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Secrecy...........shhhhhhhhhh don't tell

After the verdict of the R.kelly trial, I thought about the response of the black community to this trial and other situations when black girls (women) accuse black men of molestation/rape. Secrecy permeates throughout the black community in this area and yet the rates of sexual abuse in the black community is the same as in other communities but who believes black women when we become brave enough to say, "I've been violated".

This is less about R.Kelly and his issues with young girls but with how we need to protect our girls and women. Molestation/rape in the black community isn't new so we can't say its because of broken homes, absentee fathers, hip hop, etc. Our grandmothers have stories, our mothers, our aunts and cousins all have these stories. No one was taken to jail. No one received therapy and sometimes, even those in the church would tell women to just hush up. How do we think this abuse manifests? What goes in, must comes out, right?

Black women are accused of being bitter, angry, and mean spirited. Why? What are we angry about? What is happening to us that keeps us angry? I've written on my myspace blog about the lack of smiles from sistas. We don't smile. Where is our inner glow? Who took our smiles away and how do we reclaim them?

A part of the anger is that some black women feel unwanted by black men. Our beauty is always in question and if our family line had refrained from miscegenation, this seems to be a negative. What, no Indian in your family? I've had black men tell me that I'm pretty, "to be so dark". When my locs were short, I didn't get much love from the brothers. Some of our men don't love our beauty. So you have women who have internalized this while still wanting the love from a black man. We go out and by "yak no. 2" hair. We stay out of the sun. Our own self-hatred has everything to do with how we treat each other. Remember in "The Color Purple" when Mister called Celie, black and ugly. Shame. Imagine if you've been sexually abused and then you hear these messages that your beauty is unwanted. Once again, who is protecting our women.

Unfortunately, the fight against sexism in the black community is secondary to racism. I've actually heard black women tell me that in the face of sexism, fighting racism is still the priority. I remember a situation when a co-worker was being very inappropriate with mostly the black women in the office. I had quickly established my boundaries with this co-worker so I didn't have this situation continue. One day, a group of the women came to me complaining about the co-worker. They hated how he touched them and spoke to them. Of course, I first told them to address this with the co-worker. They were fearful. At this point, I knew this had gotten out of hand. I went to the executive director and simply told him that this situation had gone on for months and that he needed to speak with the employee. What do you think occurred? The women were mad at ME. Why? Because he was the only black male at the agency and this could possibly get him terminated. These women stopped talking to me and my assistant. I could care less. The irony is that the co-worker and I were still cool. He knew I was the one who spoke with the executive director and we talked about his behavior on the job. The women were willing to be sexual harassed to protect "the black man".

Where does this come from? No matter the community, one of the definitions of a "good woman" is standing by her man. Black men are so beat down by society, us women aren't suppose to add to the pain. Right? We are to be blindly supportive. I'm all for support. I'm a ride or die chick. I'm with you but you will not abuse me because I won't abuse you.

We have to lift the veil of secrecy on sexual abuse. We need our men to become the protectors of our communities. Even as "liberated" as I think I am, I seek out that protection from the men I've dated. I want a man that will do me no harm and will protect me from whomever is seeking to do me harm. Am I a strong woman? Yes. But too many black woman don't know what its like to have this feeling and there are times you want to feel it. Yes, we are strong and yet, we are still women. I'm a woman. Bell Hooks mentions that black women are not viewed as delicate creatures. We (the field slave) were in the field with our men. We tended the land next to our men. Maybe there's a struggle for black men to see us as "WOMEN", beautiful, precious, and special. Maybe this is why so many women are choosing expose their bodies (along with the number of women who have been abused). Maybe, maybe, maybe...... I just want women to be able to feel like they can come out in the open when they've been abused by their uncle, cousin, father or maybe even their mother and seek the help they need. They will be embraced and love by their community. The church will stand up for them and provide the counseling needed. No more secrecy. No more division. I love my brothers. I want them to love the dark, nappy headed amazon that I am. Rise Up brothers. Heal sisters.


SheCodes said…
This is a beautiful post, and you are on the right track.

However, I think that imploring black men to 'rise up' and fix this will not work; it has never worked, because they do not feel that they have any stake in the black woman's freedom from sexual abuse.

We must start telling our stories, even if it's only to each other, and seek out healthy friendships that do not place "the community" (meaning black men's needs) above our own mental and physical health.

There will be a few brothers who are concerned enough to help, but the reality is black women must save ourselves, or consign ourselves to remaining the mules of the world. There is no cavalry coming.
Cleva said…
I do agree to a certain extent. Black women first need to take responsibility for our healing. I'm hoping there was no implication that we are ONLY healed through black men recognizing their part in this issue. This isn't what I was saying.

At the same time, holding them accountable for whatever part they did play would be start as well. I do believe there are black men who care about black women and they need to start being vocal as well. I'm not asking for the calvary to come but just for healing to begin and for the abuse not to occur in the first place.

Thanks for your comment!! :)
I'm beginning to think that American culture doesn't value "real," that is to say, natural beauty, in general. If money can buy it, it's valued.

Just saying this because you see ever so many mixed couples here in France, with white men and black women who are dark beyond what Americans would consider dark!
Anonymous said…
What a breath of fresh air. I just stumbled upon this via a search for bell hooks and my goodness, thank you for posting! I want to tell these women that tuck away their feelings about sexism to eradicate racism... you can't afford to trade one for another (it doesn't solve anything and its degrading to boot).

I work at a non-profit that takes high school students on a ten day trip to learn about the civil rights movement of the 60s and the director of the organization NEVER touches on the extreme and violent sexism that was so pervasive, IN FACT he is an incredibly sexist white male himself (go figure). needless to say, I have tried to encourage students to question the inherent sexism by including things here and there in the curriculum. I just decided to quit but I've left my mark and I am prepared to give him an ear full about his misogyny in a few weeks.

When will we understand that there is nothing -NOTHING- wrong with challenging sexism and racism at the same time? In fact, it seems necessary. What is wrong with discussing both when we deal with both every day? We need to acknowledge that complexity before we can truly begin to heal.

shecodes, we DO need to stand up for ourselves (and not wait b/c you're right we'd be waiting for the rest of our natural lives) but we have to implicate others in solving this too. It's not like we came up with this shit on our own... for that matter, do we not take on enough of everyone elses' responsibilities as it is? We have supported so much and given so much of our selves we don't have much left! If we don't take the time to digest and examine our situation and share our stories how can we really heal?

Its about time that we demand that the favor is returned! We need to draw a clear connection between WHY hating on us, abusing us, etc. damages the abusers as well (they need to heal too)! Until we establish that interconnection of abuse and crab-bucket misery, we can't advance another step.

OH and let me tell you, I never get smiles either and I used to think it was because I'm mixed and too "white-washed." Won't stop me from smiling back though =) I love my sisters even if they don't know they love me back (yet). That's the revolution of healing right there!

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