This conversation isn’t for white America–I’m speaking directly to my brothers. Most of my life I wondered how so many white folks could be apathetic to racism and black suffering. I get it now. Although we as black men are intimately familiar with suffering and oppression, a great number of us manage to be wholly apathetic to (at best) our oppression of black women. Nate Parker’s case highlighted many of the misogynistic tendencies we have learned to normalize but “Surviving Compton” took it to a completely different level. Sure, many whites show little urgency in confronting black oppression but just maybe their apathy parallels that of black men who aren’t all that pressed to fight the mistreatment and abuse of the women right in our line of sight. Can black men indict whites on their apathy toward racial oppression with any credibility while we ignore our oppression of women? The question needs to be raised.
“Straight Outta Compton” became the highest grossing film by a black director ever, claiming the top box office spot for three consecutive weeks. The abuse chronicled in “Surviving Compton” by Dr. Dre and others was well known but still, black men and women alike overwhelmingly supported the film. But if George Zimmerman or Darren Wilson (the officer who shot Michael Brown) produced a film about anything, surely black men would boycott and black women would be expected to fall in line. Still, men like Dr. Dre are supported and there is little dissent. More disturbing, we as black men show less interest in the violence brought to light in “Surviving Compton” than the success of Dre and the gang in “Straight Outta Compton.” Have we stopped to consider how that makes black women feel? Indeed, every Sunday we cheer wildly for men known to do harm to black women and we never stop to consider that our cheers are every bit insulting as if one of our white friends were to openly support George Zimmerman. We are acting just as our oppressors have: indifferent, dismissive and sometimes violent.
This discussion is not for white folks. In no way am I suggesting that racists or those indifferent to black oppression get a pass. Those individuals should continue to wrestle with their issues. This discussion, however, is for my brothers. We have a serious problem. How is it that we can understand the sting of racism and yet deliver blows of misogyny and indifference to black women? How is it that black women can birth the “Black Lives Matter” movement in response to extrajudicial killings of black men but we remain silent when the Dr. Dre’s of the world are known to be violent toward our women? How the hell are we apathetic about this? Why aren’t we boycotting the NFL when they openly sign players we know have put their hands on or sexually assaulted a black woman? Why don’t we care that much? The answer to that question likely resembles that of white men who agree that racism is wrong in theory but can’t find the motivation to proactively challenge structural racism day to day.
I am in no way suggesting that the oppression of black women committed or allowed by black men is synonymous to the racism that has been inflicted on blacks since 1619 in America. Further, I am not suggesting the two cancel each other out. White supremacists don’t get a pass but neither do we as black men. When we are silent about the harm we inflict on our women or remain indifferent to it, we become hypocritical and our credibility to attack racism is compromised. In the same way we feel passionate about racism, we must act fiercely when we see black women being victimized. Hell, we ought to even get emotional about the pay gap black women are subject to. The hatred we felt for George Zimmerman is the same hatred we must feel for a Dr. Dre. We lose credibility when we point out white people’s indifference to our oppression if we ourselves are indifferent to the oppression we inflict on our women. Forget about Dre.