Yesterday, prosecutors decided that they won’t press charges against Greg Kelly, son of police commissioner Ray Kelly. He was accused of raping a woman—I wrote about it here. I sounded pretty sure I believed he was guilty. As far as the courts are concerned, there wasn’t enough evidence to indict him. Am I sorry? No.
And I’m not sorry about calling Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was found not guilty of rape in a court of law, a rapist. And the next time someone comes forward saying he or she was raped by another someone, whether that person is a powerful government official or a friend, I will always, ALWAYS believe the accuser. I will always support him or her even before I know all of the “facts” of the situation, or, more likely, have heard the two sides, and probably after. Why? Because we live in a culture so permissive to rapists and so punishing to rape survivors that to do anything else would be monstrous.The Post published a picture of Kelly’s accuser yesterday, identifying her by name. They did the same to the woman who accused two cops of raping her. They called Nafi Diallo, or, as you may know her “the maid,” of being a liar, a sex worker, a gold digger, a drug dealer. They have, in the words of Intel’s Joe Coscarelli, engaged in “a bullying tactic that could prevent women from reporting sexual abuse crimes.” This is not the exception. This is the norm.
Greg Kelly, by the way, was deemed unchargable not because he didn’t rape his accuser, but because it would be impossible to prove that she was, as she claimed, too intoxicated to consent. This is what rape culture is. And what it means to the women who live in it is that they live with the very real possibility—a one in five chance—that they too will face the same impossible choice: stay quiet, live with what happened, watch your rapist walk around free, or accuse him or her, and have your entire life dragged through the mud. Have every single choice you’ve ever made examined publicly to see if maybe it’s your “fault” that this happened. Be put on trial—publicly—in a way your rapist will never, ever will be.
Let me tell you about two of my friends who had terrible things happen to them. The first is a man. He was falsely accused of rape by a woman he was friends with. He had never slept with her. She later recanted and told everyone the truth of what (hadn’t) happened. He is still living with the consequences of that action today: it made it very hard for him to trust women, to be sexually open. It really fucked him up. He did nothing wrong.
The second friend is a woman. In college, she was raped by a man she was on a date with. The man’s older brother was very important in the ROTC of that college. On this campus, the ROTC was very powerful, and had a strong reputation for honor and excellence. When she came forward about what happened to her, she was called a liar and a slut. The ROTC members embarked on a campaign of harassment that forced her to drop out of college. Nothing happened to the man. The administration of the college refused to get involved. She also did nothing wrong.
I am truly, deeply sad for both of these friends. I really do understand the harm a false rape accusation can do to a person. It can ruin someone’s life. But it still does not compare to the damage that rape can do. And unfortunately, rape is more common by a factor of hundreds. If you think you don’t know someone who was raped, you are probably wrong. Many rape victims are never able to come forward about what happened to them.
When the Post goes out of its way to punish women who speak up about rape, women everywhere hear and understand the message: stay in line. Be quiet. It’ll be easier for you if you just lie back and take it. Here is another story that I happened to come across yesterday, just in the normal course of reading the internet.I was, as a teenager, locked in a room with my rapist by school administrators and told, “Don’t come out until you’ve worked out your differences.” He spent the entire time threatening to kill me, my family, and my dogs, if I ever reported anything he ever did to me again. When the head counselor eventually came back to that room, I was asked if we’d managed to work things out, and I confirmed that we had.
Because I would have said anything to get the fuck out of that room.
He raped me again and again over the next three years.
Again, this is not the exception. It is the rule. If you go looking, you can find hundreds, thousands of variations on this story. I understand why people don’t want to accept this truth: it’s horrible. Nobody wants to think it is their mom, their sister, their friend who things like this happen to. Better and easier to think that she’s lying or that she somehow deserved what she got. For women, it’s a way of warding off evil. Maybe if I can figure out what she did “wrong” I can avoid her fate. Did she dress slutty? Get drunk? Go home with a stranger? Wear headphones? It is tempting to think that if you are a good girl and do everything “right,” you’ll be safe. The truth is that in this culture, nobody is safe.
Even so, we look for reasons to excuse the rapist, to mitigate the horror. Even in the most cut-and-dried “honest rape” cases, and even in the New York Times, the blame is shifted.
