Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Where's the Outrage?

Where's The Outrage?

Where's the outrage from the public when Maxim magazine website shows Persia White with the offensive and hateful caption above:

Have we had enough offensive stereotyping of Black and multiracial Black women in the media around the world? Have we learned our lesson from the Duke rape case and the hate crime in S.C.? From the evidence I see, I say no because the media has a vested interest in the devaluation of Black women in America. Let me say that again, devaluation. These hateful images justify the worst atrocities against these women for centuries and continued today. This is why a lot of people have a hard time believing black victims of sexual harassment or rape. Ask Anita Hill, Desiree Washington, the two recent victims of the horrific hate crime in S.C. recently and many other women who are victims of such crimes, past and present.

Thanks should go out to Mixed Media Watch and Real Men Are Not for looking out for the best interests of all people around the world. To read the articles, click here and here, respectively.


Ann said...

The racist devaluation of black women started before the institution of slavery became firmly entrenched into American society. When whites entered the continent of Africa, they were not familiar with the many customs and cultural practices of black people.

Seeing black people walk around partially clad, especially in the case of black women who went bare-breasted, caused the Europeans to think of blacks as morally lax, wanton and lascivious in their behaviour.

It never dawned on the Europeans that black people dressed the way they did due to the climate. Since the sexually repressed Europeans saw a whole group of people that were different from themselves, they began to envision the formation of what we would now call the "Other", that which is outside the idea of normativty, that which is not "normal", and in the case of the white Europeans, that which is not like them, the very antithesis of what they considered normal in their "Eurocentric" view. Black people seen by the whites ate different foods, lived in different abodes, spoke different languages and had various different social customs. White men especially saw black women in a different light, as opposed to the white women they were used to, and because of the different cultural and sexual mores of each group, the dichotomy of female contrast of white woman vs. black woman differences in the eyes of white men, the die was cast.

White representing purity; innocent; favourable; fortunate; marked by upright fairness; free from spot or blemish; free from moral impurity;

Black representing dirty; soiled; thoroughly sinister; sullen; wicked; gloomy; calamitous; characterized as the absence of light.

With the enslavement of black people via the Middle Passage, the degradation and genetic violation during slavery and Jim Crow segregation, white men's rape and mongrelization of the black race did more than just change the DNA structure of black people. With the creation of stereotypes to reinforce their belief in the inherent immorality of black women, immorality that was forced on black women and girls on a daily basis, white men found an out to their rapacious debasement done to black women. With the creation of the "sexually loose" black woman myth, the white men found a convenient form of blaming the victim for all the wrongs done to her. The best way to explain this pathology is to understand how it is created in the first place and how it can have far-reaching effects from the past all the way into the present.

James Aho, in his book, "This Thing of Darkness", 1994, University of Washington Press, speaks of what he calls "The Five Stage Process of Enemy Making". Here he outlines what it would take to start the undermining and destruction of those who the oppressor wishes to destroy. Once set in motion and carried out to its fullest, it is not hard to create a stereotype of any group for which the debasement is formulated.

I will list all five stages, and then I will elaborate, using examples, as to how these five stages explain the creation of the "myth of the bad blackwoman".

I. Naming/Labeling: Name is a crucial step in social definiton. Persons, acts or situations are in themselves neither good nor evil. They come to be seen and defined through everyday social life. It is not uncommon for offensive, defamatory labels to be lightly imposed on persons, acts or situations on the basis of a loose fit. During crisis, defamatory labels are tossed around arbitrarily and may fix on any one who gets in the way. On many occasions the labeler employs the label with the intent to destroy careers, enhance political and national causes and to assault the diginty of those whom he or she attacks. The naming/labeling accomplishes creating an enemy.

Here are is a quote from a white man on black women and the sexual devaluation he accorded black women:

"Those African Ladies are of a strong, robust Constitutuion; not easily jaded out, able to serve them [bachelors and widowers] by Night as well as Day. When they are Sick, they are not costly, when dead, their funeral Charges are but viz. an old Matt, one Bottle Rum, and a lb. Sugar. The cheapness of a Commo-di-ty becomes a more taking when it fully Answers the end, or T--l."

--Letter to Charleston,S.C. "Gazette", July 17, 1736. Quoted in Winthrop Jordan, "White Over Black".

Notice the "cheapness" that has been given to the black woman. After she has all been used up, she is then discarded like so much trash. Like some rag that has been used to clean one's body, she is now thrown away like so much refuse.

II. Legitimization - In order for the labels to adhere to the targeted, they must be validated. This is accomplished through a formal hearing, trial, inquisition or tribunal presided over by presumed experts. Though it can be accomplished through different ways, those that actually work must meet six conditions: (1)The ceremonies must be held on sacred ground at sacred times, with all actors in special costumes. (2)All actors must assume an attitude of solemn respect towards the proceedings. (3)The accusers must show themselves to be motivated by patriotic concern. (4)The tribal values must be made very clear in the course of the testimony. (5)The accusers must show that nothing in the victim's life is accidental, and that they are purely evil. (6)This action type must be rhetorically counterpoised against its opposite of self-evident virtue and dignity, which the accusers must be examples of.

