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Evidenced-Based Alliances: When Black Men Can't Use Their Words

For those of you who don't know a Black woman who is a prominent blogger and university professor was attacked last week at a panel hosted at the Brecht Forum. In addition to being doused with water by her Black male attacker, she was lunged at and eventually the water-throwing knee grow was removed from the room. She indicated that this has happened to her on several occasions - the Black male physical aggression when challenged on a panel. You need to go read Brittney Cooper's account over at The Crunk Feminist Collective. I can't truly capture the insanity. 

There are also reports that this Black male "freedom fighter", a former employee of the Brecht Forum,  has a history of violent uncontrollable explosions that he manages only to direct at Black women. 

Kazembe Balagun left the Brecht Forum this past summer… before we moved to Brooklyn. So he is no longer an employee of the Brecht Forum. Several times in the past he has “moved” on Sisters or “went off” or stormed out of meetings. The Brecht Forum Board had strongly suggested that he seek help for his periodic individualistic and ofttimes chauvinistic meltdowns. We as a board of trustees were liberal with our tolerance of his behavior… even after we have talked with him to seek some counseling because it appeared that he was working on his “snapping out/rage” issues.

Other Black women thought leaders who come out from behind the keyboard and speak at events indicated that they have also experienced physical assaults ( that's what they are) when they've been on panels with manChildren as well.

I had a similar experience in 2008 at Georgetown University at the NABJ Watergate conference when the Black male moderator that I scattered smothered covered diced and chuncked onstage flew into a yelling screaming rage and physically menaced me as I was speaking with another panelist afterwards. It's not a good feeling to go to an event thinking you are going to be using your brain and be confronted with having to use your fists.

I learned about Brittney's experience on Twitter. The only thing I saw was the title On Black Men Showing Up for Black Women at the Scene of the Crime. I immediately rolled my eyes "Here we go again!"

Her post concluded with the following thought:

On the long train ride home, and in these days since, I have been reminded that this is not the first time that I have been subject to a man in a movement space using his size and masculinity as a threat, as a way to silence my dissent. I remembered that then as now, the brothers in the room let it happen without a word on my behalf. Why? Is it so incredibly difficult to show up for me – for us—when we need you? Is it so hard to believe that we need you? Is solidarity only for Black men? As for the silence of the sisters in the room, I still don’t know what to make of that. Maybe they were waiting on the brothers, just like me. I do know I am tired. And sad. And not sure how much more I want to struggle with Black men for something so basic as counting on you to show up. Crunk Feminist Collective

By the time I was through reading her account, I was angry, not with He Who Throws Water When Angry, but with Brittney. 

After writing about Black women being raped, tortured and killed for almost seven years, I'm a cynic. I don't expect Black men to show up. I expect nothing out of them at all. The idea of Black Unity sits right up there with the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost, and Big Foot. After experiencing my own episode of He Who Cannot Hold His Temper When Challenged, I charged it to the game and focussed on everything I did wrong ( I shouldn't have excepted the invitation, when I found out he was involved I should have declined, I should not have gone to the event alone, I should have brought backup with me-) The truth is I did nothing wrong - he's a grown Black man, he's in charge of his own emotions. And the NABJ Owes me an apology. 

The fact that Brittney responded with tears instead of stoicism annoyed me. 

- Didn't she know that's what" they" do?

- Why on earth would she expect them to show up- they don't!

- of course the audience just sat there- that's what they DO!

I was angry with Brittney for having hope. How dare she be hopeful! How dare she expect fidelity, comraderie and a defense from Black men! How dare she accept an invitation to go speak in a public space and not expect to be physically assaulted.  These things wouldn't keep happening to her if she abandoned all hope!

As someone pointed out on Facebook, that's absolutely absurd. 

Despite the fact that I have no hope that Black men will show up, they keep showing up. These men are my allies- the ones that show up. My alliances with all people- are not based on hope. They are based on evidence. Evidence of a shared interest. Evidence of a shared vision. Evidence of good faith - none of which can be determined by looking at someone or listening to the professions of "solidarity."

What is clear is that Black women thought leaders cannot retreat from public spaces. We must maintain their right to fully participate in public discourse even if we have to organize groups of professional Black women to attend these publc discussions armed with a cell phone in one hand ready to dial 9-1-1 and a a sock full of quarters in the other hand ready to roll up on a brother  to assist him in managing his anger.

