killed Jordan Davis, when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, when Theodore Wafer shot and killed Renisha McBride, when Johannes Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, when Officer Randall Kerrick shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell, and even now as we discuss John Crawford and Michael Brown. But it is much graver than individual animus.

You don’t have to be white to suffer from white fear. White fear causes upper-class black people to whitewash and downplay their own blackness just to achieve social ‘success.’ Perceived social benefits of ‘acting white’ cause many blacks to also fear ‘the other’ black people who might harm them or their families. But, make no mistake, it is a tool of oppression created by whites seeking unrelenting and perpetual dominance in the US.

Many (white) people believe it only exists between people because they choose to ignore its tentacle-like influences on public media, popular culture, education, immigration policy, and social welfare programs. They use their fear to justify their senseless aggression toward black and brown bodies. Then they sit as judge and jury indicting black teens for eating snacks, smoking weed one time, or running fast. Meanwhile, white teenaged boys live fruitful lives after mowing down entire groups of people while under the influence of stolen alcohol because they suffer from ‘affluenza.’ A drunk white murderer is worth more than a dead black honor student. Such is the function of white fear.

White fear is killing us. It is causing us to fear black skin. It is segregating neighborhoods. It is closing public schools. It is cutting welfare benefits to mothers and children. It is undermining a presidency. It is criminalizing black bodies. It is incarcerating black identities. It is limiting black potential. It is sexualizing black girls. And, it is shooting black boys in the streets of their own neighborhoods.

White fear is the single greatest cause of death for black people today and has been so since this country’s inception.1 White fear.

 *Writer’s note: The post image has been changed as the Brown family has requested the social media removal of Mike Brown’s lifeless body.