I was reminded of Bakari Kitwana’s 2016 article, “The 16 Black Panthers Still Behind Bars,” today and had a stray thought that bears reflection. We’re used to thinking about racism and those that lost their lives fighting it, but we don’t really think about what that means in terms of gender for fear of being branded sexists by intersectionalist BFNs (Black Feminist Nationalists). So we only discuss “gender” when engaging women or LGBTs. However, “cis-gendered hetero Black males” have a gender, despite not being described as such–even by Black gender theorists.
In his piece, Kitwana points out that fourteen out of sixteen incarcerated Black Panther activists on this list are Black men, as well as the majority of those that have already died in prison. Look, I’m not suggesting that no other demographic “has it hard” (whatever that means). (Despite that it has become commonplace to play the identity calculus game to win points for attention from both white society and the Black intelligentsia (as well as be ranked the most oppressed group), I’m pointing this out for the sake of accuracy and clarity. And I am pointedly speaking to Black men.) I’m simply saying that the preemptive neutralization of politicized Black men has been in effect for centuries. Politicized Black men have been targeted to extreme levels since being forcibly brought to the Western hemisphere to such a degree that even the possibility of becoming active has lead to their deaths. Doubt me? Look up how many activists have been killed in the last five years in the Black community and tell me what gender they are… Yet most won’t because merely saying exposes one to a frenzy of accusations of sexism.
Yet to discuss Black oppression while omitting the open acknowledgement of Black men, to me, IS sexist.
You want to know what America’s most consistent form of pornography is? It’s seeing intelligent, unbowed Black men taken from this:
This is what has homoerotically stimulated America more than anything, and seeing the deaths on video via smartphone has reinvigorated the violence porn craze to an all-new height.
Yet even when speaking globally, Black men are discounted, even while being reported on. In an article by the BBC News entitled, “African migrants sold in Libya ‘slave markets’, IOM” says,”Migrants with skills like painting or tiling would fetch higher prices, the head of the IOM (International Organization for Migration) in Libya told the BBC.” Here, Black African men are downplayed, while the direct acknowledgement that women are sold into the sex slave industry is mentioned. Despite there being a subtle admittance that the majority of those enslaved and sold are men when they state that slavers seek men with key manual labor skills, the idea that only women are forced into the sex-slave industry is patently false. Since chattel slavery, Black men’s enslavement has required the sexualization of their bodies for key types of labor, forced sex by homosexual slavers (even in childhood), forced sex by slaver women, and the brutalization of Black male bodies and their genitalia. Such is PART of the sex-slave industry, not separate from it.
African men being sold into slavery in Libya. (BBC News)
Still, the targeting and neutralization of Black males goes unregarded, and the emphasis on everyone else becomes paramount. How others feel about slavery (today or historically) take precedent over who actually experience(d) it…and of course the spectacle of an orange-haired 45th president and a new superhero movie take our attention away from what’s been happening to our sons, husbands, boyfriends, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, grandsons, and brothers at every significant age level. As I’ve shown in my essay, “Straight Black Men are the Scapegoats of Black People,” from in-utero to senior citizens, Black male life is quantifiably lost in greater numbers, and that doesn’t even begin to talk about how everything from vaccines to lack of employment (and health care) contribute to the diminishing quality of Black male life. It has become a greater priority to show women kicking men through walls in popular entertainment than it is to show Black men speaking truth to power in ways that translate to our lived reality.
Even when the state develops new rationales for targeting Black people, we ignore the gender ramifications. The first person arrested under the new classification Black Identity Extremist, Rakem Balogun (also known as Christopher Daniels), was a Black man. The implications of this go back to the famed COINTELPRO program, but few recognize that both have been and will be used to target Black men.
What’s my point? It’s simple. If we’re going to parse out the Black community and the experiences of each demographic that lends itself to what trends designate it as deserving of attention and social empathy this week, then I will continue to point out (regardless of intellectual trends) what is happening to Black males because the data bears out that they are, indeed, suffering to unparalleled degrees…and they often don’t even know it. Raised to prioritize everyone else, Black men are the ones to routinely overlook statistics that contextualize their unique experiences to tell me why we should focus on others….others who actively hate them in fact.