As a Black Man in the eyes of society I am prima facie a criminal – a social threat. This prejudice levelled against my body has least to do with how black male bodies have performed throughout history, but to do with the idea of a Black Man created and imposed by the self-anointed god, the reigning criminal for the past three centuries – the white man. Who went on to preach his bigotry against my body as gospel.
When progressive bodies and figures in communities who seek equal justice for all, ask him to recognise his unholy position of advantage in society, he gets defensive. He thinks by acknowledging his privilege and proactively addressing it, his Toyota Cressida will be snatched and be given to Mr Magagula. It is not about material possessions, but about equal access to opportunities. It is about dismantling institutional, cultural, and systematic racism whose principal existence is to exclude and render black bodies subordinate.
In discourses that seek to address the gravely destructive issue of racism, the white man’s response is often a screechy denial. Denialism then stagnate the process to the land of milk and honey – a rainbow nation.
Denialism is not inherently white, rather an inherent mechanism used by those who benefit from social injustices. This assertion was confirmed when denialism raised its ugly head in the recent Twitter hashtag - #MenAreTrash. This #hashtag was used by women to share their experiences of abuse by men. In response, the greater proportion of men dismissed these horrific experiences of violence against women. Whether by pure ignorance or otherwise, it is dismissing the violence suffered by women if one holds the view that it should have been #SomeMenAreTrash instead of the former. This view is plainly underplaying the daily pain suffered by women in this grossly patriarchal society.
Therefore, recognising that white supremacy is responsible for black pain but turning blind to the reality that patriarchy is responsible for violence against women is utterly disgraceful.
Enough energy has been wasted already on pupils who choose to deliberately ignore the core message embedded in #MenAreTrash. In this piece misogynist are not to be entertained.
The argument I am trying to advance is that admitting that masculinity is a social threat and condemning misogyny is not enough. To act sharply against this violence as men we need to locate ourselves in this dilemma and identify our role in perpetuating it. That is because We are the men that women are scared of. Therefore, we must not imagine that there is an evil factory ran by the devil that manufactures men that are abusing women. It is Me and You, on a daily basis women feel threatened by our mere presence.
I personally have heard men advising another to rape his girlfriend. This other guy was complaining to his acquaintances that his girlfriend does not want to sexually engage with him. Shockingly one of the guys aggressively responded by saying “awumhlabi ngani ngenkani?” – (awumhlabi ngani ngenkani? means why not force yourself sexually into her? in IsiZulu). Sexually forcing yourself into another person to me means violence - Rape. This is one manifestation among a pile of them, revealing how men believe that they are entitled to women’s bodies.
The details of this incident are not exceptional, they are a norm even though they manifest in different forms and in different social settings.
Furthermore, as men we must address the issue of our bodies being a threat to women regardless of our individual characters.
For instance, it was just after dark when I was walking on campus to my room when I found myself following a lady at a short distance. When I eventually walked past her she looked uneasy. For a moment I was annoyed at her anxiousness because I thought she felt threatened by my black body, of which I have been victimised enough for. I then came back to my senses and realised that her anxiety has nothing to do with my skin colour. But, with my penis, the fact that I am a man, on that basis I am a threat to her.
It dawned on me the reality that most women are most likely to fear for their safety when being followed by Any man after dark, and equally, when in the presence of Any man in an isolated space.
As men if we are really committed to combating violence against women, we need to start acknowledging our fingerprints that are all over this pain and suffering.
The aim is to locate ourselves in this dilemma, identify our role thereof, and proactively combat it.
We must also question the fundamental basis of our manhood. If a real man is a protector, who is he protecting, most importantly from what?