When incidents occur involving African-American males, two things are certain, (1) the matter will be manipulated until the African-American male, regardless of his role in the event, is the one shouldering the majority of the blame and (2) the image of all African-American males, regardless of their individual accomplishments, divergent political beliefs, various educational attainments, and levels of morality, will be maligned by the incident.
The consistent depiction of African-American males as thugs, criminals, hoodlums, and hopelessly immoral dysfunctional beings are to be expected by mainstream media outlets. Such maligning often creates a siege mentality within the community, leading many in our midst to make a conscious decision to defend and protect our own regardless of their guilt or culpability in the matter. However, there are moments when one of our own behaves in such an egregious manner that even the most ardent supporter of African-American males, such as myself, finds it difficult to support them. Ray Rice places me in such a position.
For those who are unaware, Ray Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, and his soon to be wife Janay Palmer was filmed having an argument in a hallway leading to an elevator at the Revel Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on February 15th. Although a domestic spat between two individuals is nothing new, they occur everyday, it was the horrific attack that Mr. Rice executed against his soon to be bride within the confines of the elevator that have led to his recent release from the Baltimore Ravens and suspension from the National Football League. Interestingly, his recent punishment from his employer and the NFL far exceed any criminal punishment he has received to this date.
Although many have attempted to isolate Mr. Rice as an anomaly, those willing to speak the truth on matters of domestic violence will tell you that such behavior occurs far too frequently within our community. I have personally had many conversations with Black men, and a few women, who endorse the use of physical violence upon women within our community if they “get out of their place.”
Although a fictional story, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple momentarily addressed this issue when Miss Celie, the character played by Whoopi Goldberg, advised Harpo to beat Miss Sophia, the character played by Oprah Winfrey, if she would not behave the way he desired. Matters of human interaction are a pesky pernicious issue that often does not have a correct way of occurring; however, there is certainly a blatantly wrong way to interaction as exhibited by Mr. Rice’s beating of Janay Palmer.
However, the question remains why did this occur? I pose such a question not specifically to this single incident involving Ray Rice, rather in a general manner. Although I would prefer to feign ignorance regarding what leads to occurrences of domestic violence, however, my moral compass will not allow me to cower away from the issue in such a way. In my humble opinion, I believe that this issue of domestic violence is merely an extension of the typical socialization that males receive within this nation.
The notion of “might equals right” holds influence among Americans from our foreign policies all the way through the bedrooms that we share with our loved one’s. Such matters are made exponentially worse by African-American males’ attempted assimilation into a European inspired patriarchal societal structure that contradicts the cooperative relationship that our people have embraced from the moment humanity existed on this planet. Those who abuse Black women know very well that the chances of their being arrested, tried, convicted, and sent to jail are minuscule; so there is in many ways no deterrent to their behavior coming from the criminal justice system.
It is this faith in white societal structures that have never and will never work within our community that not only marginalizes our interactions with each other, but also guarantees that we as a community will continue to experience domestic violence. Unfortunately, the next time it may not be captured by a video camera; regardless of if it is caught on camera or not, the abuser has little to worry about from our criminal justice system, ask Mr. Ray Rice.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III