Veronica R. Wells
Where I Went Wrong In My Critique Of Black Men...Hint: It Wasn't Word Choice
Last week, I wrote a piece for MadameNoire titled, Because Harasser Is Not Enough, Why I Consider Calling Black Men Terrorists. I was in a good place when I wrote it. I was off that day and was just writing about an incident my friends/coworkers and I had discussed, an incident not entirely unlike anything else we generally experience living in New York City. To be fair, the location is secondary to the actual point. But more on that later.
The story didn’t cause that much of a reaction at first. MadameNoire is a Black woman’s lifestyle site. And while our readers are never slow to express their dissension, many of them understood my point and had experienced enough mistreatment or disrespect at the hands of Black men not to question what I wrote. In fact, they supported it, sharing their own experiences and frustrations toward Black men. There was one man though who said that the piece reeked of “daddy issues.”
I couldn’t remember my Disqus login to respond to his comment on the site. But I figured since people who didn’t know me seemed to understand, I'd share the article on my Facebook page and address that “daddy issues” bullshit. While I assumed my Facebook friends would be more understanding, I know, living in America we’ve been conditioned to process the word “terrorist” in a very specific manner, with very specific actions. I knew the word would represent a trigger for some people so I wrote a lengthy prequel to the piece before I posted the link.
So it was with that knowledge in mind, that I assumed any discussion of my article, especially on my Facebook page, would be framed. I was wrong.
The next day, a man, whose name I didn’t readily recognize hopped on my page to tag one of his friends in the article and discuss it. While he did acknowledge that Black women have a right to call Black men out for their behavior and should do so, by the second paragraph, I was a “RAGGEDY CHEAP BITCH.”
I detailed my discovery of his comment and subsequent feelings on my Instagram story.
From what I remember from middle and high school and what I gathered from their interaction on my FB post, I wasn’t about to go back and forth with Rodney or his friend Laron on the internet. Plus, I had other goons for that. More than a few of my real life friends jumped on the post in my honor. At the end of it though, Laron took it upon himself to share the article with a couple of other online groups. And that’s when stuff really got interesting. By this time, it was the evening I was out to dinner with my boyfriend.
In the car, on the way there, I told him about the Facebook exchange from earlier that day and the article that spawned it. After we discussed what the men had called me, he offered a bit of a solution to the whole thing.
“Why don’t you change it to some Black men?”
I told him I wouldn’t.
I know I wasn’t this eloquent with him at the time. But not only did I say I consider using the phrase, I know that using the word “some” gives Black men who happen to read the piece an out. “Oh, she said ‘some.’ She’s not talking to or about me.’ It gives them an escape instead of an opportunity to examine the ways in which they might be behaving terroristically or standing idly by while other Black men behave terroristically toward Black women. It’s the same with White people. When Munroe Bergdorf called out White people for their collective racism, she didn’t say some White people. She explained that it’s a system that has affected them all. And if you’re not actively working against that system, calling out your fellow White people for their racist “jokes,” ideologies and actions, then you’re a part of the problem. Black men understand that argument. But when it’s applied to them and misogyny, there’s a blind spot or an unwillingness to give up that position of power. It’s the reason Damon Young so poignantly called Straight, Black men the White people of Black people. There were no lies.
I messed up in assuming that because this opinion of Black men was coming from a Black woman, that it would be received, at least with a modicum of respect, especially since disrespect is the central issue here.
I was wrong.
Having already told my boyfriend about what happened earlier in the day, we were sitting, laughing, slurping up some of the best soup I’ve ever had in my life when I get a notification from Twitter.
I can’t lie. The first one distracted me from my evening but I was able to brush them off. The gorilla one shook me just a bit. Today, I can see the humor in it coming from a “LoverOfGod.”
There was more.
Later, a Black man politely let me know that my character was being denigrated in an hour-long video on YouTube. I’ve yet to watch. But I hear that they called me “light bright” as some type of explanation for my writing the article.
In the midst of a lot of coons, bed wenches, and suggestions that I leave Black people alone and go get the White man I was so desperately seeking, there was one criticism of my article that I actually found productive and helpful.
Not the part about the article being dangerous. But since we’re there, let’s address that as well. I write for Black women. I know that Black men read the site and I was hoping they would stumble across this article. A lot of people argued that White people would see my claims and run with them, making life that much harder for Black men. I’d argue that White people are not reading MadameNoire in any significant numbers and the ones who would take my article and use it as ammunition to further criminalize Black men, are likely the very ones who didn’t think highly of Black men, to begin with.
