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Recently, I’ve been coming across a lot of posts and memes that all seem to be referencing the dilemma we may be facing as a society: black men are not protecting black women. There’s a particular angle that grabs my attention as well, as it would seem that all black men are at fault since most of us are labelled as enablers of this sort of behaviour. Experiences may vary, but this is definitely a topic that needs more discussion and examination so that expectations can be properly noted and defined by all involved parties.
I don’t want to go directly into cases that exist where black men harass, ridicule and violate black women. We all know stories, some happening as recently as today if we’ve had to interact with people in our communities and environments. Some of us black men have been guilty of this. For those who want the playing field to be equal, some black women are also violent towards black men. No one is disputing this fact, but for the purposes of this article, it will not be the main focus.
Here is where the unravelling begins. Focusing on male violence towards women can give the idea that women are the weaker sex who need male protection. After all, even if a woman is violent to a man, it’s common stereotypical thinking that he definitely could have avoided the situation. He’s a man, for God’s sake.
This then leads to the thinking that, as men who only need to worry about violence from other men, a woman should be kept safe, protected and loved. In theory this sounds perfectly reasonable. Men are the hunters and gatherers, and part of your responsibilities for owning your own space and belongings is making sure your woman is ok. Except that – women testify that they aren’t “belongings”. Strange.
Now, we have to redefine protection to mean that all persons, black men and women, deserve protection and the freedom to live their lives as they see fit. On paper, this sounds fantastic. In reality, most black men know that male privilege and patriarchal systems are the only protection they are bound to get, and it’s really white/light-skinned men who get the full benefits. If you’re a black man, it’s very easy for dog to nyam your supper, in a sense. When we lose that sense of surety in self, that clarity in our existence and purpose, it can lead to a scarcity mentality, i.e., “I have to grab all I can and hold it in a vice grip or it will be taken and I’ll be a failure of a man.”
This same black man will turn around and see black women as one of the more easily accessible pieces of property. There are so many, that you must be able to call a few your own or you’re worthless. If you are trying to see women as people in their own right, then you may not try to claim ownership but they can at least give you “benefits” that can encourage you to stick up for them in times of trouble. But, again under examination, this mainly appeals to women who are wanted or are related to us.
For the women we don’t want (ugly/ she broke your heart/ slept with too many guys/ LGBTQ+), there wouldn’t be much benefit. If we’re in a group of friends doing the harassing and cat-calling to a woman we don’t want, we might even join in to re-assert our equality with the other men. Remember, we can’t look like failures, and if you’re a man and care too much then you’re not really a man.
Equality and respect are due to all, but we’ve got to sort out the mental bondage first. It’s not enough to try and shame the men into respecting women when we hardly know what self-respect is. All responses are welcome.
Blessings in abundance!