Reflection: Rape, Racism, and the Myth of the Black Rapists by Angela Davis

“In the history of the United States, the fraudulent rape charge stands out as one of the most formidable artifices invented by racism” (Davis, 1983). This quote is interesting and is reminiscent of the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This book showcases the detrimental consequences of what happens when a white woman falsely accuses a Black man. Due to race, the women were given much more credibility and authority than the man was. The result was death and echos the all too real story that still goes on today as a result of slavery and Jim Crow laws. This is still being happened today, but it should be noted that fraudulent rape charges do not happen very often compared to rape. The false charges are often predominantly targeted black men due to retaliation from white women and have been weaponized in recent years.

History of Sexual violence

The history of this sexual violence starts back to slavery when sexual abuse was a common pattern within the institutionalized system. This sort of violence is used to control and manipulate entire populations, a form of mass terrorism. Sexual abuse against the black community, especially women, survived the abolition of slavery because of how much of an effective tool it was. The Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist groups used group rape as a way to overpower and control the female population. It drives a wedge into Black equality. It is further skewed by an ideology that black women are easy and that black men need slavery to control themselves from raping white women; essentially dehumanizing the entire race as a whole. Davis writes that racism has always served as a provocation to rape. The Vietnam War is one such historical example of this. The military viewed the population as inferior and was taught that raping the women was necessary military duty. The racism led to the dehumanizing sexism that followed. Racism does play a part in what is viewed in rape. Davis writes that anti-rape groups argued that men of color are more prone to commit sexual violence against women. The black rapist’s stereotype exists because of the white southern belief that it was a way for black men to try and reach for that social status or to act as revenge. This mentality is a sign of racism and further dehumanizes black men to be committed to sexual violence towards women.

Sexual Violence and False Rape Charges: Two sides of the same coin

The idea of sexual violence is prevalent when taking to account the treatment of rape and sexual assault of black women at the hands of authority such as the case of Joann Little and Delbert Tibbs. Both of these cases show how sexual violence and false rape charges are used as a tool to condemn black communities into suppression. Davis specifically mentions that both the myth of the black rapists and the myth of the bad black women are supposed to apologize and facilitate the exploitation of black men and women. The public clearly sympathized with Joann Little because she is a woman and she was only defending herself. There is no indication that this is about race until arriving at the Delbert Tibbs’ case. Few white women and few organized groups followed Little’s appeal for Tibbs over his case, because that means admitting that he was victimized by southern racism. The reason why it’s easier to sympathize with Little is that it takes attention away from the racism within the equation and emphasizes the sexual assault to Little’s gender.

Stereotyping in modern time

Due to the Black Rapist’s myth that exists within our society, the harmful stereotype that black men are harmful has caused harm. Davis’ article has stated that several anti-rape writers have used the racist ideology in their writing. Angela Davis continues to write that it was accepted that Black men have sexual urges and it was accepted that the entire race is invested in bestiality. If Black men were looking at white women like that, then Black women must want that kind of attention too. By doing this, it also strengthens the image that Black women are promiscuous, easy, “loose women” and whores. Because of this, Black women were not taken seriously when reporting sexual assaults. This stereotyping exists today. Black women are not taken seriously when reporting sexual assaults if any are reported at all. Consequently, Black men suffer from harsher punishments than their white counterparts and as a race is seen as “bad”. A prime example was showcased last year from actor Liam Neeson. Neeson shared a story about how a friend of his was raped and the only description the friend had was that the man was Black. Neeson heard enough and would stalk the streets with a club, hoping to be approached by a Black man and kill them. This is incredibly racist and shows how dangerous this mentality is. An innocent Black man could have been killed due to the actions of another man. One person’s mistake is not a reflection of entire groups of people, yet that is what happens in everyday life, especially for minorities. This mentality is harmful and people have died because of it. Stopping this mentality will not stop rape, but it will make it easier to fight against it.

References

Czajka, Kelley. “How Liam Neeson’s Comments Reflect the Black Rapist Myth.” Pacific Standard, 5 Feb. 2019, psmag.com/news/how-liam-neesons-comments-reflect-the-black-rapist-myth.

Davis, A. Y. (1983). Rape, Racism, and the Myth of the Black Racism. In Remember, RECLAIM.RE: In Memory of the Montreal Massacre (pp. 174–201).

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