Women have been sexually exploited for centuries and its foundation is heavily rooted in American history. But what about the black woman and her story? With all of the sexual harassment allegations and mayhem involving big names such as Weinstein, Moore, Spacey, and now Matt Lauer; it should come as no surprise that black women are included in the ever-growing list of victims.
However, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It has been amazing and yet difficult to digest the responses to the black women who have come forth with allegations of sexual harassment. The skepticism and scrutiny to which many have been subjected to is both distasteful and heartbreaking. How is it that in 2017 our stories still don’t matter?
It is of strongly held opinions that the black woman was the original victim of what we now know to be sexual abuse/harassment/violence. The historic amnesia that America has denied for centuries has found a way to rear its ugly head only for the sake of whiteness and other contemporary motives yet the black woman is still forgotten.
Lest we forget that it was the black woman who was raped, killed, exploited, molested, and subjugated to adapt to cultural norms that she may never receive full acceptance into despite her many contributions and heavy influence on this culture. Rooted in racist ideology that perpetuates systems of superiority, power, and control; it is evident why the black woman’s story is unbelievable.
Pair that with a century’s long narrative that has painted a picture of the black woman as an over sexualized seductress whose very anatomy is both revered and seen as threatening, and we now have plausibility to deny anything that comes out of her mouth claiming victimization. When a black woman claims that she has been victimized, why is she automatically seen as the perpetrator or instigator?
Case in point, Harvey Weinstein quickly refuted claims from Oscar-winning actress, Lupita N’yongo, but for the most part, remained silent on claims from other women. It is important to note that N’yongo is the only black woman who has come forth with allegations of sexual harassment by Mr. Weinstein. Are we to believe that Weinstein had an ‘off switch’ when it came to Lupita N’yongo? Pssshhh, I think not!
Surely people are not naïve to the fact that black women have and continue to experience sexual harassment and exploitation at alarmingly high rates. In fact, a quick Google search on black women and sexual harassment will render a host of information chronicling our fight against sexual harassment.
One will even learn how it was the struggles of a collective group of black women that helped shape sexual-harassment laws and the many protections it provides on the books today. It is also important to note that when the perpetrator of sexual misconduct is a black male whose victims are typically black women, little to no attention is brought to these issues.
For instance, when you hear the name, R. Kelly, not only is it synonymous with music and pop culture, but you may also think ‘affinity for young girls’ as well. Despite decades of suspicion, allegations, and videos of sexual misconduct, Kelly’s career has persisted and even thrived. This is an unlikely paradox given the current environment that has resulted in many high-powered men losing nearly everything they have worked for.
Even Bill Cosby was shunned for his actions. So why the difference? Again, when you compare Kelly up against other men, the only real difference is the victims. Kelly’s victims are typically young black girls and women whose lives and stories simply don’t hold as much value as their white counterparts.
There is little doubt that the black woman’s mind body and soul have been invaded in an effort to dominate the very space that she occupies. Slavery taught us that while the black male was indeed the head of the family, leader of the tribe, and physically capable to withstand formidable circumstances; it was the black woman who was the driving force behind black people’s survival.
Even still today, she has had to take on all of these roles in the absence of the black male due to the continuous assault on his life while attempting to maintain some semblance of normalcy for both herself and her family.
Somewhere along the way, black women were placed at the bottom of the barrel and devalued, or perhaps she was never valued at all. Society has stripped her of every human right you can think of. She has been poked, prodded, studied, raped, exploited, coerced, deprived, abused, and so on and so forth.
History has shown us that the black woman is a part of one of the most disenfranchised groups and that despite the many strides she has made in overcoming adversity, society still seeks to invade her space, and steal her virtue all while denying her claims that give truth to her existence.