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What should I do when I’m walking behind or passing a white woman late at night on the street?

15 Mar

Ever since I started talking to women about street harassment, I’ve tried to be more conscious of my presence as a man in settings where women are often made to feel unsafe. I have become especially conscious of this dynamic when I’m walking around or behind women late at night. A friend of mine once suggested that he crosses the street in these types of situations to avoid making the woman feel uncomfortable (he was Latino). I’ve done this a handful of times since then and will continue to do so, provided I’m not thrown too far off my original route.

But I still have some mixed feelings about this suggestion. For a while now, moments like these have exposed a rift in my mind. On one side of this rift is my militant/anti-racist/black nationalist self. This is the side of me committed to racial justice for all people of color, and especially for black men. It’s the side of me that’s been cultivated since I sat and watched Spike Lee’s Malcolm X with my family when I was 6 or 7 years old. On the other side of the rift is an intersectional feminist attempting to use their position of (male) privilege as a megaphone to help spread the voices of women who are harmed by sexism and misogyny on a daily basis. These overlapping but distinct parts of my consciousness crash into one another whenever a woman reacts fearfully to my presence.

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White Terrorism in Black Communities: What masculinity studies can offer to the conversation

19 Jun

The nation is reeling in the wake of this most recent mass shooting, a racially-motivated terrorist attack on the black community of Charleston, SC. Nine lives taken, among them an elected political official, and countless others left devastated by the actions of a young, white man named Dylann Roof. They were family members, community members—four ministers, a librarian, a recent graduate, a grandmother, a bible study teacher, a retiree. And they are gone because of racism. Before I say more, here are their names, because in our rage against a killer, we are too often forgetful of those he has taken: Clementa Pinckney, Daniel Simmons Sr., Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, and Ethel Lance. Their lives add to a growing list of black lives taken and black bodies assaulted this year. Dylann Roof is yet another white man engaging in the kind of racist violence made possible (even permissible) in a system that devalues and denigrates blackness.

Dylann Storm Roof, wearing racist patches on a military style jacket. Photo from Roof's facebook page (source: New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/19/us/on-facebook-dylann-roof-charleston-suspect-wears-symbols-of-white-supremacy.html)

Dylann Storm Roof, wearing racist patches on a military style jacket. Photo from Roof’s facebook page (source: New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/19/us/on-facebook-dylann-roof-charleston-suspect-wears-symbols-of-white-supremacy.html)

While there are a few out there trying to distract from Roof’s obvious racial motives (like pundits at Fox News who are scrambling to describe this as a hate crime against Christians), most of us recognize that this was indeed a hate crime. Roof himself made it clear, both in word and action. He targeted a church that has suffered racist attacks throughout its nearly 200 year history in Charleston. He targeted a sacred space, a supposedly safe space, for Charleston’s African-American community. He was known for making racist jokes, hoping for a race war, and wearing racist garb. And, as if that wasn’t proof enough, he admitted to his victims that he was there to kill them because of their skin color, because blacks “rape our women and you’re taking over our country.”
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