In light of the recent revelations about the allegations of rape against, Nate Parker, the director of the movie, The Birth of a Nation, TBINAA is re-running this article about rape culture, Black men, and accountability.
Content Warning: This article and the links in it contain graphic descriptions of rape, rape culture, and violent misogyny. Discretion is advised.
There is often a knee-jerk reaction that many of us black men have when another black man is accused of rape. Because we live in a country that has pathologized us as born-rapists merely because we are black men (a country that has falsely accused us of rape in order to position itself as morally superior and justified in its murderous, genocidal treatment of black people), our first reaction to being alerted that another black man is a rapist is denial. We say, in our hearts, if not out loud, “It’s a conspiracy by white supremacy to destroy a black man,” and we say that especially if the black man has some measure of economic success–like Eldridge Cleaver, R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, and now Darren Sharper.
But the time has come for us to face facts and stop lending our support, protection, and the benefit of our skepticism to these men who would dare desecrate the bodies of other human beings; who commit these individual acts of war upon the nature of other human beings; who indulge these one-by-one crimes against humanity; who believe that they can do this with reckless abandon because their blackness will guarantee our solidarity.
We defend them out of fear–fear that if we actually contend with their identities as rapists, we are, somehow, implicating ourselves as also inhumane. And maybe all men do need to be implicated to some degree. It is, after all, men who commit the vast majority of rapes–against other genders and against our own gender; we men–shit, many of us victimize everyone, INCLUDING EACH OTHER. And we think that the ability to victimize is an essential part of our male identities. Rape, some of us feel, is an expression of power over the weak and vulnerable and the most personal and sure way to exhibit strength. Without rape, many of us feel powerless, which is another way of saying that too many men, at least the ones who believe that this is what manhood is at its core, are out of balance with nature (even as some men will tell you that rape is the natural, essential inclination of men).
It is well within the power of men to halt rape and bring rape culture to a quick and sudden end. But instead, too many of us attempt to redefine rape in ways that absolve us of any moral responsibility, and make victims easily accessible and, at the same time, unreliable, to the point where even the law and the moral thrust of the society itself is on the side of the rapist.
More Radical Reads: On Victim Blaming: When Rape Culture Exists Amongst America’s Heroes
We cannot any longer be passive, amoral, immoral spectators of this spiritual, bodily genocide. I am calling on all men of conscience to reject this peculiar and deadly construction of manhood, recognize that men like Cleaver (who said he raped as a political statement, practicing on black women before “graduating” to white women); and Kelly (who was filmed raping a 14-year-old girl and stalked middle school playgrounds for more); and Cosby (whose victim count is now over 40 and too many people still think he’s innocent) and Sharper (who is, spiritually, Bill Cosby’s rape protegee) and others need not be our representatives–in this life or any other.
There is NOTHING inherently rapist about being a black man; rape need not be a defining feature of maleness and strength. So by admitting, to ourselves and to others, that the above-mentioned low lives are rapists, we are not only holding them to account, but holding ourselves to account and telling the rest of humanity that we choose love over harm. And in the name of humanity, I am asking us to educate every man around us: Tell our sons, our fathers, our brothers, our uncles, our nephews, our cousins, and our friends that they have no right to another person’s body–AT ALL; that consent must be explicitly stated by a person of sober mind, under utterly honest circumstances, free of deceit. Anything less than that is criminal, immoral, and debasing–to others and to ourselves.
More Radical Reads: A Man’s Role In Consent Culture : “Silence In Sex is NOT a Sign To Move Forward”
And we mustn’t give in to their protestations about how “difficult” such a practice would make courting and sexual relationships or, the other, more absurd, cynical, and anti-human argument I’ve witnessed some degenerates make: “White men are permitted to rape with reckless abandon and avoid harsh consequence, so black men should be granted the same right!” We must continue to strive for a new world order in which we are liberated from the tyranny of rape. We must endeavor to NOT be like our oppressors; we must not become remixed versions of them.
For this–THIS–is the prize.
Are you working to liberate yourself and your communities from rape culture? If so, join us on our next webinar 10 Tools for Radical Self Love.
[Feature image: The photograph shows a black woman with shoulder-length straight hair looking down with her eyes closed.]
Robert Jones, Jr. is a writer and editor from Brooklyn, N.Y. He is the creator of the social justice media brand, Son of Baldwin. He is currently working on his first novel. Follow him on Twitter @sonofbaldwin.