We Black Men Must Address Sexism & Patriarchy in Our Community

In our deeply white supremacist society, the Black community has been understandably reticent to discuss and challenge powerful Black men who abuse and/or harass Black women. This reticence is likely rooted in fear of what would happen to powerful Black men in a society under such a pervasive White gaze. But this reticence has too often become a shield to protect powerful Black men who are inflicting massive harm in the lives of Black women. Not only does this hurt Black women, it undermines the ongoing Movement for Black Lives.

We must make it clear — there can be no Pan African, Black nationalist, or Black political ideology that excuses Black men who engage in abusive and harassing behavior with respect to interactions with Black women. Allowing sexism and structural patriarchy cannot be compatible with an authentic Pan African, Black nationalist, or Black uplift ideology. Black people cannot ever be free if Black men are abusing and hurting Black women in the name of fighting racism.

On April 14, 2018, persons in Baltimore wrote posts on social media that assailed a Black woman who is boldly calling attention to Black men using their male privilege to get away with causing tremendous harm to Black women. What’s so painful about this is that instead of holding Black men accountable for abusive behavior, folks are perpetuating more harm against victims and survivors all the while protecting the abuser(s).

This is the very reason why abusive men continue to get away with their dastardly deeds! As a community, we continue to put more energy into attacking women who’ve been hurt and harmed rather than putting our energy into holding powerful Black men accountable. Below, we see typical examples of how this happens.

I myself cannot pretend that I am innocent in causing Black women in my life harm. I have been arrogant, insensitive, callous, and egotistical in past relationships. I have used harmful words and caused hurt to Black women I claimed to love. I have asserted my position as “the man” to proclaim that what I say is the way things should go. I have raised my voice in anger. I have not been physically violent in my dating or relationships, but I know my words and actions have caused emotional distress.

I can claim that none of this was my intent, but I now understand that my intent does not absolve me of the IMPACT that my words and actions have caused. So when I say Black men need to be held accountable, I am not speaking from a lofty perch. I am speaking first to the man in the mirror. I am calling myself out first and foremost. I have a whole lot of reasons I could name as contributing factors, but none of these excuse my behaviors or absolve me of taking responsibility.

Starting with myself, I am calling on Black Baltimore to join me in developing the mechanisms we need to hold powerful Black men accountable for the abuse and/or harassment we have caused in the lives of Black women. We can utilize restorative justice processes with trained facilitators to help with this work, but we can’t jump to healing by letting men who abuse and harass off the hook. There is no healing in our community without first holding powerful Black men accountable for their/our actions in the lives of Black women.

True healing does not attack people who are calling attention to abuse and harassment. True healing supports victims and survivors of abuse and harassment. True healing calls on Black men to take stock of our toxic behaviors and attitudes that we have been socialized into accepting as normal and acceptable in the white supremacist patriarchal society we live in. We must forge an intersectional Pan African ideology that asserts the rights and well-being of Black women. We must stop the men who abuse in our ranks and call them into account. Otherwise we threaten the Black Future our children deserve and undermine the Movement for Black Lives in which we say we believe.