Black Men’s Phony Outrage: The Blatant Misogynoir Behind Trending Hashtag #SurvivingCardiB

Justin Richburg seems to have found his niche. If you’ve heard of him it was probably during this past Black History Month when he published an image called “Dice Game” which was a pastiche of a photo of the Migos and Gucci Mane playing dice on tour. But that’s not the image we’ll be discussing today. If you go to his Instagram and look at his work, what you see is a salacious journey through a Black man’s misogyny and inability to tell the difference between a woman being drugged and coercively raped by a man, and being drugged or intoxicated and robbed by a stripper or prostitute. An image that he recently published, no doubt to capitalize on the controversy surrounding rapper and former stripper Cardi B’s admission to drugging and robbing men while trying to survive as an exotic dancer, compares the rapper to Bill Cosby — a serial rapist who drugged and assaulted a plethora of women and went unpunished for a span of years. Framing rape as a property crime, Richburg captioned the image with “Bill Cosby drugged and raped. Allegedly Cardi B drugged and robbed.”

This follows the spate of comparisons of Black rapists to famous white rapists such as Harvey Weinstein during the height of #MeToo. Black men’s attempts to derail conversation surrounding Black male rapists and abusers such as R. Kelly, Kodak Black, and Bill Cosby, is well-documented and tiresome. In the case of R. Kelly and Bill Cosby, there were also had a wild amount of women supporting them. The moment when we all found out that a female fan had used her own money to paid Kelly’s bail was one of collective awe at the lengths some people will go to protect rapists and abusers in our communities. Cisgender heterosexual Black men harassed and ridiculed Terry Crews when he came forward about his experiences. They closed their eyes when Gemmell Moore, and later Timothy Dean — both Black men — were found dead by drug overdose in Ed Buck’s apartment. Timothy Dean died January 7th, yet there is no outrage, no sorrow, not a peep from the wide majority of Black men. The main people who have continued to raise awareness and call for justice surrounding these deaths are gay Black men, the Black LGBTQ community, and Black sex workers.

The main idea that Richburg’s image imparts is that cis women’s bodies are equivalent to legal tender. This is a dangerously harmful false equivalency. Men’s claims are that because women “use” and/or capitalize off of our bodies, our pussies are equivalent to property, shows the pervasiveness of rape culture and the normalization of gender-based sexual violence. Women are property, ergo rape is not a violent, damaging act, but petty theft. Reducing rape to stolen goods is a tactic that is used to minimize the fact that rape is often utilized as a control tactic to reinforce gender norms. We can see this in Kodak Black’s and other Black men’s objectification of lesbians such as Young MA, often using forceful language to prove they can “turn” a lesbian straight with their dicks. Also, look at the difference in the framing of this situation from two different publications:

Sexual violence is a tool to reinforce gender roles, but it is also a white supremacist tool. The latter is what makes Black men’s justification all the more alarming: there are Black men who have been victims of rape in prison and (previously) under slavery and Jim Crow. Rape is not only an act of sexual violence — it is also a tool designed to humiliate and subjugate its victims, which is part of why so many rape victims don’t report. Language is a part of that and yet in these two screens, we see how differently this “situation” was framed by these publications.

Black sex workers, such as myself, have long attempted to forge a political connection between ourselves and vanilla (non-sex worker) Black women, via Black feminism and sex worker politics. I have attempted to do this via my own definition of proheaux womanism, while many others use sex worker feminist political strategies to bring issues to the forefront. Yet our voices often go unheard. Sex workers generally report a high amount of abuse and sexual violence from both clients and cops. They report that cops will often extort sex from them under threats of arrest or further violence. Black trans women and cis women of color in particular report the most abuse. Many sex workers also report that “…some officers treat[ed] disputes with clients as breaches of contract rather than crimes.” This is similar to the way Black men like Justin Richburg equate rape (sexual violence) with theft of property (in this case money), and it highlights the way in which racialized gender discrimination in sex work is merely an intensified version of the widespread sexism and misogynoir Black women generally experience. Black men’s creation of the hashtag #SurvivingCardiB to make light of sexual violence or equate it to property theft while simultaneously ridiculing men like Terry Crews for disclosing sexual assault and/or ignoring #MeToo and the ridiculously high rate of rape and abuse that Black girls, children, and women face. Men who are robbed are protected by the law and violence in these situations tends to be justified, but women who are coercively raped and do not suffer “excessive force” or extreme visible violence are often dismissed. If these same women injure or kill their assaulters, they are often charged with manslaughter at the very least — it’s hard to claim self-defense in these cases, and there is no “stand your ground” for rape.

Cardi B admitted to drugging and robbing these men for her survival. There’s context behind that act, just as there is a whole context behind why Black men sell drugs or rob and (sometimes) shoot other men. Survival is the context, as it always has been in a country that enslaved our ancestors. There is a long history of framing violence against specific bodies as “theft of goods” or “property crimes.” During slavery (i.e. white supremacy 1.0), any violence enacted against a slave was considered a property crime, including rape. There are levels to this shit and yet Black men (and some cis women) continue indulging in selective outrage, erasing this context in favor of minimizing the effects of (their) sexual violence against Black women and other men. Justin Richburg’s illustrations are a reflection of his own willful ignorance, attention-seeking, and inability to understand this context — and expose his misogynoir for all of us to see.