During a recent lecture, I was attempting to drive home a point regarding President Herbert Hoover’s reaction to the Great Depression; I remarked to the auditorium of young Black and Brown students, the vast majority of them women, that ‘it is not always what you say, rather how you say it’, that carries the power of persuasion. Doing my best to drive home the point regarding the use of language, I asked my female students for examples of an appropriate compliment. A few young ladies raised their hands and offered the following responses:
- You sure look beautiful today.
- Have a nice day, pretty lady.
- Love that color on you sister.
However, the conversation took a serious turn when I asked for examples of inappropriate comments. The young women eagerly related vulgar comments from males regarding not only their physical attributes, but also what they would like to do with them; with or without their permission. Many sisters related being downright frightened of many Black males that they encountered. I could only shake my head as I had seen this sordid tale so many times before.
Although many dismiss the alluded to behavior as ‘boys being boys’, the truth of the matter is that it relates a much more substantive issue that strikes at male privilege, race, power, sex, and denigration of Black and Brown women. As a society, women in general, Black and Brown women in particular, are objectified as little more than sexual objects or beautiful accessories to be sported on male’s arms, in their beds, or their kitchens. Such a role is the only position that many males can conceive women occupying.
One must remember that such views are not only found throughout history, but also have crossed the lips of males regardless of their educational level or political consciousness. Stokely Carmichael of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee responded to the query of ‘what is the role of women in the movement’ by simply retorting, “The role of women in the movement is prone.” Meaning on their backs with their legs spread open. Too often we overlook such ilk within our community as if it does not matter; more accurately, we overlook such attitudes, and actions, within our community for one reason, because it is black women that it is occurring to.
I am sure that you are wondering what is the catalyst for this posting, well I will tell you that it is due to my exasperation at the behavior of ignorant and cowardly Black males who continue to victimize Black women and damage the futures of those children that deal with the fallout from their actions.
This past weekend in Detroit Michigan, Mary Spears, a 27-year-old mother of three children (ages 8, 4, 1) was murdered by a man whom she refused to share her phone number with at the American Legion Joe Louis Post Number 375; five people were injured in the shooting. The 38-year-old suspect apparently approached Ms. Spears, whose fiancée was present at the event, regarding her availability; she turned down his overtures. Refusing to take no for an answer, the suspect continued to harass this young lady at a level that forced security to escort him from the building. Police relate that a fight broke out and the suspect pulled out a gun and ultimately shot Mary Spears in the head.
So this post is dedicated to Mary Spears, as well as Deeta Rose, my cousin who was murdered by her husband who refused to allow her to end their marriage, and the innumerable Mary’s and Deeta’s that only those who heard their laughter, experienced their glee, and loved them unconditionally will ever acknowledge. Sisters I am so sorry that damaged men who possessed neither the ability to behave in a socially acceptable manner nor the ability to take no for an answer reached out and removed you from those that love you, need you, miss you, and desire to have one more conversation with you.
My question regarding this matter is a simple one. How many of our sisters are going to have to experience sexual assault, rape, violence, and be murdered before Black men realize that the suffocating social constructs of manhood do not work for us. It is time that we do something different, because I am sick and tired of meeting emotionally damaged, physically bruised, and economically exploited sisters. It is beyond time that Black men join together to address this proliferation of Black males who may be in the bodies of men, yet behave as something less than scared pouting temper-tantrum throwing little boys.
Who will answer the call for our mothers, sisters, aunt’s, nieces, and daughters?
Dr. James Thomas Jones III