In “Raped and Then?”, Jamala Rogers (leader of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis, Black Radical Congress National Organizer, and Black Commentator Editorial Board member) speaks powerfully about the issues at stake and what it will take to make change. Thank you Jamala Rogers!
When I read Bill Fletcher’s BC article last month on the rape of his friend, it was like déjà vu. “My Friend was Raped” underscored an all-too familiar response to sexual victimization of Black women by Black men, that of silent suffering.
Although the rape stats say that one out of every three women in the US will be sexually assaulted, those stats are higher in the African-American community where we have allowed a rope of silence to choke the voices of anger, outrage and healing that need to be expressed.
The general consensus is that 9 out of 10 rapes go unreported. The National Victim Center has called rape “the most underreported violent crime in America.” The National Black Women’s Health Project affirms that approximately 40% of Black women report coercive contact, of a sexual nature, by age 18.
It means launching a multi-faceted struggle when and where we can. This calls for an overhaul of the justice system, because one of the main reasons Black women don’t report rape is to keep that Black man out of a racist criminal system. We have done so in the hopes of community justice that hardly ever seems to materialize. It means confronting, filtering and eliminating the misogynist and sexist toxins that have crept into our political, social and cultural environments. This means starting in our homes, honoring and valuing girls and women, teaching equality to all sexes so that we all become change agents in some way.
It means developing and strengthening the support systems for victims of sexual violence so that they are not re-victimized and silenced, but get the spiritual, emotional and psychological support they so desperately need.
It means struggling with our brothers, especially those in the progressive movement, to take up seriously, this issue with themselves and their peers. One of the stories in NO! involved “an avowed pro-feminist” rapist brother whose hurtful actions spoke more forcefully than his empty radical rhetoric.
It means moving past the view that erroneously pits racial oppression against women’s oppression. It’s the old let’s-fight-together-to-eliminate-racism-first, then-we’ll-deal-with-sexism argument that has plagued the Black Liberation Movement for years. Homophobia, another oppression needing to be dealt with by the Black community, is rarely even on the radar screen.
On April 28th, one such event will take place in Durham, North Carolina. It is the “National Day of Truth-Telling” to speak out against sexual violence but also to address its root causes. It has been the hotbed of confusion, resentment and anger since the rape occurred at a Duke Lacrosse team party. An organized effort emerged to untangle the web and educate the community towards a place of healing and empowerment.
I fervently believe that we can create a critical mass of people who will bring a sense of urgency and justice to this issue that will ultimately transform our society. Further, I need to be able to look into that young girl’s eyes and assure her that a more humane world for women is coming.