(ThyBlackMan.com) Several months ago, a fierce debate erupted in the black community after Oscar nominee Will Smith slapped Oscar host Chris Rock live on stage and in front of a viewing audience of millions. As I write this article, the current Black incarceration rate in America sits at 1,096 per every 100,000 Black Americans, according to Bureau of Justice statistics. For Black men specifically, it’s double.
I don’t have a breakdown of reasons for the astounding Black male incarceration rate, but I imagine it revolves around many themes, not the least of which is “turf” or “respect”, which I believe is the central theme surrounding Smith’s treatment of Chris Rock.
Seen from this perspective and the cultural apropos surrounding the Oscars’ night debacle, the exposed fault lines clearly run across gender politics in our community.
Black men either
a) commensurate with Will Smith’s actions
b) oppose the notion that a woman’s honor is to be defended at whatever the cost.
The history of black male to female relationships has been shaped by a painful past filled with vestiges of slavery, which witnessed miscegenation, the rape of our women and the tearing asunder of black families. History books have been written about the ways in which black men resisted this and the price they paid for defending the honor of the family institution and their wives.
Fast forward to the sobering statistics listed at the beginning of this article. Throughout American history, black men have paid a heavy toll for defending our women, homes, and our well-being, which continues into today. This is not to suggest the preponderance of black men are incarcerated for defending their families, although some notions of “turf” are interwoven in so many cases.
The only thing which separates the historical underpinning from today is the fact that, in the matter of Chris Rock and Will Smith, we have two black men involved: one brother accosting another brother, both of whom are members of the black elite. Regardless of socio-economic status, though, defending black women is mimicked daily in inner cities and suburbs across the nation.
Will Smith’s slap was acted out on a high-profile stage but could just as easily be duplicated down the block.
To be sure, lots of brothers stood up for brother Will, but probably not as many as women. On my social media feeds, black women almost to a tee high-fived Will Smith for “protecting the honor” of his wife.
What does this mean? Are brothers to risk prison, social emasculation, and financial ruin in the name of standing up for our women?
More importantly, how may black men “defend” the honor of their women in a virulent, increasingly anti-black culture which has historically used black women as oppressive tools of division?
Through awareness, education, and advocacy.
First, becoming more aware of the multitude of challenges that black women face daily is the first step in honoring our women. This means we must put our ego down and assume an attitude of empathy and understanding. This is what real men do. Real men honor the place and struggle of our women. Our men did it throughout slavery. Our men must do it today.
Second, we honor our women by education. We pay attention to the vicious policies in corporate America, in boardrooms and classrooms that mitigate against the advancement of black women in all aspects of society. An example of educating ourselves is paying more attention to the alarming rates of suspension, expulsion and incarceration happening among our young black girls (a rate which is rivaling that of black boys). This is a direct result of having increased our awareness of such challenges. It automatically leads us to join our sisters in becoming knowledgeable to make a difference.
Finish story here; How Real Men Honor Black Womanhood.