Since I posted one follow up to my original blog post on the topic of street harassment and sexual assault… I figured I’d post another.
I would be remiss in admitting that I’m disturbed by it, but I’m still trying to flesh out why. I’m always interested in the mind that justifies stereotypes and negative perceptions of such wide swaths of people – and for that reason, I’m more open to reading this without spazzing out at first – but that doesn’t mean I’m condoning the content.
In short, I’m much more interested in reading what y’all have to say about this than I am interested in writing another 1800 words in rebuttal right now. Still trying to flesh out my thoughts.
this is an issue that bothers me at my core. I wanted to put someting out there.
I’m a white guy and an outside observer. I wasn’t sure how what I see would be taken in the forums so I didn’t want to post publically. I know all men sexually harrass women. White men in particular demand access to whatever bodies we wish, no matter their color.
Until I got sick and had to start using a cane, I tended to put myself in between people who were being picked on, harrassed, etc. For a multitude of reasons it’s just been that way most of my life.
On several occasions I’ve found myself stepping in when black women are being harrassed by black men. I’m very careful about it. I don’t directly confront the guys doing it or ask if I can help her. I know as a white guy she has to keep living in that community and I don’t. Usually I focus on something else. If she’s carrying a package I’ll ask if she needs help with it. I’ve asked if she’s lost and needs directions. Anything to give her my presence without looking like she’s choosing a white guy over black men. I know that can get her in trouble. I’ve noticed differences in the way harrassment plays out with black men and black women.
The biggest one is this: in no other group of men (granted I have limited experience) have I seen every other man in the vicinity drop what they’re doing if another guy’s advances are being ignored. I’ve seen things start between one man and woman, and by the time they get to the end of the block, she’s got four other guys surrounding her. It seems directly related to the fact that she ignored the first one. Almost like she’s being punished for not providing access on demand.
Again, I have limited experience, but I don’t see black men approach Latina, Asian, or white women in the same way. I understand (mostly in theory) that racism pretty much guarantees black men won’t treat white women that way.
I always thought part of the measure of a community was how they treat the women and children among them. I would think if nothing else, black men would treat black women with dignity in public so white people see black women that way.
I hate to use this next word, but I can’t find another one. From a white cultural perspective, there’s a cycle to things. Some black men treat black women badly. The white mainstream media covers the worst of it. (When was the last time we read an article about an upstanding black man who treats his wife like a queen?). This contributes (here comes the word I hate) to white cultures view of black men as animals, because hey, look how they treat their own women. It’s used as one of many sloppy and nasty justifications for upholding racism. Then I read writings by black women where black men say racism is why you can’t talk about the bad things that go on.
I could write more, but I feel myself teetering on the edge of babbling. This means I need to stop before my point deteriorates. But the heavy burden it appears black women carry seems unnecessary and painful on levels no other group of people are able to understand. I’m really glad to see the Internet contributing to, among other things, black women coming together, sharing experiences, and re-defining priorities.
This is a valuable site for that. Not that you need my approval or I need a cookie or anything. 🙂
I’m not offended by white people sharing cultural misconceptions and their thoughts on stereotypes and the origin of said stereotypes. I think it’s valuable to try to understand where this stuff comes from, because once we realize how we either (a) can’t identify the origin or (b) can’t accept the silliness of the origin, it makes it easier for all parties to let go. That being said, the idea that “how ‘our’ men treat us colors how ‘everyone’ treats us” is a phrase I’ve not heard before, and I need to spend some time thinking about that.
What are your thoughts?