Monday, March 10, 2008

The Soul on Ice Effect - Why the Lives of Black Women and Children don't Matter by Professor Tracey

Former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver published the world famous manifesto Soul On Ice in 1968, many consider this work a classic political text. I do not. While I acknowledge the power in Cleaver's words, the text is also infamous for Cleaver's admission of being a rapist. Cleaver attempts to justify his rapes of white women as a strike back at the white man and a way to recover his black manhood, as he states about his rapes ["an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man's law ... defiling his women."]

As frightening and problematic as that explanation is, Cleaver admits to "practicing on black girls in the ghetto" first. Cleaver never served a day in prison for his assaults on black women, in fact he would become a celebrated black leader during the Black Power movement, a voice of the people, black people. I have always been troubled by this glaring double standard image of Cleaver and the Black Power movement. Forty years later, black women as rape victims, murder victims are considered even less valuable than they were in 1968. We are expendable. And it is not just because white people have devalued the lives of black women, we have, the black community. We make excuses for black men who hurt and kill, for black men who hurt and kill their own people.

On my blog, I have covered the gang-rape at Dunbar Village in West Palm Beach, the slaying of an entire deputy sheriff's family by her own son in Atlanta, the murder of Nailah Franklin in Chicago, the senseless murders of black women and children on Hovey Street in Indianapolis and on Lester Street in Memphis. All these cases have received more detailed attention on black-owned blogs than on the mainstream media. Our so-called black leadership, the Al Sharptons, the Jesse Jacksons, the Tavis Smileys, the Cornell Wests, including black presidential candidate Barack Obama have been woefully silent and hopelessly inadequate at making any of these cases have any sense of importance in terms of getting a resolution or some sense of justice. The overall black community has been outraged and saddened at these cases, but not enough to last more than a few days, no lasting impression. Once the bodies get buried, our collective interest wanes. We just seem to wait for the next case.

All these cases represent one black woman gang-raped, her black son beaten and terrorized, six black women and six black children murdered. I do not discount the value of the 2 black men that were murdered as well, but a running total of 12 to 2 in less than a year is shocking. When one considers that the suspects in all these cases are black men, one must feel a deep sense of unsettling despair about these cases. Where is the collective black outrage? Black folks mobilized and marched with passion for the quite frankly, extremely unworthy Jena 6 group, but have been virtually dead silent about the black women and children that have been battered, raped, and murdered, then discarded like paper cups when the picnic is finished.

Recently, the two high profile murders of a Auburn University student, Lauren Burk and a UNC Chapel Hill student, Eve Carson received the lion's share of media attention as is the habit when young and privileged white women are murdered, I was reminded again of the scant attention that black women regardless of age, social or economic background that are missing or murdered ever receive. When confronted with the fact that the alleged murderers of these women are black men, I was reminded of Eldridge Cleaver. I wondered if these same black men that murdered white women so callously and senselessly, what were they doing in the black communities where they came from? How many of their own people had they victimized before they moved on to harming people that would attract the attention to mobilize the police to stop them? How much "practice" had they had in our community before they moved on to white communities?

White people will make no excuses in these cases. They will accept nothing less than the highest level of prosecution under the law. Not just because the murderer was black, they demand the same when the murderer is white, they will demand justice because one of their own has been senselessly murdered, for no good reason at all. Where are the Megan's Law and the Polly Klass' laws for black children? Jerry Lee Lewis career was destroyed when he married his 13 year old cousin, but black folks celebrate R. Kelly for his sexual relationships with underage girls. Why does this man still have a career? Do you actually think white people would have waited this long for such a clear case of pornography, underage sex and statutory rape to be prosecuted if R. Kelly was white or his victim was?

Black people should be outraged that black murderers are allowed to "practice" in our neighborhoods first, before they move on. Black people should be outraged that convicted murderer Jessie Dotson was released from prison, only to commit multiple murders of his own family members just two months after his release.

Yet, we won't be, we will make excuses. We will talk about what these black men didn't have and how they didn't get what they needed. We will blame white people, we will blame the prison system, the educational system, we will blame television, music, and movies, we will even blame the victims themselves, but we will most certainly refuse to hold the murderers 100% accountable. We will refuse to call for justice and demand that these predators be locked up and the key to their freedom forever destroyed. And that makes absolutely no sense at all.

It doesn't matter if black men feel trapped by their personal circumstances and the only people available to hurt and destroy are black women and children, you don't have the right to murder people. It doesn't matter how dire your life, no matter how much you are struggling, you have no right to murder people. It doesn't matter if you suffered racism or any kind of discrimination, you have no right to murder people. No matter how hungry you get, no matter how desperate you get, you have no right to take someone's life. That is what is supposed to separate us, human beings from wild animals.

We really need to stop wondering why black women and children that go missing or turn up murdered get scant attention in the white-owned mainstream media, we, us, black people have made it a standard practice in our own communities. The black community repeatedly fails to openly and honestly discuss and confront domestic violence, rape, incest, or sexual abuse in our own communities, but we expect white people to care about black victims of these types of crimes when we do not.

The black community continuously asks and expects black women to hold black families together in the most trying and difficult circumstances without the assistance of the majority of black men and then have the nerve to ask black women to be the most forgiving and understanding victims in the universe when the perpetrators are black men. We are always expected to blindly support black men no matter what they do to us, no matter how they fail us, and never ask any questions, but do black women receive the same kind of unconditional support and protection? I think not, the Soul On Ice Effect has become standard practice in the black community.

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