But more importantly, I’m not writing for White people. I don’t need Black men to tell me that White men are abusive and terroristic to their women. I know. I see that too. But let White women tell White men about their terrorism. I’m not talking to them. I don’t love White men like I love Black men. A boy child borne of my body will not be White. He’ll be Black like me. It’s him and the Black men who are in my life now and the ones I may encounter in the future that I’m addressing. Y’all are ones who will interact with me, my fellow Black women, and the little Black girls of the future. I want Black men to do and be better for me and for them. The plight of the Black woman is having to constantly fight two battles: the White man with his racism and the Black man with his sexism. And the latter hurts more. For centuries we’ve known what to expect from White people. What we shouldn’t have to deal with is trauma in our own homes, in the places we should find comfort, refuge and encouragement to fight another day. But far too many of us have to go to war once we get home too.
And that’s the part that I neglected to include in my article. Mostly because I thought the abuse of Black women at the hands of Black men was well documented. I thought Black men would know of the violence of which I speak. They didn’t. And as such, they felt my article lacked evidence to support my consideration of the word terrorist. So in an attempt to rectify that, I do want to provide some evidentiary examples. (Ladies, and ladies only. If you already know what's up, you can skip ahead. If you felt the consideration of terrorist was too strong. Please continue reading.)
First, there was this study from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that said Black women are more likely to die from intimate partner violence than any other race.
If I've learned anything from this ordeal, it’s that Hoteps don’t trust government information, so I’ll share these anecdotes from the news.
There was Julia Martin who was killed by her fiance when she tried to return her engagement ring.
Janese Talton-Jackson who was killed when she rejected a man’s advances.
Mary Spears who was killed when she did the same.
Tiarah Poyau who was killed at J’ouvert in Brooklyn for refusing to let a man grind on her.
The Black Trans women who suffer unspeakable violence and death at the hands of Black men.
In 2016, when there were all those back-to-back instances of police murders and brutality, Ashleigh Shackleford reminded Black men that they were killing us too.
There were some folks who argued that maybe it was the low-life Black men who were mistreating Black women. But nah.
Kyle Norman of Jagged Edge
Keep in mind that list is extremely condensed.
The women from Spelman who were instructed to protect their rapists from Morehouse.
The fact that Nate Parker wanted us to get over his rape allegations in support of his film. And the men who subsequently blamed Black women for the poor box office numbers.
The study that found 60 % of Black girls had been sexually abused.
Bill Cosby and the Black people, men and women, who are still defending him.
ASAP Rocky going out of his way to tell dark-skinned Black women they shouldn’t wear red lipstick.
Kodak Black saying he doesn’t date dark skinned women because they’re too hard.
Brian White saying the negative portrayals of Black women on screen are based in reality.
Anything Tyrese has said since he activated his social media accounts.
Tony Gaskins saying that women shouldn’t have over 10 sexual partners because men won’t want to marry them.
The Straight Outta Compton casting call that associated dark-skinned Black women with negative characteristics and lighter skinned Black women as wholesome.
Young Thug who called two Black women he didn’t know ants, peasants, nappy and burnt in a public forum.
Lil Duval saying he would kill a trans woman if he’d had sex with her.
Black women, led by Jamilah Lemieux, have had extensive discussions about the ways in which Black men put their needs at the forefront of the Black liberation movement while Black women are left to figure it out.
The innumerable instances of street harassment almost every last one of us has experienced since we hit puberty.
Today, in the wee hours of the morning, another man sent me an Instagram DM saying that I take pictures with a lot of terrorists on my page. I know he thought he was being cute, but he was actually not that far off. I have men in my family, men who I love dearly who have been terroristic to Black women. These are men who have acknowledged their wrongs and those who never will. But they’re still mine. I still love them. And I want, desperately, to encourage them and other Black men to do better instead of pretending like our love and loyalty is license to keep mistreating us.
My friend says all the time that sometimes love is holding people accountable. When you love someone, you want to make them better. You want them to live up to their potential, not just for your sake--although that should be more than enough for Black men--but for themselves.
The funny thing is, I could pretend that Black men aren’t aware of the ways in which they hurt us and make excuses for those who hurt us. Maybe they’re not reading the news like I am. Maybe they aren’t as affected as I am by the constant death and denigration of Black women. But after a comment one of my Facebook friends made, I don’t believe that to be true either.
The point is, we all can be and do better. And when someone asks you to take a look at yourself in an effort to be and do better for them, take the opportunity to do that instead of exhibiting the very behavior we’re referencing.