 We have to purge these temperamental manCHILDREN from the mainstream and public spaces. If they can't control their emotions when a Black woman disagrees with them in public, then the must be banished from public spaces. Let his petulant behind go throw a tantrum on the street corner. 

This isn't a case of  uppity negresses who didn't show teh' precious the respect that was due them. This is part of a national problem of Black men who run out of words and move quickly towards uncontrollable rage.  But they don't unleash this uncontrollable rage on everybody- just Black women. And before you start yelling "But But But But White men do it too!" Yes, they do, but Black men do it at FAR. HIGHER. RATES!

The overwhelming majority of homicides of black females by male offenders in single victim/single offender incidents in 2011 was not related to any other felony crime. Most often, black females were killed by males in the course of an argument—most commonly with a firearm. In 2011, for the 383 homicides in which the circumstances between the black female victim and male offender could be identified, 87 percent (332 out of 383) were not related to the commission of any other felony.

Nearly two-thirds of non-felony related homicides (200 out of 332) involved arguments between the black female victim and male offender.  When Men Murder Women

Why? I don't know, but part of it has to be the Black community's acceptance and permissiveness of Black men wilding out  on Black women whenever they feel their apparently fragile manhood has been pricked. The idea that Black women can't be victims. That you can do to us whatever you want to - and clearly that's reinforced by a community that makes excuses for their bad behavior. 

Even in the aftermath of this event, the conversation and concern has shifted off of the woman and towards the attacker. And it doesn't matter that the  attacker didn't actually hit her or that mine didn't manage to get his hands around my throat - tell that to your body that's awash in adrenaline and God knows what other chemical the brain released as it prepared to fight or flee. It is not easy being a bold Black woman. And by bold, I don't mean loud. I mean willing to say things that challenge the current power structure within the Black community. Lot's of people have a list of tasks that Brittney needs to complete to make THEM feel better right now - Call the police, buy a tazer, engage in "transformative" justice, stay strong, keep speaking out lots of suggestions are rolling in from people who probably have no idea of what it's like to fear for the physical integrity of your body even for a second. After reading her post several times, what sticks out to me is that Brittany says she is tired. You don't owe the world anything- not even an explanation. Take care of yourself and rest.

And to the Brecht Forum - your actions on that evening are absolutely ratchet. You employed this man for years as he attacked Black women in YOUR SPACE. You invited him back where he showed his @$$ again, because he KNEW you would let him. Then instead of calling the police to cart off  He Who Throws Water When Words Are Not Enough- you brought him BACK into the room with his victim.   You suck in so many ways.

Reader Comments (8)

I'm not familiar with the Brecht forum or what it's mission is alleged to be, but the fact is that they continued to engage with someone who they knew was a danger to women tells me all I need to know about them.

As for engaging with black men in ally-ship or whatever the buzzword of the day is, I find this problematic for one simple reason: I've never seen it happen. Ever. Next September I'll be 50 years old, and I've never seen or heard of a black woman being able to engage with a heterosexual black male about black women's empowerment without it devolving either into a shouting match or derailment. EVER. I can't speak for anyone else, but that's been my experience. I get what you're saying about black women and girls not being to disengage from black men and I even agree, but I would suggest, if for no other reason but our own sanity (and safety) that we either give up on the notion of "ally-ship" or ensure that we come in "locked and loaded" and no, I'm not even joking.

October 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoslyn Holcomb

I remember how I was harassed by a black man. The police, you know the ones that out to get the sacred cow of the community, saved me because me because when negro seen the cops he was like I ain't going over there.
I live in a affluent neighborhood. So negros do travel. She need to count her losses because BLACK MEN NEVER HAVE NO INTENTIONS OF PROTECTING BLACK WOMEN. I know for some women that is hard pill to swallow. I lot of times people around them both make and females protect them. The ones who have my back on a consistent basis without flip flopping, then I will have theirs. I know this black male started to spread lies about me and when I approached him, he did everything but lauch an all out attack on me. The fact that he was allowed back in the forum given his behavior, then shame on them. I hope that she gets the justice she deserve and he gets the punishment he deserves.

