and the Fragility of the White Ego
by Carolette Meadows
As not only a mother of daughter, but a son. As not only a woman, but a black woman. As not only an advocate but a member of America’s most maligned demographic, I was raised to look at crimes against women differently than my white counterparts.
“Feminism,” although not doing much of anything to close the income gap, has granted white women the ability to interact with men without consequence. I single out white women because black women are still on the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder even in spite of the incarceration rates of black men. Feminism was supposed to be about leveling the playing field but what it really did was toss a few crumbs while creating a new venue by which slave labor was provided to the penal system. Feminism allowed Nike to tell women that they could “just do it.” Women could run as, fast, jump, as high, work as hard, live without men, “get their freak on,” and so much more.
While telling women they were equal, it also sought to vindicate decades of abuse wherein white women were only a half notch above slave status. Women empowered themselves by taking boxing and martial arts while the National Organization of Women (NOW) lobbied for empowerment via the legal system. NOW declared a pseudo “equality” for women by telling them they could do anything a man could do but better while at the same time telling women, “if you hit a man, he can’t hit you back” and “you can have all the sexual freedom you want without the consequences of acting irresponsibly.”
The irony is, that while NOW was promoting all this new found power and freedom, NOW has never spoken out on behalf of black women. Even when a multitude of black women came forward accusing a white cop of rape in Texas, NOW remained silent and failed to advocate for a single victim until AFTER the officer was found guilty.
In my world and in my day, consequences were indoctrinated into me as a young girl. I don’t think I knew of a black girl that had an abortion because we were taught by our mothers, “you make your bed, you lie in it and that baby will teach you to keep you legs closed.” Our mothers didn’t think of the cycle of poverty their “consequence” was perpetuating while some of my white peers openly spoke of their parents ordering them to abort.
We were taught that you don’t go into rooms or houses with boys unless you were looking to have sex, willingly or otherwise. We were taught that if you get drunk, what comes during that is your responsibility because YOU are responsible for you.
I value the lessons I was taught and some of them, I learned the hard way which is the true nature of a survivor. I do not understand the hypocrisy of “feminism” where they teach you that you can “roar” but simultaneously teaches you that you have no consequences when it comes to men and that it’s a man’s duty to be responsible for you instead of you being responsible for yourself. NOW has reinforced the “if you don’t take care of you, no one else will” teachings of my community because like so many others that rode the coattails of the civil rights movement, they got what they wanted for themselves and left us behind.
I raise my daughter as I was raised because black women in this country have a history with rape and abuse that no one can touch. That history and how it’s handled has been handed down for generations and is part of what make us so goddamned resilient.
I raised my son that he is not to hit a woman BUT a woman will know how to keep her hands to herself. With that being said, if anyone puts their hands on you, you have a RIGHT to defend yourself against that attack. He was also taught that if had to defend himself to never hit a female in the face and never hit her with the full force that you would hit another man UNLESS she has a black belt and is giving you “the business.”
This brings me to Nate Parker and how I wanted to have his back. I was compelled to do so because I have been on the road these kids have traveled. I wanted to do so because I’m tired of seeing black boys go to jail and be maligned while white boys get plea deals that not only keep them out of jail but keep them off the sex offender’s lists because some white judge doesn’t want to “negatively impact his life.”
When I heard the story my instinct was, “They were 19 and drunk. How do we hold a drunk boy 100% responsible for what happens with a drunk girl?” Although my heart broke for her mental anguish and death, I also had to give the situation a 360 view.
If you have a car accident and someone dies, many times, no one goes to jail because it is deemed a tragic accident and nothing more. BUT, if you’ve had even a half ounce of liquor, you’re DUI and charged with murder because the law says that you MUST be in control of yourself and vehicle at all times and if you WILLINGLY consume alcohol, you know it may impair your judgement and/or reflexes so you should not have gotten behind the wheel of that car.