Roxane Gay, in her amazing essay The Careless Language of Sexual Violence, examines the case of an eleven-year-old girl gang raped by 18 men:The Times article was entitled, “Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town,” as if the victim in question was the town itself. James McKinley Jr., the article’s author, focused on how the men’s lives would be changed forever, how the town was being ripped apart, how those poor boys might never be able to return to school. There was discussion of how the eleven-year-old girl, the child, dressed like a twenty-year-old, implying that there is a realm of possibility where a woman can “ask for it” and that it’s somehow understandable that eighteen men would rape a child. There were even questions about the whereabouts of the mother, given, as we all know, that a mother must be with her child at all times or whatever ill may befall the child is clearly the mother’s fault. Strangely, there were no questions about the whereabouts of the father while this rape was taking place.
The overall tone of the article was what a shame it all was, how so many lives were affected by this one terrible event. Little addressed the girl, the child. It was an eleven-year-old girl whose body was ripped apart, not a town. It was an eleven-year-old girl whose life was ripped apart, not the lives of the men who raped her. It is difficult for me to make sense of how anyone could lose sight of that and yet it isn’t.
These little things, these seemingly unimportant things like tone and word choice, like hate rags publishing pictures of rape victims, like all of the tiny ways that we, every day, as culture, signal to potential rapists to go ahead, it’s not so bad, she probably wants it anyway, wink wink. That is rape culture. There’s no neutral ground. You are either fighting hard against it—speaking up to defend rape victims, not laughing at rape jokes, refusing to accept the excuses people make for rapists—or you are part of it. Silence abets rapists. And THAT is why I will always take the side of the person making a rape accusation, and why you should too. When the playing field is level, I will wait to be vocal. I’ll listen to both sides, or just stay out of it altogether. But in a world where trying to bring your rapist to justice puts you in line for something that might be more difficult to endure than the rape itself, victims need all the support they can get.
Tonight [December 15] was the march and vigil for Private Danny Chen, who was killed in the army on October 3, 2011. We don’t know how he died. The army is withholding all evidence, which it owes to the family, that could answer this question. What we do know is that he did not die in combat. We know he was constantly harassed and discriminated against by his fellow soldiers for being Chinese. We know some really twisted, violent hazing was committed against him by his superiors, right before he was found dead. We decided to hold a march and vigil because the army is currently carrying out an investigation, and we have to show them that the public is watching and that they cannot get away with another cover-up.
Just yesterday, board members of OCA-NY along with Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Council Member Margaret Chin went to the Pentagon to meet with high-ranking army officials, where they made demands that may fundamentally transform the way that hazing and bias crimes are dealt with in the military. We need them to know that the public and the media are watching, and that if they do not meet our demands, we will redirect our campaign to focus on our young men and women who are thinking of enlisting. These young people need to know before they enlist, the Army will not protect them from harm by fellow soldiers.
Before the vigil, we reached out to many organizations to support, and 36 signed onto our cause. We also reached out to Occupy Wall Street because justice and government transparency are in its mission, and we thought we could use the numbers and networks in OWS to bring out more support for our vigil, and we also wanted to show our solidarity with OWS.
So imagine my surprise when protesters from OWS showed up with OWS signs, not to stand with others lining up for the march to Columbus Park in support, but to stand in front of everyone, trying to direct them. These people, who had not, until that very moment, put in one bit of effort into organizing this action, who had no idea what the plan was, who had no idea who we were or who the family was, decided that they were going to make this an OWS event.
Conflict erupted when one of the OWS-affiliated protesters came with a giant Communist Party of China flag. This white man decided that he was entitled to represent us, at this protest for an American soldier, with a flag that has been used by this country to vilify the Chinese American community. When people began asking him not to demonstrate that flag because it was not the purpose of the event and we were in no way representing China or political parties, he began screaming at us about how we were ANTI-COMMUNIST and trying to take away his first amendment rights. We told him that Danny Chen was an American soldier and we wanted to respect the family and their wishes, but he continued screaming violent accusations at us at the top of his lungs and disrupting the event, until one of Danny Chen’s family members, on the verge of tears, finally convinced him to leave.
Then I overheard another OWS protester, who had earlier been trying to direct the protesters, give a video interview, and heard him saying, ever so solemnly, “They don’t want me here.” My question is: who are we and who are you? How do you expect to be welcomed as one of “us” when you have, from the beginning, made every effort to set yourself apart? Why do you think that you as an individual should be primary in this march for Private Danny Chen and his family? Why are you here giving video interviews?
