This is the inaugural posting of my occasional, hopefully weekly series, Dereliction of Duty, which profiles individuals, organizations and entities who have either fallen into disrepair or have become irrelevant in the integrated world black Americans must navigate today. Most of these institutions are not irredeemable. They can be fixed, rebuilt, restructured and rejuvenated with the right amount of vision mixed with some old fashioned housecleaning. Others need to be driven out to the middle of the woods and left there, but that's only for the minority.
Problem: I had a hard time decided who I wanted to write about first, but recent events made me want to talk about an issue nearly all black activist institutions have dropped the ball on -- crimes perpetrated against black women and children.
I know many black women who are sensitive to the issues black men face, but when things go the other way around, there are a lot of shrugs and head scratching. Unless a black woman or child is being abused by a white person. Then everyone gets to show out the way white people used to show out when they felt a black person was tainting the virtue of a white woman.
But since most black women and children are victimized by their own silence is often the only sound I ever hear.
Case in point -- the Dunbar Villiage criminal case out of West Palm Beach, Fla.
Other blogs have written more extensively about it. But the controversy centered around the view that the teenagers who perpetrated the crime where being unfairly persecuted by the justice system because of their race. This view was based on the fact that some white teens were allowed to be out on bail for a similar crime. The fatal flaw of this logic was the fact that the crime the black teens committed were not just immoral and heinous, but that they deserved prison time. If anything, the only argument should have been send the white teens to jail as well, not let the black teens out.
But since most people didn't think about the black victims in this case the local NAACP chapter and Al Sharpton's National Action Network came to the teens aid.
Both the local chapter and Al Sharpton backed off on the issue, albeit only recently. But the case seemed to perfectly represent how perverse this game of "the black male defendant can do no wrong" has come.
It was like the mother and child and what happened to them were a mere inconvenience, a reality not to be acknowledged. It was almost as if the victims should have said nothing at all, as guilty teenagers being punished by a racist justice system trumped rape, attempted murder, mutilation and torture. Obviously, supporting these junior sadists was the real priority.
And this situation is frighteningly crazy when you consider that twenty or thirty years ago no local NAACP chapter would touch this case. Not because of any judicial inequities, but because they did not take on cases where the morality of the defendant could harm the cause.
Back then the NAACP did not want to pick any individual who could bring unnecessary controversy or harm to those with legitimate issues. This is why Rosa Parks and her squeaky clean background was chosen to kick off the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Other blacks had refused to give up their seats, but they had criminal records or possessed "moral flaws" the NAACP feared would be used to denigrate the fight against segregation.
The NAACP of old would not have used this case in Dunbar Village to point out the flaws in our justice system. Every injustice was not equal in the organizations halcyon days. These "children" did not warrant protection, as no one protected the victims when they were brutalized.
While racism is still a problem in the United States so is gun violence, so is sexism, so are gangs, so are drugs and education and violence against women and children. Did they not understand that all social justice fights are compromised when the only injustice anyone understands involves a black male and the criminal justice system?
Solutions. This is rather hard to tackle. While so many black women, activists and bloggers did the right thing by putting pressure on the Florida NAACP and Sharpton to back down, the fact that anyone would think this was a good cause to take is much more disturbing. And that's what we're up against, the inherit sexism that exists within the black community.
This is a problem that knows no bounds. Where the women of Spellman College are criticized because they didn't want sexually-charged rapper Nelly on their campus. Where R. Kelly trumps the 13-year-old he had sex with. Where Mike Tyson raped a young woman and everyone sided with Iron Mike. Where people got mad at Oprah Winfrey because she didn't want rappers on her show due to their sexism and celebration of drug/gang culture. People who called for Don Imus to be fired but exalted the "poetry" of 50 Cent when someone pointed out that "nappy headed ho" gate did not begin or end at Don Imus.
This convoluted logic is so deep it blinds the common sense of blacks--young and old, male and female. So how do you fight that?
I have a few ideas. Perhaps its time black folk had their own "sexual revolution." Too many black women incorrectly think feminism is "white woman thing" that is only about being a Lesbian or hating men. Also, it seems the only voices on black female sexuality that are being heard are through popular culture (where we're naked whores) or through the church (where we are told to shut both our mouths and our legs).
And both pathologies are created to the man's sexual benefit, not necessarily to the needs of the black woman or black Americans as a whole.
Black people need to be educated that it is not acceptable to treat black women as objects or to harm a black woman or child. That a black woman is equal to a black man meaning it is not an acceptable loss to lose either. Too often it seems black women are told "if we can get the brothers free first, then we can free you." But considering white Americans have been free since they came to this country and they have serious sexism problems (White men also seem to only get upset if it involves a black man), I don't know why our ascension to an ever more egalitarian society means black women will eventually reap the benefit. Especially when were are demanded to not complain too loudly under the belief that even legitimate criticism endorses a recurrent, malignant stereotype.
So who should take up the re-education effort? Nationally recognized black sororities? The National Council of Negro Women? Spellman College? Oprah?
What do you think? And do you have any ideas on how get social justice groups to understand that not every black male defendant deserves their defense?