Is your body not your vehicle? Are you not responsible for what your vehicle does? Why is a woman absolved of what her vehicle does while impaired but not a man? Where is the “equality?” I apply this logic more to kids than adults because grown-ups should all know better but kids? It’s a scientific fact that the brain of a boy doesn’t fully mature until age 23 – 25. So if we couple alcohol with an immature brain, how do we justify charging boys with rape and registering them as sex offenders for the rest of their lives? That’s not to say that they shouldn’t have a consequence but how do we justify such a severe consequence?
So yes, I was in Nate’s corner. I was in his corner until that eye-opening moment when I saw him on Good Morning America. While being interviewed by Robin Roberts, he was asked was there any apology he wanted to give. His response was arrogant and heartless. He replied, “I have nothing to apologize for. I was found not guilty. I am innocent.”
HMMMMMM, ok, being innocent in a court of law is something entirely different than being morally innocent. Even though some may not agree with what I’ve taught my son, know that I’ve also taught him to be considerate of others and their feelings. Empathy is something that Nate Parker seems to be lacking.
I was prepared to see his movie until that moment and in that moment, he added me to thousands that convicted him in the court of public opinion. He fails to realize that although HE thought he had the right to have sex with her because he had sex with her earlier that day. He DID NOT have the right to invite in a buddy that was peeking in a window.
Now he can blame that bad behavior on the alcohol and being 19, but what he can’t excuse is being a grown man with children and lacking the moral fiber to empathize with a girl that more than likely had emotional issues anyway and may have been so tormented by what she not only viewed as abuse, but betrayal and how that feeling may have contributed to her suicide.
The fact that Nate was so consumed with himself and his image that he couldn’t harness enough compassion to say something like, ‘Robin, I was 19 and drunk as was she. In the midst of both of us being drunk, I viewed her as willing to have sex because she didn’t say no. In that day and in that time, I did what boys sometimes do and that’s not saying it was okay to do it. What I was, was immature. In that immaturity I may have done something that I considered being a player but someone else considered one of the most hurtful moments of their life. If I in anyway contributed to her pain and to her demise, I apologize to her and her family although I’m sure it rings hollow because an apology can’t bring her back or take away the pain, if any, that I may have caused.’
I’m sure, not only I but, many black women were on board to give him the benefit of the doubt and forgive him. Hell, the majority of the black community (not me) turned a blind eye to R. Kelly, why not Nate? There was even an interview where his co-star, Gabrielle Union – a rape survivor, was giving him the benefit of the doubt. But now, after the interviews, how can anyone want to hug a “man” that made very bad choices and tell him, “it’s in the past” when he’s grown into a male who still carries himself like an impulsive, self-absorbed 19 year old boy?
There’s an ironic pun that can be made of his movie’s title ‘Birth of a Nation’ since his conduct has birthed indignation among people that wanted to champion him if only he was humble and chose not to champion himself.
UPDATE: It has just come to my awareness that the victim is white. This adds another dynamic to Nate’s situation.
I never wondered why the media didn’t have the family on t.v. crying, putting a face, and emotion to Nate’s public evisceration. I never wondered this because blacks in this country are often unseen and undervalued. I assumed the victim was black because of this.
But now it comes out that she was white and I realize that the media intentionally didn’t put the family out there because they knew most blacks would make the same assumption I did. They wanted us to think she was black because if we saw Nate being the next Bill Cosby, the community would turn out in droves to support him.
Bill dared to think he could buy NBC and better influence the imagery of black people and what they see. He was quickly “put in his place” for even thinking he could be anything more than what white media allowed him to be.
With all of this coming to light, yes, I will support Nate. Not because my compassion towards the young lady has changed but because this entire situation has the stench of Bill all over it and I won’t be a part of Nate’s career castration because of the fragility of the white ego and it’s inability to control a young black man and his desire to inspire his community with something more than slave beating movies.
Meadows’ is a Community Activist. This is her 5th column for the bullet.