Rape and race
I went to a lunchtime discussion on the Duke Lacross rape case. I knew the situation was messed up, but damn. If you don’t know what happened, do a Google search. There’s enough information out there, y’all don’t need to hear me recapping the whole event…
Some of the things that were said at the discussion that stuck out for me was how strikingly similar many African-American women are to Asian-American women in how victims of abuse deal with their victimization. Melissa Harris Perry commented on how among black women, there’s a strong sense of strength, in the idea of the strong black woman. The pressure women feel to uphold that image of strength often keeps them silent about their abuse. Moreover, if the perpetrator is a black man, the fact that the system women would use to seek justice is synonymous with warehousing people of color often keeps them silent about abuse as well. In the Asian-American community, the whole ‘model minority’ myth, the pervasive need to present an image of the ‘perfectly flawless nuclear family’, and the pressure to succeed as immigrants often keep Asian-American women silent about their abuse as well.
Lacewell also felt strongly that there were many systematic forces of oppression at work that created this situation–a group of affluent white athletes gang-raping a not-so-affluent black woman raises many questions about white privilege, class elitism, and male dominance. But she argued that this situation was solely a gender issue. The fact that these were athletes that committed these acts. She argued that the epitome of the social construct of masculinity exists in athletes–regardless of ones race. That this was solely an act of men exerting their power and ‘ownership’ over a woman’s body. Although she makes a strong argument, I can’t forget the racial and class dynamics between the Lacross team and the woman, and because of that, I have a hard time letting go of the other systems of oppression that were at work between the team and the woman. Granted, the fact that they were athletes probably made them feel much stronger in their positions as ‘men,’ but how can you deny that their affluent background and the fact that they were white and she was black made them feel stronger in their position of dominance? I feel like there’s no way to separate gender-based oppression from racism and classism. In any situation, whether ones being oppressed or is oppressing, all these of these systems are at work is some way or another.