As the rape allegations against Bill Cosby grow, a disturbing number of Black men are supporting him. Through their support, they are not only impeding the overarching movement of racial justice, but they’re perpetuating patriarchy.
As a Black Woman, I am (once again) caught between the intersectional netherworld of my Blackness versus my Womanhood. These two identities undisputedly characterize my Black feminist politic, but it causes an internal tension that balances on the thin line between my race and my gender.
This struggle, the struggle of Black Womanhood, is one that is entirely unnecessary should Black men take responsibility for not just their race, but their gender as well. If I, as a Black Woman, have to constantly analyze the scope of my identity politic, then Black males should as well.
Some Black Men do. There are a number of personal friends and public luminaries that are vocal about and sensitive to the intersectionality of race and gender. But a disturbing number of Black men aren’t. They don’t undergo the necessary personal reflection because they erroneously believe they holistically benefit from patriarchy.
Let’s be clear: the only race-gender group that wholly benefits from patriarchy is white men. Why? Because they created it. White men created and instituted patriarchy as a sexually violent white supremacist design meant to disempower other racial and gender groups. Over time, as various social frameworks were societally instilled and codified through law, did others (namely Black men and white women) reap tangible “rewards” from patriarchal attitudes.
One such “reward” was the freedom and ability to hypersexualize women (more specifically, Black women) which has led to the imperialistic tendencies surrounding rape culture. Added to this was the profitable outcome of rape culture, which altogether legitimized the concept, and trickled down into the mainstream belief that rape culture is valid.
Rape culture (a function of patriarchy, lest we forget) has been normalized as an appropriate response to gender-based violence due, in whole, to white supremacy.
When analyzed through this lens, the actions of Black men who perpetuate rape culture is even more troubling. Because they benefit from male privilege, they fictitiously believe that their gender shields them from social harm. But it doesn’t, because when male privilege is combined with race, it’s obvious that Black men are also victimized through patriarchy.
Patriarchy and white supremacy are tied together. Although some try to disassociate the two (think: mainstream white feminists who don’t understand, or ignore intersectionality), they are durably connected because both are the violent designs of white men. By selectively doling out rewards to some versus others, white men fostered the mythical division between the two phenomenon.
Divide and conquer.
Black men must understand that their male privilege does not protect them from the harm that gender-based violence causes. They must not excuse or justify rape culture as a phenomenon that uplifts them. To do so is only to perpetuate a vicious cycle of oppression, that, despite the myth that has been told, does not wholly benefit them substantially.