One tweet in support of Black men ignited a social media firestorm. Time to explore the conditions and mindsets that made anti-Black misandry acceptable.
Last Wednesday morning I made a statement on Twitter:
You can’t be pro-Black and hate straight Black men.— Torraine Walker (@TorraineWalker) September 16, 2020
It was not said to ignore or attack any other part of the Black collective. It was a straightforward response to the hostility I see thrown at straight Black men on social media. I thought nothing more of it until my phone began to buzz later that afternoon. By the end of the day, the tweet had gone viral. A week later, and that ten-word tweet has been seen by nearly a million people, liberating some, enraging others, exposed the true feelings of many Black gatekeepers, and sparked a conversation about the status of Black men in social justice and political spaces.
That conversation is long overdue, because the attitudes towards Black men in those spaces is poisonous.
Spend any time on Black twitter-especially the section known as “woke” twitter-and you will see a pattern emerge. At least twice a week, someone will post something slanderous about straight Black men that will go viral within hours. It is not harmless banter between men and women, but false statements about our collective guilt and wishes for straight Black men to die, usually by police violence. When challenged, the people doing this default to talking points stitched together from bits and pieces of the work of bell hooks and Kimberlé Crenshaw and half-remembered gender studies lectures or some canned slander about straight Black men as a group being the weak or homophobic when the truth doesn’t match the rhetoric.
It’s easy to create a narrative on social media, all you need are the right buzzwords and you’re in business. The dominant narrative when it comes to straight Black men is that they’re all useless at best and privileged, potential predators at worst.
But the data doesn’t bear this out:
Black men and boys are at the bottom of every American socioeconomic metric. A Black man is twice as likely to be stopped by police than a black woman, and Black men have a 1 in 3 chance of being in prison at some point in their lives, compared to a 1 in 18 chance for Black women.
The numbers from the National Institute of Health’s Intimate Partner Violence study paint a mutually unpleasant picture with 45% of Black women and 40% of Black men surveyed reporting sexual violence physical abuse or stalking by an intimate partner.
None of this is meant to disregard the pain of those who suffered trauma by individual Black men, but these are the actions of individuals, not a collective. To claim otherwise plays into the hands of the white supremacists these “pro-Black” people claim to be fighting.
One of the most disturbing reactions to the tweet was seeing people who have jobs in news, academia and politics agreeing with people who said they hate Black men. What are they teaching the students they’ve been educating? How are news stories about issues affecting Black people being shaped? What does it say that these people feel secure enough to spout hateful, dangerous rhetoric with no fear of professional consequences?
When it comes to Black males, social media is proof of Malcolm X’s quote about how the media will have you hating the oppressed and loving the oppressor. The rapid-fire nature of information delivery in that space means that it doesn’t matter if something is true as long people want to believe it.
There are predatory and toxic men in the Black community. There are toxic women and LGBTQ individuals in the Black community. But the collective can’t be demonized for the actions of individuals. Predators need to be held accountable and it is tragic that damaged people are further victimized by opportunists ready to exploit their pain. But an even greater tragedy would be to allow the lies about straight Black men to go unchallenged and become the baseline for young Black men looking for information about themselves.