"You're raping our women." --what Dylan Roof reportedly said at the scene after shooting nine people, six of whom were women
"There is a centuries-old notion that white men must defend, with lethal
violence at times, the sexual purity of white women from allegedly
predatory black men. And, as we saw yet again after this shooting, it is
not merely a relic of America’s hideous racial past. American racism is
always gendered; racism and sexism are mutually dependent, and cannot
be unstitched."-- Chloe Angyal, "I Don't Want to Be an Excuse for Racist Violence Anymore"
"My mother used to say that the black woman is the white man's mule and the white woman is his dog. Now, she said that to say this: we do the heavy work and get beat whether we do it well or not. But the white woman is closer to the master and he pats them on the head and lets them sleep in the house, but he ain't goin' treat either one like he was dealing with a person." -- Nancy White, quoted by Patricia Hill Collins
I have to admit, when I first read Roof's rambling screed I blocked that part out. In that way that you kind of can't see something because to look at it too hard will blind you with rage. I'm writing through that rage now, with varying success, so please bear with me.
This is an old poison. I don't think there's a clear estimate of how many times white men have used white women as a justification for the murder and oppression of black people, one way or another. Black men are described as a threat to white women, either in general or in specific. We, white women (sometimes glossed as "families" or "homes"), must be protected. The threat must be dealt with...generally, violently. Or corralled into a different part of town. Or locked up.
Never mind that, historically speaking, black women have been many times more likely to be the victims of rape at the hands of white men, than the reverse.
Never mind that, because like other forms of violence rape is most often done to you by people you know, if you are a white woman you are far more likely to be raped by a white man.
I won't speak about my relationship with an actual, not mythical, black man, because then I really won't be able to say anything that isn't incoherent with rage.
It was never about reality or anything remotely connected to facts or truth anyway. It was never about us. Not as human beings. Only as possessions: "Our" women. And if you stop being "their" woman...if you date or marry someone who is not white, or not a man, if you have a thought in your head, if you defy, or if you simply refuse to go along with the bullshit....then you will be an object of contempt. Or a "victim." But you will never be a human being to them. Not ever.
Because this is about power, and the brutal exercise of it, and only persons have power. You are not a candidate for that even if you wanted to be. Not really, not in the end-game. The best you can hope for is to be a prize in a choreographed display. Not even a real fight, because the game is carefully rigged, but a sham.
If you collude with that, as countless white women have, you are a fool. Perhaps a victim of the peculiar version of Stockholm Syndrome that women have been burdened with for millennia, or perhaps filled with short-sighted malice, but a fool all the same.
I believe though that it is not enough to merely refuse...as infuriating as our would-be rescuers/putters-in-our-places will find it. And it's not enough to simply express horror at the most extreme iterations of the White Knights of Swooping In to Save You Racist Patriarchy Division. We have to speak up...which means educating ourselves about the myriad insidious ways our collective brains have been washed in the first place. We have to do something.
Other people have clearly been thinking along the same lines; there's a veritable spate of articles on the topic, which I find heartening. And then there's Debbie Dills, who spotted the shooter's car, called it in, and tailed him until he was apprehended. And Emma Quangel, who put up $49 for a reverse whois search...which is how the manifesto quoted above was found, along with a trove of photographs which are likely to seriously undermine any insanity defense. That is what you call putting your money where your mouth is.
I don't know Emma Quangel's ethnicity and I am not saying Debbie Dills was thinking about the intersections of racism and sexism at all. I am just saying...This is how it is done.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
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