By Ryan Edward Perry •
Originally published on The Backlight Blog •
I did not always appreciate my Blackness. I used to be one of those “I’m not Black, I’m O.J.” types that purposefully eschewed the culture in favor of a more centrist approach to interpersonal relationships. I grew up and still reside in a place called Woodbridge, Virginia, just a half hour down the road from my hometown of D.C. where I was born, and spent the majority of my childhood before 3rd grade. When we moved to Virginia, I had an accent, one I was teased mercilessly for and that I forced myself to lose by the next school year. After that, a lot of what I did in order to succeed socially in what was then an overwhelmingly white suburb was designed to appease my Caucasian neighbors and friends. From the way I dressed and spoke, to the music I listened to, who I spent my time outside of class with, who’s house I asked my mom to let me go to; It was all in an effort to not be “like the others.” My white friends called me an Oreo: Black on the outside white on the inside. I took pride in the moniker. I came to view my Blackness as a burden.
This continued well into high school and, later, college. At that point when I began exploring intimate relationships I, just like O.J., made it clear what my preference was. I listened to the stereotypes and told myself that Black women were just like Tyler Perry (no relation, thank God) and other men, both Black and white, told and showed me they were; angry, bitter, resentful, emasculating, overly dominant and spiteful. I avoided them like the plague. Then in 2009 the news broke about Chris Brown and Rihanna, and it was all there was to talk about in pop culture for what seemed like forever. This means whenever any group of Black people gathered for any reason, they talked about the story. What I heard in all those backyard barbecues, dining halls on campus, even in church, and man oh man those barbershops, was and still remains a blight on the culture we have yet to really buff out.
“She obviously pushed him too far,”
“You know those Caribbean women are crazy, he probably had enough of her shit,”
“They were both wrong,”
“Well, I feel bad for her, but she’s certainly no angel,”
“What did she do to make him act that way?”
“See, this is why I don’t deal with Black women, y’all can give it but you can’t take it.”
“If she wants to act like a man she gets treated like a man.”
These sentiments and the larger stereotypical sentiments surrounding Black Women in general are shared by a depressing number of Black men. I know because I’m one of them. Chris Brown actually became more popular after the incident. He still enjoys broad support throughout the Community, a large portion of which comes from Black men. He has been creep posting on Rihanna’s Instagram for the last ten years.
The list of Black men with similar traits is an exhaustive one. I’m sure that almost everyone reading this can list five off the top of their head and ten with an extra sixty seconds to think. But I don’t want to take too much of your time so let’s attack the two most obvious white elephants: Robert Kelly and Bill Cosby. Both of these men committed countless acts of violence against women over the course of some decades, and yet even in the face of clear evidence, many in the community still stand by and defend these men. In Kelly’s case, most of the evidence was clear from the beginning of his career. The problem was that the victims were almost all women of color; and because many Black men have been trained to think like I did for so many years, we throw the thought of Black women’s wants, needs, and welfare to the side. We have done to Black women what many white people have done to us collectively: we have “other-ed” her; and if we aren’t careful it will be apart of our regression as a people.
I think it’s a conspiracy. I think that Wypipo and some Black ones too, know, understand, and actively work against Black women. In our history Black women have been an integral part of all of the struggles for progress Black Americans have made. Phillis Wheatley, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Angela Davis, bell hooks, Kimberle’ Williams Crenshaw, Anita Hill, Patrisse Cullors, Tarana Burke, Ilhan Omar, and Iesha Evans.
Black women have been the lifeblood and backbone of our culture and community since we were still in the Motherland. When they killed our boys, it was their mothers who spoke up the loudest and acted in the boldest ways. Erica Garner died of a broken heart fighting for justice and the memory of her father. All of these women have been party to movements that shake and disturb the status quo. They have been shouted at, cursed, beaten, shamed, ostracized, and hated. All of these actions are a by-product of fear.
It’s all a product of a culture that feeds into male supremacy. What some of these Black men fail to realize though is that the air of superiority many of them espouse is a gift given to them by white men; the very entity they claim to be in a struggle against. Power and control are hereditary. The people who have it now have had it for a while, and they will do everything they can to ensure its perseverance. Loud, persistent, headstrong, dominant, and “angry” Black women threaten to upset that power structure. I say again this is fear at work.
She is kind, she is smart, and she is important.
F*ck flowers, give the Black woman her crown.
To Ryan Edward Perry, social justice is meaningless without inclusion and intersectionality. He strives to write in a way that emphasizes the importance of this factor.