Equality Is Not Black Men “Getting Away With” Heinous Crimes The Way White Men Do
The great Angela Davis made a very profound statement that I come back to again and again. She said: “Straight Black men and White women will always be the weakest links in the struggle for equality because they view equality as achieving status with White men. The problem with that is that White men’s status is contingent upon the oppression of other people.”
Essentially, it’s not enough to want to be able to move like White men. We have to want to be more and be better than what White men have shown us.
It’s this statement that comes to mind when Black folk, particularly men and the occasional woman, including our beloved Taraji P. Henson, seek to equate the poor behavior of Black men and White men as a way to absolve responsibility for Black men or point out the inequalities of our society. And yes, there are inequalities in the ways Black men and White men are treated in every arena and in every industry. But suggesting that a Black man shouldn’t be exposed for his sexual assaulting, raping, harassing, beating and abusing people just because a White man didn’t have to endure that consequence, is not equality. It’s still oppression. It still centers Black men as victims instead of the women and in some cases children who deserve the attention.
Furthermore, to suggest that White men are not being held accountable for their terribleness is inaccurate and ridiculous. The #MeToo movement took down far more White men than the three prominent Black men who have been the focus of investigations, documentaries and criminal punishment (R. Kelly, Michael Jackson and Bill Cosby.) It’s no secret that Harvey Weinstein is the face of #MeToo. Les Moonves was forced to step down as the head of CBS. Kevin Spacey has been practically ousted from Hollywood. Woody Allen had a movie that was supposed to be released through Amazon that has been shelved. There were several think pieces, social media posts and more about Casey Affleck being rewarded in the midst of his sexual assault allegations. Adam Venit, the man who assaulted Terry Crews, was forced to step down from his Hollywood agency.
White men are being held responsible too. And since they have historically and continue to enjoy power, wealth and access, it only makes sense that they would be the people abusing it. And they should be held accountable—as many of them have been.
But either people don’t read the news or in their outrage about their faves being taken down, they seek to deflect attention from the horrible behavior of Black men and cast it on the horrible behavior of White men.
One Twitter user did this when he unearthed a clip of Barbara Walters asking Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ wife about the fact that their union began when she was just 14-years-old.
He asserts that Elvis received no pushback for marrying a child. The claim is unfounded, as evidenced by the very clip he tweeted in which Walters asks about the morality of the relationship. And this was back in the day, before the #MeToo movement, before women were speaking up against the men who abused and took advantage of them when things like marrying girls were considered a rock star’s eccentricities, something famous men did. This was before social media when we could easily gauge the number of people who held a negative opinion about someone or something.
To put it simply, we’ve evolved as a society. Not only are certain things inexcusable, today, for better or worse, but we also call them out.
And trust, given Elvis Presley’s history with Black folk, stealing their music and all, I can tell you there were more than a few people who didn’t hold him in such high esteem. We’ve never recounted his legacy without the recognition of our scorn and his scandal.
But even if Elvis were praised for marrying a child, that does not mean that Black men should be arguing and fighting that our stars, our legends should be absolved of answering for their crimes or have the privilege of their legacies being remembered as untarnished. The goal is not to be, act and get away with things like White men. The goal is to strive for a society where no one is oppressed, a place where the real victims in the story, the survivors of sexual assault, aren’t pushed to the back burner as we argue about the victimization of horrible men.
See what people had to say in response to this tweet on the following pages.