With continued debauchery of black women during slavery and no law that declared the rape of black women as a crime, this gave free licence to white men on the plantations to rape and defile black women and girls on a daily basis. But with the abolition of slavery, this brutality did not end. With the enactment of anti-miscegenation laws forbidding marriage between black and white, with the lynching of black men accused of raping white women, but no jailing or lynching of white men who raped black women and girls, the sanctioning of sexual abuse against black females, sanctioning enshrined in public aaceptance and legal law by the white community, it became easy to look at black women as more than mere sex objects--they were in essence , animals, beasts at the whims of their "sexual hpyer-bestiality", therefore, raping a black female carried with it none of the condemnation and swift retribution that the raping of a white female carried. And this rhetoric and public acceptance was legally encoded into law:

"In some southern locales, white lawmakers stymied efforts to enact statutory-rape provisions that would have raised the age of consent, claiming that they would empower Negro girls to threaten white men. "We see at once, " Kentucky legislator A. C. Tomkins warned, "what a terrible weapon for evil the elevating of the age of consent would be placed in the hands of leecherous, sensual negro women!" Moreover, some whites, still clinging to the ways of slavery, perceived black women as being essentially unprotected by the law. Thus in 1913 Governor Cole Blease of South Carolina could pardon a white man convicted of raping a black woman because he refused to believe, he said, that the defendant would risk imprisonment for "what he could usually get from prices ranging from 25 cents to one dollar." In pardoning another white rapist, Governor Blease candidly averred that he had "serious doubt as to whether the crime of rape can be committed upon a negro." When white men were convicted of raping black women, they were punished much less severly than black men convicted of raping white women. Between 1908 and 1949, for example, the Commonwealth of Virginia executed not a single white man for rape. During the same period, it put to death forty-five convicted black rapists, all of whose alledged victims were white women. In the eyes of state authorities, deterring and punishing sexual assaults on black women were simply not priorities."

"Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity and Adoption" by Randall Kennedy

III. Myth-Making - Myth-making refers to the provision of accounts of defamed persons shhowing why it is 'inevitable, necessary and predictable' that they act as they do. In essence, it is a 2nd way of validating the defamatory label. Many times it is done by documenting how the victim's case fits with the official "scientific" theory of evil in favor at the time.

Black women have become sexual wanton, lewd, lascivious sluts/whores in the eyes of the very men who have raped and debased them for centuries. With lies, myths and distortions embedded into law and public opinion, this web of venom and evil spun by white men has become a trap that no black woman can escape. Try as hard as she can by being virtuous, virginal, chaste she will always be the perpetual whore, the "bad black woman" who will always have sex at the drop of a hat. Nevermind that white men have been the sexual transgressors in destroying the bodies and minds of black women and girls for centuries. The specter of doubt and dismissal has now been turned upon black women to make them out as a sexually, rapacious wanton species of depraved creatures with no morals or redeeming inherent values.

And the terms given to insult black women are many:

-black bitch
-welfare cheat/welfare queen
-asexual Mammy
-bitch with an attitude

The destruction upon black women by white men has created an enduring stereotype that has cemented itself into common language, the media, television, books and films.

The "myth of the bad black woman" has become as American as cherry pie.

IV. Sedimentation - Once the label had adhered through word and myth, it can be transferred from one person to the next, and continues through the preceeding generations. The experience becomes available to those who have never had it, which what is meant by sedimentation. The orginal act of labeling gets detached, and becomes evolved into parts of everyday "stock of knowledge" of society. What was once a label that was thrown out arbitrarily to a loose fit, becomes with each retelling common sense, or what everyone knows to be true about the enemy.

By now the views of black women as morally lax has been taken as a given, not questioned or critiqued, if at all. By now, it is taken for granted that every black woman seen sitting on a park bench, in a hotel lobby, at a bus stop, must by all reason, be nothing but a whore, a sexual aberration.

bell hooks in her book, "Black Looks: Race and Representation", tells of walking behind a group of white college jocks, unbeknownst to them, and overhearing their conversations of wanting to have sex with many different types of "Others". They speak of who they want to have sex with, and at the top of the list of sexual conquests, are black women:

"Seemingly unaware of my presence, these young men talked about their plans to fuck as many girls from other racial/ethnic groups as they could "catch" before graduation. They "ran"it down. Black girls were high on the list, Native American girls hard to find, Asian girls (al lumped into the same category), deemed easier to entice, were considered "prime targets". Talking about this overheard conversation with my students, I found that it was commonly accepted that one "shopped" for sexual partners in the same way one "shopped" for courses at Yale, and that race and ethnicity was a serious category on which selections were based."

In her play, "To Be Young, Gifted and Black", Lorraine Hansberry speaks of how all black women are looked upon as sexually voracious and sexually available, as prostitutes. In the play a young black domestic worker says:

"All right. So now you now something 'bout me you didn't know! In these streets out there, any little white boy from Long Island or Westchester sees me and leans out of his car and yells--"Hey there, hot chocolate! Say there Jezebel! Hey you--'Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding! YOU! Bet you know where there's a good time tonight...!"

