For a current summer course, were were assigned an article from The Atlantic entitled “The Humiliation of Aziz Ansari.” The article, authored by Caitlin Flanagan, speaks to the danger of white female supremacy. Flanagan’s piece is in response to an article by Katie Way titled, “I went on a date with Aziz Ansari. It turned into the worst night of my life.” In the original article, a woman renamed Grace speaks to a date she had with Ansari which she describes as a degrading instance of sexual assault. The details are plentiful and depict Ansari as overzealous and sexually aggressive. Flanagan notes that “ The clinical detail in which this story is told is intended not to alienate her account as much as it is to hurt and humiliate Ansari.” She concludes, “They’re angry and temporarily powerful, and last night they destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.”
I could not agree more. As illustrated in what quickly became a war on black men, the white woman is a dangerous figure. This danger is at very least, partially vested in white women simultaneously occupying victim and villain spaces. In reading the article that prompted Flanagan’s response, the details seemed unnecessary yet essential in painting the subject as a “victim,” and not a privileged white woman embittered because she did not get what she wanted out of the deal. This is similar to how I feel about the Harvey Weinstein “scandal.” The women who now claim victim status, used sexual acts to obtain high-profile roles and accolades—exposing their actions as realizing that their current feats are only a small fraction of what could be.
Rape: A violation of Woman?
The claims contingent with Weinstein and Bill Cosby are not those of rape. As the products of collective and continental rape, issues of consent are as personal as they are political to the black collective. The #metoo movement upholds traditional connotations of the word “woman.” This point substantiated in the reality that most of the victims are white woman. If this were not true, neither man would be under fire. These “victims” were also put in a position were they could consent. A situation very different from the circumstances that birthed the black collective. For these reasons, I say that there is a word for what happened to these white women. This word may be “Sexual assault” or “forced ravishing,” but this word is not rape.
Racism is a system to which no black person benefits. Despite the tax bracket, education level, or country of residence, every black person is still subject to the consequence of their race in the paradigm of white supremacy. Because racism is a system of oppression, not hurt feelings or name-calling, no black can be racist.
Because white women do benefit from both their race and gender in a way that black women do not, it is unfair to align black and white bodies with the all-encompassing label of rape. So, just as a black person cannot be racist, a white woman cannot be raped by a system she has ability to rape with the power vested in her hue and gender.
The “victims” of Harvey Weinstein were not victims at all. They were merely co-conspirators in a rape of the system. They used their bodies as a conduit to a piece of a supremacy they now pursue in totality through the #metoo movement. They had a choice. They made a choice. True victims do not have choices. The choices are made for them—the consequences to be faced with a cruel accountability.
In making this statement, I acknowledge that black women are seldom acknowledged as rape victims at all. So “rape” like “woman” is almost always referent of the white female body or in “diverse” incidents, non-black bodies in third-world countries, by default, Even in the case of Joan Little—assaulted by a white jailer decades her senior found with his pants around his ankle and semen on his leg—is seldom aligned with the word “rape,” like so many black women before and after her.
Trisha Meili, also known as the central park jogger, like Recy Taylor, Betsy Owens, and Tawana Brawley amongst countless others, was the victim of a gruesome sexual crime. While not discounting the trauma that follows such an experience, Meili, a white woman, was and still very much is regarded as a victim. She received national attention and even wrote a book—a validated victimhood that no black woman has ever been granted. Conversely, the black female body experiences multiple rapes and robberies at once. Namely, the physical rape of her African remains consistently socially reproduced on the canvasses of her children, the being of black female form consistently robbed of the space and place to assume her rightful status as survivor.
What the black female body has experienced in the centuries since her initial captivity is a variant of rape, and physical and mental robbery. This is antithetical to the white female experience. Thus, to compartmentalize antithetical experiences by a common term is an oversimplification— an assault on a sexuality distorted, exploited, and mangled by necessity.
The Black Rapist: The Legend and the Lie
This is true also to the black male victim of sexual assault, who is held in a chokehold of trying to be the man society desperately tries to ensure he never becomes, and eschewing the effeminization that often follows publicly articulating stories of assault
For this reason, I will also say that the black man can not be a rapist. As argued by scholars like Hortense Spillers, blackness is largely genderless. Thus, masculinity is not given the chance to develop in the black community. This is not to say that there is no masculinity in the black community, but that instances of masculinity unadulterated by western influence are roses that grow from concrete.
To deflect from their systemic mistreatment, black men are consistently regarded and treated as sexual deviants that are prone to sexually attack at any moment. In “The Myth of The Black Rapist,” Angela Davis speaks to the fictive functionality of the black male rapist. Davis asserts: “The myth of the black rapist continues to carry out the insidious work of racist ideology” (Davis 199). The black male rapist is essential in depicting white female chastity and white male redemption. In considering the dichotomy of white femininity and rape culture, Davis deems the black rapist a myth.
Davis expands her argument in articulating a congruence between sexual violence and capitalism:
The crisis dimensions of sexual violence constitute one of the facets of a deep or ongoing crisis of capitalism. As the violent face of sexism, the treat of rape will continue to exist as long as the overall oppression of women remans an essential crutch for capitalism (Davis 201).
The black female body functions as capital, whereas the white female body functions as commerce. This is why Kim Kardashian was able to climb to the heights of popular culture, despite entering the popular gaze on her back. Her body was transactional, proving a bridge to a new way of life. This transition would have never happened if Kardashian was black, simply because the black woman is this bridge.
The purpose of my claims are not to romanticize the actions of black men, or to idolize the relations between black men and black women. The assertions present in this post, function to distinguish between those who deposited their evil into the wombs of our foremothers as a violent mark of conquest and branding, from those whose actions are imitative of the horror that birthed them. It is an injustice to the black collective to perceive the oppressed in the same light as oppressors. This distorted perception ultimately obscures the ability of the black collective to see themselves and the totality of their systemic asphyxiation and legal bludgeoning.
As the bridge and the water that flows beneath it, the black body remains a means to the other side. Cultivating a thorough understanding to engender a proper compartmentalizing of the black experience remains of the highest significance in producing our mental freedom. To understanding the violence of our displacement is to resist a deflective alignment with our oppressors. An alignment that affords our oppressors a stagnancy at the expense of a black consciousness needed to overcome their normalized malvolence.
I will close with a reiteration of this article’s most resonant point. Rape, though in its contemporary use speaks to sexual assault, its ancient origins speak to a robbery. No woman, be it a white woman or “person of color,” has been robbed more violently and with such cavalier disregard as a black woman.
As a being of black female form, birthed from womb robbed both literally and figuratively, “rape” is a theme of my collective narrative. Therefore, I have no problems looking my oppressors in the face and saying that “rape” is not what happens to you, it’s what you do to others.
***To Recy Talor, Betsy Owens, Joan Little, Tawana Brawley, Sherrice Iverson, and all the mothers, sisters, and daughters of the diaspora.
Black Power ❤