Ida B. Wells, Black Women And The Historical Defense Of Black Men With No Reciprocity

In one of US history’s(or herstory’s) more prominent examples of US Black Women’s desire to expose the brutality meted out by White Patriarchy upon Black Men, Ida B. Wells exposed the myth of Black men as savage and lascivious rape perpetrators worthy of the lynchings (“lynching” pluralized) that had abounded during the waning Reconstruction era. Prior to her own documentation of over 728 lynchings of Black men in the South during that time, Ida, as well as Frederick Douglas had been under the media spell of what white “historians” and media gatekeepers such as Harper’s Weekly referred to as the “The New Negro Crime”. It was a spin on the ideas espoused by Thomas Jefferson in his papers on Virginia whereby Black people were reduced to a scientific animal, a brute that couldn’t think and demanded dependence on White people. This idea of us being “animals” was magnified as Black men capable of moving up the socio-economic ladder threatened to erode the United States caste system of White Supremacy. Paula Giddings, writing in her impressive recording of Black Women in US history, paraphrases Philip A. Bruce from his 1889 publication “The Plantation Negro as a Freeman” by stating,”…Blacks, ‘cut off from the spirit of White society,’ had regressed to a primitive and thus criminal state. Bereft of the master’s influence, Blacks were now even closer to the ‘African type’ than the slaves had been.”(p. 27) According the impeccable and bravely established research of Ida, only a third of the murdered Black men had even been accused of rape, and many of the men had been slaughtered more for the crime of miscegenation and involvement with White Women under false accusations than actual rape.

Black men do not need to be defended for acting out of a media programmed behavioral set. We do not need to be coddled for our lack of responsibility, and definitely do not need to be pampered when we treat rape as an acceptable measure our masculinity. Black men seem to feel as though we need permission to defend Black women. Most of those that I consider Hip Hop evangelist are afraid that women are going to take away their testicles if Women are allowed to speak against the atrocities that they find in Hip Hop. Nobody is going to take away your precious rap music; in fact, I feel as though Black Women will be the first to help you edify the music and allow it to be the art form that it once was.

I often find my Self in a position of hypocrisy because I have used the term “rape” as a metaphor for attack and violation. And I am not always proud of that moment, and yet, my lack of pride in that moment is based on the pain I realize those words caused people that I love. My confidence wanes on that line. I do believe that as a Black male, my socialization into manhood presented Black women particularly as an enemy. I do believe that many other Black men in the US, and beyond, have been socialized to treat women as objects of sexual accomplishment. As a male, I am judged by the sexual desirability of the woman I live with, my masculinity is weighed by the type of woman I enjoy looking at, and I have been judged by the degree of violence I am willing to subject a woman to. I don’t see media alone as the culprit for Black criminalization; I have to begin to point the finger at the agents of the influence who bear the burden of the dirty work and bloody hands.

Black feminists and Womanist are not my enemy. Black women are not my enemy. The historical arch of Black Womanism with its roots in an alienation from White feminism is the buttressing and moral/intellectual protection of Black Men. I can no longer dodge the assessment by far too many Black Women that Black men do not reciprocate the sacrifice and courageous stance, thus defense, of Black Women, that Black Women have always shown and demonstrated towards Black Men. Black Womanism and Black Feminism had as its roots the politics of respectability based on a desire to have Black Men as patriarchs of their households. No matter how archaic we might find that desire, it still speaks and influences much of what can be revealed about the passionate attachment to Black men that Black Women have. In return, US Black Men have developed a culture that is the most exogamous of any other group of men on Earth.