In the wake of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice finally being cut from the Baltimore Ravens and being suspended from both the NFL and CFL, the interwebs have been in quite the frenzy. Some people feel that it was not the NFL’s place to reprimand Rice for a personal issue made public while others believe it took entirely too long for them to come to this decision.
I am of the latter group specifically because this debacle between Rice and his wife has been one of the most drawn-out scandals we’ve seen in the league in recent years. The incident happened on February 15 of this year and we’ve been witnessing the downward spiral of it ever since.
From the 2-week suspension of Stephen A. Smith for convolutedly saying that women shouldn’t hit men or “provoke wrong action” to the laughable 2-game suspension of Rice prior to the elevator video release to the final nail in the coffin of his Ravens career when TMZ released the video of him knocking his then-fiancée unconscious, this entire ordeal has been a crap-show.
Most of my timeline has taken the time to show solidarity with Janay Rice, even if she is still in the relationship, but there are of course the apologists who believe we should stand with our fellow brother in the struggle and stand behind Ray Rice as he’s being vilified by the media. This stance of sticking with a black man, regardless of his guilt, is in no way a novel one.
Black feminist authors and activists have long noted the tendency of black people, when the debacle involves both a black man and woman, to side with the black male. It was true when Clarence Thomas was accused of sexually harassing Anita Hill. It was true when Mike Tyson was accused of rape. It was true both of the times R.Kelly was accused of preying on underage women. It was true when Chad Ochocinco head butted his then-wife, Evelyn Lozada. When will people stand behind black women and girls with the same fierce passion and empathy they have when they run to the aid of black men?
True to form, the great “I don’t believe a man should hit a woman, but…” chorus has pointed to Janay Rice being to blame for her abuse. Prior to the video being released, it was believed Janay hit him first and Rice used unreasonable force in defending himself which is still a sorry excuse for why you thought a 2-game suspension was adequate punishment.
If the video of him pathetically carrying her limp, unconscious body out of an elevator and lightly kicking her to wake her up was not enough to convince you he deserved to be cut then we really don’t need your support for our revolution either. If your first thought when you saw the original video was “she clearly must’ve done something to provoke him” or “I mean who really knows what happened in the elevator” then you too can exit stage left for the revolution. We don’t need your half-hearted support either.
Luckily, there have been black feminists of all genders who have stood in defense of Janay and victims of domestic abuse across the world. Though Janay apologized for her “role in the incident” and has stood by Ray throughout the debacle it doesn’t mean she deserves to be beaten and abused—mentally, physically or emotionally.
The Twitter hashtags #WhyiStayed and #WhyILeft were started as a safe space for people who have been the victims of abuse and violence from loved ones. Though the action seems trivial to many who don’t understand the pervasiveness and silencing nature of abuse giving these survivors a place to speak their truth—whether they have left the abusive relationship or are currently still involved with the perpetrator—is quite revolutionary.
It is impossible to gauge the impact reading the stories of these survivors could have for someone who is currently in an abusive relationship and is contemplating leaving or for someone who does not realize that the hell they are living in isn’t normal or healthy. In times like these when black women are organizing national protests for Mike Brown yet steadily having their humanity and their ability to be a victim questioned it is imperative that we defend and stand in solidarity with black women the same way we defend every other member of our race.