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShaylah

First: Cosign this whole comment ^^^

Another aspect to this ally crap. I work in social services and I noticed that when the aggressor is black or brown (I have only ever been threatened physically in the workplace by men or color or black men) I was always told I was strong and it didn't bother me or that I was somehow involved in the heightening of the issue or that they would follow up on the issue (which never happened, ever) yet when on of those precious white girls was even spoken to disrespectfully those men where out the door before they could raise so much as an eyebrow. This is just another way for us to know our worth(lessness).

October 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeks

I have thought about this incident and write up over the past few days. I am still curious as to why we (Black feminists/womanists) were swift to indict him with the crime w/o hearing his side OR seeing footage of what happened. Then it hit me like a brick- everyone talks about solidarity work, no one sees it from hetero black males. I thought, by what Balagun claims to represent (he is a stanch political activist and writer) that he was a revolutionary to that notion. I was wrong. However, what still irks me is this process of dehumanization done to his character- I'm guessing in a sense to rectify why people were hurt not by his physical action against dr. cooper, but instead his absent solidarity.

Comments incorrectly attacking him for having a white wife (he has a beautiful black wife, and toddler), being a big boisterous man that intimidates with his size ( he is a big man yes, but Dr. Cooper's description of him was meant to set up a stereotypical image of a black male, one to do with white female fetishization of his body, one to allure that is he is capable of rape) - to me reeks of writing for views.

Again, Dr. Cooper should not have been exposed to such behavior- it was despicable. However, her essay did not call for public apology and explanation from him- nor did she advise us on how to deal with male explosion in activist circles- He was a physical patriarch in that moment, he did not want to be challenged.

Furthermore, I want to tease out this trauma intellectual verbage going on. As a follower of your blog- the accounts you make of misogyny in our community are traumatic, and thus should be expelled as a political tool to start work in organizing around said abuse, im quite curious to know your thoughts on these black academic intellectuals using the same mask for these trifes. to further clarify what I am getting at I thin Prof. Nopper explained it well - http://www.twitlonger.com/show/jsvl3h

October 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Quick point of clarification: everyone in the audience didn't just sit there. Folks definitely didn't react nearly as soon as they should've, but three men (two black males and the ED of the Brecht) got in between Kazembe and Brittney shortly after he had gotten up (though admittedly not soon enough), and proceeded to walk him out of the venue. This is not to negate the points you made, but its important to note because it doesn't paint an accurate picture to say that everyone in the audience just sat there and watched the whole time.

November 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRebs

Wow. I am so sorry that that happened, and I'm guessing the reason why this forum allowed him back is because he only attacked black women, had his anger been directed toward white women, he would have been fired and we would have heard about him on the news.

Sometimes it is hard to figure out if folks are quoting people, or if they are expressing their own thoughts, because I am trying to make sense of Diane's post. There are two comments that I find disturbing because it seems like she feels that he (the attacker) was wronged, she wrote the following: **I am still curious as to why we (Black feminists/womanists) were swift to indict him with the crime w/o hearing his side OR seeing footage of what happened.** and my personal favorite (sarcasm) **Dr. Cooper's description of him was meant to set up a stereotypical image of a black male, one to do with white female fetishization of his body, one to allure that is he is capable of rape**

Seriously? What side? I wish we were as open minded to hearing about 'the other side' when the victims are black men. If she truly meant what she wrote and was not simply quoting someone else, then I'd like to know if she would like to hear George Zimmerman's side, or the side of the white cop who shot the black student who survived the car crash and was shot because the homeowner taught he was a robber. I could give countless other examples, but I'm sure you get my point. What she should do is give the victim the benefit of the doubt that she would not have lied or exaggerated a story that had, wait for it...... A ROOF FULL OF WITNESSES!!

November 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSayWhat

It was certainly interesting for me to read that article. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more on that blog soon.

November 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterblack women finances

So interesting the deep deep divisions created by this caste system. This one between men and women was carefully engineered in monotheism and continues to propagate to this day. Not sure what other origins it may have in culture. And, cultural institutions reinforce it today like church and media. If it is this way between genders within one of their created castes, no wonder it works a similar way between the castes created based on race or ethnicity. In any case, it is working for the promoters of the caste system. The people can't speak to each other. That is the way they want it. We should be examining our use of language and how we place blame for these conditions. They do fund after all the post-modern academic scholarship that raises these issues the way we are taught to raise them.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPlanck

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