Black males are natural born rapists. African men will murder you just like that. It is part of African culture to abuse children and women. We have to protect women and kids from these violent beasts. They need to be locked for life. Nothing less than the death penalty will do for these people. They don’t belong in society. We must hang them and castrate them.
These are not sentiments from slave-times and colonialism. The narrative of swart gevaar, which is really about swart man gevaar or black male peril, was never entirely dead of course.
But is the narrative of black male peril getting new legs?
The new single story about black males as the problem is less crass, smoother. It might be coated in subtle and sophisticated language. Very few people will come out like the University of Pretoria philosophy lecturer who said raping is a black cultural phenomenon.
But now after the ecstasy of a new democracy, with a clear view of the pain some black men cause others, there is a re-emerging view that essentially criminalises all black males that should have men and women of clear mind and principle worried.
In fact you will find this subtly criminalising discourse in peculiar spaces and documents. The black democratic government sometimes buys into this story and unwittingly reproduces this stealthily demonising discourse even while the president of the country and the ruling African National Congress complains about how he is represented in the media.
This is not, however, about Jacob Zuma and his individual indiscretions and whether or not he deserves to be harshly criticised. But it does speak to a Zuma, a Mandela, a politician; or a tsotsi, rapist, killer, BEE businessman, footballer, kwaito star or any other individual black male when employed in media stories, research, or policies to represent all black males.
But is it not true that black males are sexually promiscuous, rape, murder, and abuse? What is the problem?
Of course most of it is stereotyping, racialistic rubbish. White men and Chinese men and Indian men and Arab men do sleep around, rape, kill and abuse. But we rarely ever hear that white, Chinese, Indian or Arab men are naturally sexually promiscuous, rapists, murders, or abusers.
African men are no different from men on other continents, of other nationalities, cultures, ethnicities, and races.
Black men come in all forms. Some are violent. Most are ordinary. Others do steal, abuse others, or rape. But other black men work to bring rapists to justice, prosecute them, or seek to change them.
At the risk of being accused of binarisms that contribute to this very Manichean world of good men and black men, let me say there are noble black men and bastards, because sometimes we are forced to talk the language of evil and good to be heard.
So, of course, you will find many a good black man and you will find a black man whose chief purpose in life is to be the most evil person ever known. You must have read of an African male billionaire or two, and you must know of dirt poor black males who beg to see each day out. Presidents for life and activists who die for the cause of freedom of their people. Romantics who go to ridiculous extents to please their lovers and love traditionalists who think women are only good for bearing children and keeping house. Radicals and bigots. They come with every conceivable personality, talent, character, attitude, disposition, view, temperament and aspiration you can think of in the world, black men.
As African men and women we have always known this. We live in these bodies and see the world from inside our skins. We have fathers and male siblings. We have carried boy-children in our uteruses. We have loved and married and lost and been pained by black men. So why don’t others ask us, why is there this view that black males come in one model.
Because there is another barely concealed problem underneath this representation of black males as of only one type that I have been trying to bring to the attention to whoever will care to see and listen.
It is easy to miss this underlying issue especially if you get maddened because you are a mother or sister of a black male or a black male yourself. The problem is that black males in South Africa get killed more than any other group. Many black boys get abused and raped. But long before the get hurt or murdered young black males are neglected and left to raise themselves. They are supposed to be invulnerable. They don’t need as much tenderness as girls and boys of other races.
Is it not so?
Why then is there no government policy, and relatively little research and activism that boldly states that black males need to be protected just as females need protection? Because they have been positioned as only perpetrators. they can’t be victims, even if they are most at risk from homicidal violence. We can’t allow ourselves to admit that they too get abused and raped, because then who get to be the enemy.
The problem of black males as invulnerable arises from the fact that black males as a group are denied what every other human beings has. Human feelings and vulnerabilities, that’s what they are supposed not to have. These makes them either animals or machines. If you do not have all the human feelings and vulnerabilities others have, you can’t feel pain, certainly not emotional pain. It’s not just your own pain that you can’t feel, but of others too, that why you rape and kill.
That’s why black men don’t care. At least they shouldn’t. They can’t empathise with others. At least not like women and men of other cultures. They can’t love. Not in the same way that we do. It’s not only African men. It affects all men of African descent, this idea about unfeeling black men. For instance, some of this is touched on in this blog post from Very Smart Brothas. ‘Black men aren’t supposed to feel any physical, mental, or emotional pain’, the posts boldly states.
If we can’t feel, we can’t be hurt, but we also can’t love.
We have to keep rejecting these lies about us by speaking our pains with each other while celebrating our achievements. And we have come a long way, we get stronger everyday. We must never be shy to show our joys, pride, share our empathies, and demonstrate love. But never should we be afraid to speak of our fears too.
Let us ask black men and women in the media to start doing stories that show black boys and men as complex human beings with the full range of emotions. Let us conduct studies about other issues that affect black males, not only violence. Let us demand that policymakers recognise our full humanity because for every male rapist it is not too difficult to have another story showing that men are victims of sexual violence too, but also that there are other men who are caring partners, brothers, fathers, and activists. For every murder we can be shown men who are affected by the loss.
Can we show and see that black feel pain, please.