By Andrea (AJ) Plaid
Honestly, reading some of the analyses about the fauxpology from Very Smart Brothas about their “rape prevention advice” and rapper Too $hort’s “fatherly advice” to boys and young men condoning sexually assaulting girls and young women is making me fidgety. Not because they’re not on point—most make points I agree with, if not co-sign with, and some are wonderfully written.
However, a fact remains that seems to hang on the edges of these commentaries, implied, like a family secret. And, like a family secret, that fact keeps those quiet in order to, if nothing else, “keep up appearances” in front of friends, neighbors, co-workers, and “society.” (In this case, the “white gaze” that judges Black people’s behavior monolithically, culturally pathological.) And, while it seems like everything may be OK, that fact—like a family secret—destroys…and deeply.
The simple fact: sexual-violence perpetrators and their victims are usually of the same race. So, since I’m talking about Black people in this case, then what I’m saying is those Black people who commit sexual violence usually create victims who are Black, too.
There. I said it.
And statistics back this:
- According to a 2000 report, in 93% of sexual assaults, the rapist and the victim are of the same race. (Source)
- According to a 2005 US Department of Justice report, out of approximately 36,600 Black sexual-violence victims reporting this crime, 100% reported that their perpetrators was Black. (Source)
I know that I’m not the first—or only—one to make this plain: The Combahee River Collective was founded partly due to Black women fighting sexual violence within some Black communities. Ntozake Shange and Alice Walker—among a few Black female writers who wrote about intraracial rape–caught just about all nine circles of hell for “making Black men look bad” partly because they dared to name that reality in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf and The Color Purple, respectively. Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ No!: The Rape Documentary—through poetry, testimony, and oral history—does an incredible job on examining the realities of Black men raping Black women.
However, that’s not the myth, that’s not the stereotype about rapists and victims in the US. In this country, Black men are seen as the Ultimate Sexual Predator Of White Women, with political and pop cultures cycling this image from Birth of a Nation to George Bush, Sr.’s Willie Horton ad to the POTUS Obama drawn as a date rapist to the salacious racial innuendo and/or misinformation in the missing-white-women stories. Another statistic to counter this myth: according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) , only 3.3% of rapes have a Black perpetrator and a white victim. (Source)
Bit there’s a flip to this: for some African Americans, the Ultimate Sexual Predator factually was—and, in some imaginations, still is—white. This image can be traced back to the both antebellum US and post-antebellum US, from when many white male slaveowners raped enslaved African and African American women through the Civil Rights Movement, when African American women reported their following the segregationist laws of going to the back of the bus became an opportunity for white men to rape them, which became a newly chronicled reason as to why that movement began.
From a personal perspective, I think this particular history trembled my Great Migration-from-Mississippi mom’s voice in her admonition to not “date white,” to inculcate that desire to date and marry Black: racial solidarity as a form of physical/(hetero)sexual protection, though she never stated it in such a way. I just remember an indescribable terror that harmonized in my mom’s talking about her “not wanting a white man in her home.” In fact, she used to say, “I remember when a white man could walk into a Black man’s house and rape his wife and daughter(s) and the Black men had to sit on the porch and. Could. Do. Nothing. About. It.”
However, a Black man raped me, which follows the statistics, not the history that my mom told me. And my ex-husband, whom she welcomed into her home, was white. And, according to several generations of Black female artists and scholars, the racial reality of my rape exists in tandem with the history of white men raping Black women in the US.
But I think that that real history about intraracial sexual violence morphed into a faulty reason for the parameter as far as whom to date and/or marry as far as hetero relationships. I also think that real history–coupled with racial-solidarity politics—keeps us muffling about the stories and statistics about Black intraracial sexual violence.
I can’t help but wonder, when reading the comments in the Very Smart Brothas’ faultily premised post on how rape prevention rests on women, if some of the women who spoke of their sexual violation had a perpetrator who was Black. If the stats hold true, then the answer would probably be “yes.” And I can’t help but wonder if what’s being suggested—by having Black writing about issues of rape in well-known media outlets geared towards African Americans like Ebony.com or explaining the legalities behind Too $hort’s rapey “advice” for young Black men—is not just that “men” sexually violate “women.” (I do think that, on having that article at CNN, it’s a great outlet to inform those who take care of young Black men–if not young Black men themselves–how heeding that “advice” works against them in not-postracial US.) And it’s not that Black men rape more than white men, or that some white men who listen to Too $hort’s “advice” may not try it. I do think, however, these posts in these places are harmonizing with the fact that, even though rap’s main audience may be young white men, there’s still a number of young Black men who still listen to it…and, statistically speaking, the race of the people who might attempt Too $hort’s atrocious counsel on Black girls and women may, more than likely, be Black men.
That’s what no one is saying outright about what Too $hort’s said. That’s what hurts about his advice, and that’s what hurts about Very Smart Brothas’ fauxpology. Though Black communities may be going through identity shifts of what “being down for the race” means, there’s still a clinging to the socio-political idea that Black folks are each others’ keepers, each others’ “fam,” each others’ “brothas” and “sistas,” as a buttress in this racist society. So, when there’s an online recommendation from a celebrity seen as an “old enough to know better” and there’s a lack of responsibility for victim-blaming rhetoric under the guise of “rape prevention,” it’s a two-generation, cross-platform exercise of rape culture remixed with Black male privilege that Black women have been traumatized with for several generations.
And we need to say that loud and clear. Again.