"Follow me sometimes and see if I lie. I can be coming home from eight hours on an assembly line or fourteen hours in Mrs. Halsey's kitchen. I can be all filled up that day with three hundred years of rage so that my eyes are flashing and my flesh is trembling--and the white boys in the streets, they look at me and think of sex. They look at me and that's all they think...Baby, you could be Jesus in drag--but if you're brown they're sure you're selling!"

Later in the play a "chic black woman professor" speaks of receiving the same callous disrespect, proving that racist taunts of white sexist shown towards black women knows no class boundaries:

"Hey there, hot chocolate! Say there, Jezebel! YOU...! The white boys in the streets, they look at me and think of sex. They look at me and that's all they think!"

This racist myth of bad black women is now accepted belief in the views that men of other races have towards black women. No man of any race can live in America and not be tainted and corrupted by the racist myth of the "loose, eager for sexual exploits" black woman.

Which brings us to the final stage of enemy making.

V. Ritual - Ritual refers to the dramatization of the myth's principal themes, which allows it to be re-imprinted in one's mind continually. In its enactment the truth of the myth is reconfirmed, allowing it not to be forgotten.

The "killing of the black body" has gone on as long as black people have lived in America: the degredation and humiliation of slavery, the cruelty of Jim Crow segregation, the enactment of anti-miscegenation laws (of which the last statute still holding out on the lawbooks was its abolition in Alabama in 2000, the last state to rescind this most hated law).

And in the numerous rapes against black women and girls during and after slavery, the killing of the black body exacted a terrible toll on the most helpless members of society. Black women had "open season" declared on them with no avenue of legal redress against any white man who sexually assaulted them.

And the legacy of white men's racist/sexist mistreatment is as present now, in 2006 America:

"Jeremy Sweat, 24, who is white, told officers two days after the July 3 incident, that the victim, a black (15 year-old girl) female, was "somebody society wouldn't care about, wouldn't be missed", said Lt. Tommy Burgess of the Clarendon County Sheriff's Department.

"Basically he said, she's just a black whore--no one's going to care about her," says Tommie Burgess."

And now we have this Maxxim article on sexually "invading" a black woman.

Sexual invasion of black women has been on-going in America for centuries. Sexual invasion with verbal and physical attacks upon the morality, integrity and well-being of black women.

It is deeply entrenched in American society, and now considered as truth by many in America.

It took hundreds of generations to create these hated lies about black women.

First spoken out of the mouths of white men, now believed in by many people in America and around the world, the myth of the bad black woman is a vicious hatred that black women will have to fight as long as there are people who believe only the worst, instead of the best about black women.

Devaluation of black women sells.

Devaluation of black women is uncontested.

Devaluation of black women is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Stephanie B. said...

To Ann,

I second that! I could say more on the ongoing degrading and devaluation of black women around the world.

When Latoyia Figueroa went missing last year, haters on the internet went berserk because some of us suggested that the media didn't initially cover Latoyia's case as they've done with the Natlee and Laci missing person cases of recent past. Some of the comments were similar to the man arrested in the racially motivated hate crime in S.C. They said that finding Latoyia is a waste of time, that liberals are pushing her cause at the expense of Natlee, that she lived an immoral, loose life, that her life isn't worth saving. You wouldn't believe the extent of their hatred for the black mother of one and was expecting another child last fall, but tragedy took her and her unborn child and her body was dumped in the woods for a month. And now the foot-dragging in bringing Latoyia murder case to trial. I have to say, it would be a long time before it come to trial.

What say you?


Stephanie B. said...

And one other thing,

Contrary to popular belief and the media, antimiscegenation laws were enacted, not so much against black men marrying white women, but against white men marrying black women because the foundation of white rule and privilege depends on white men marrying white women and creating white heirs, preferably males and to keep the "pure" white race fiction going. As one thinking woman wrote in another message board:

"'The fear of Black female sexuality has to do with Black women at one time being heavyset and ample breasted, having a look that doesn't fit the beauty standards.'

Alexi, your my homie you know I loves ya, but I do have to disagree with this one. In reality the fear of black female sexuality is tied to the power structure of this country. Of course white men have always tried to pretend like black women didn't and don't meet the beauty standards, but we all know that is far beyond the truth. As long as a black woman's sexuality is stereotyped and repressed the power structure in this country can stay in place. Having a black woman seen as desirable would crumble the entire foundation that racism was built on. Also there is a benefit to having black men not respect or love their own women. If black men do not respect and love their own women, black women can not influence black men. And without that influence the community becomes divided and falls apart. Your examples were on point because that is how they portray black women in the media, but the bottom line is you can't have Bill Gates marrying Vivica Fox, and having children with her and leaving that kind of legacy behind to a black woman, because that would destroy the entire racist foundation of this nation. That is one of the major factors for the fear of black female sexuality."

Carmen Van Kerckhove said...

Stephanie, great post. And thanks so much for your kind words about Mixed Media Watch and for the link!


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