Another white OWS protester began trying to use the human mic to direct the protest, and told me that I shouldn’t be using the blowhorn because the cops were going to take it away. I told her that, no, we had a parade permit and sound permit, which was why the police were there clearing the streets for our march. She looked confused and stopped yelling.
OWS protesters often make it seem like they are the birth of social justice activism, that they are here to teach us how to protest because none of us know what the fuck we are doing and need their wealth of experience to help us out. I was not at all surprised when that woman so naturally assumed that she, as a white woman, knew better than me – she thought that I had found a blowhorn somewhere and decided to play around with it. It didn’t occur to her that we had been planning this for weeks and thinking critically about every step, that it was led by a civil rights organization that has been at work for decades, that we had applied for 4 different kinds of permits so that our event could safely and effectively achieve its purpose.
The actions of these OWS protesters showed that they were at the march and vigil, not to show their support for Danny Chen’s family or the ongoing work on their case, but to provoke and garner attention for themselves and their brand, and then try to turn our strategic work and planning into a nonsensical, self-righteous tantrum. They acted like tourists on vacation in the social justice world, and our efforts and long-term goals were expendable in light of their self-interested pursuit of an interesting experience.
I’m observing a couple of arguments about white people and financial aid. I thought I’d add my two-cents about white privilege denial discourse. If you agree, please share. Add to it. This is not the simplest thing to address. We know it when we see it, but can’t always figure out how to betray the way it works.
Basically, it’s about context. White context, actually. I’m going to try to illustrate how white privilege deniers construct context in everyday discourse about privilege that is entirely white while denying its whiteness.
“It’s not fair that people of color get handouts when we have to pay so much. Where’s our handouts?” This is one of the most common denials of privilege. The old, we don’t get handouts, why do you line. It’s not only a denial of history and class and consciousness. It denies context. But it’s hard to point out because white privilege deniers always begin or introduce their claim in a way that universalizes their problem and levels discourse. In other words, the argument begins with a quick nod towards (in)equality. They will speak on behalf of all whites, sometimes all people, We don’t (all) get handouts or We don’t (all) get as much financial aid. The “We” is important not because of what it means, but because it will immediately disappear and be replaced with an “I”. However, the second-person plural “you” used to address people of color will remain. White is a dynamic social category in contrast with static categories for people of color. When a white privilege denier speaks, the “you” for the other is a representation of all similar others; it’s for all non-white others.
It’s about context with white power. White privilege deniers will insist when we (every human being) talk about others (people of color), we resist individual narratives and rely on general representations. White people will insist it’s common sense to do it that way. On the other hand, generalizing about white people is always considered unfair and typical. It makes sense (to white people) to insist we consider context when speaking about whites. It’s a way to admit white power is a problem without admitting their stake in it. White privilege deniers don’t want people to think they are bigots (because they are bigots.)
This is why a white person will say, “Why don’t I get handouts, when black people do?” Here, the first-person singular pronoun “I” is used in comparison to an entire population. In other words, the white individual is always already in context and, supposedly, oppressed by an entire population of non-white individuals. The white speaker constructs the oppression within the discourse. Or in special cases, like that white feminist the other day did, the white speaker will go so far to say, “I don’t identify as white.” In other words, “don’t call me white.” They will entirely deny all privilege and entitlement for themselves while criticizing others.
It’s good to call out white privilege denial. Do it every time. As a teacher, I do it in the classroom. It’s a necessity. Don’t let people get away with it.
Bolded/italicized a few parts, but dead-on.
Using luck. Saying luck.
Benefiting from luck. LUCK is privilege.
Luck is an important factor in all discussions about the myth of the meritocracy because it’s used to cover for unearned ambition. No matter who you are, what you look like, what genitals you…
Dr. Sendhil Mullainathan, Harvard University Professor of Economics, Freakonomics (via cocknbull)
My life. My name is Chaniqua. Enuff has been said.
I wonder what the results would be like if they used African names? A part of me knows that I’m screwed on that account.
^ The results would be very similar.
And people are shocked whenever they hear that I’m anxious about my name.
“We’re post racism. THat’s from a different time and blacks should quit complaining about it. NEVER FORGET 9/11!” - Typical Tea Partier