Committing to protect the Black woman

Posted: June 25, 2008 in Commentary, Mentoring, Our children, Sistahs, The Brothas

“We have proudly seen the community take to the streets in defense of Black men who have been the victims of police violence or racist attacks, but that righteous outrage only highlights the silence surrounding this verdict.

We believe that our judgment has been clouded by celebrity-worship; we believe that we are a community in crisis and that our addiction to sexism has reached such an extreme that many of us cannot even recognize child molestation when we see it.

We recognize the absolute necessity for Black men to speak in a single, unified voice and state something that should be absolutely obvious: that the women of our community are full human beings, that we cannot and will not tolerate the poisonous hatred of women that has already damaged our families, relationships and culture.

We believe that our daughters are precious and they deserve our protection. We believe that Black men must take responsibility for our contributions to this terrible state of affairs and make an effort to change our lives and our communities.

This is about more than R. Kelly’s claims to innocence. It is about our survival as a community. Until we believe that our daughters, sisters, mothers, wives and friends are worthy of justice, until we believe that rape, domestic violence and the casual sexism that permeates our culture are absolutely unacceptable, until we recognize that the first priority of any community is the protection of its young, we will remain in this tragic dead-end. ” (William Jelani Cobb, Ph.D. – Associate Professor of History at Spelman College as he encourages Black men to sign his petition to protect Black women. You can read all about it here.)

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While shopping with my wife and kids the other day, my wife ran into a former co-worker that she had not seen in a long time. This woman (Black) I would say was probably in her late 30’s to early 40’s. She had her daughter with her as well (I would guess was between 13-15). Our kids were starting to get a little out of hand, so I took them with me while my wife and this woman caught up with each other.

As we were driving away from the store, my wife told be about how this woman was constantly abused by her husband. She even gave him a second by allowing him to move back in (either he was kicked out or he left on his own–not sure). He blew his second chance resulting in an eventual divorce. Long story short, her story ends on somewhat of a good note as she flashed my wife an engagement ring. Apparently she found another man that will treat her like a lady.

Now when I hear stories like this, I typically have two responses:

#1 – Anger over the fact that some man would abuse the very person he has committed to “loving, cherishing, and honoring” for life. When I find out that kids are involved, my anger goes up another level.

#2 – After venting for a few moments, I then realize that somewhere down the line someone did not correctly teach this ‘boy’ on how to become a man. Mind you, what he did was still wrong, but what was it that gave him the idea that it was okay to verbally or physically attack his wife in the first place? Did someone drop the ball?

For the Black community, we can start off by looking at our generation of young men who are growing up without a father. I’ll spare you the lecture as most of us know full well about the plight of many of our young men who are growing up without a father in the home or Black male mentors that are willing to invest their personal time with them.

Just about each Sunday on this site, I feature young Black boys and girls who are stuck in our nation’s foster care system where I repeatedly ask the question: “Who will help groom this boy to become a man” (Same is asked about the girls as well)? To me, this is where it begins. Demonizing someone like an Robert Kelly (some of y’all know how I am when it comes to stage names) is easy. Mentoring a boy (regardless the age) to become a real man isn’t. At this stage of the game, the easy option should be the furthest thing from our minds.

The one unfortunate thing about initiatives like what Cobb has created here is that typically only attracts men who are already non-abuse and treat women with respect. I’ll never knock the first step–especially if it is a step in the right direction, but now we have to begin to demand more from ourselves and move beyond mere symbolism. Now we must develop ways as individuals to move into accountability that goes beyond handshakes, brutha-hugs, daps and pounds. In the meantime, let’s leave the demonizing to the press, because it does squat to address the overall problem of abuse.

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