Dallas Cowboys top pick Ezekiel Elliott was cleared of domestic battery charges Wednesday.Police dropped the charges, which were brought on by Elliott’s ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson, who is White. Overwhelming evidence showed that Thompson lied when she said Elliott pulled her out of a car and assaulted her in Columbus, Ohio this July, just months after Elliott was taken number four overall in the 2016 NFL draft.
Thankfully, a sworn affidavit from Thompson’s friend proved Elliot’s innocence. Without it, it would have been his word against hers, and you can probably guess how that story would end.
Rape culture and misogyny are vital issues that should be taken seriously in every circumstance, but Elliott’s case, and the recent incident involving Chris Brown, expose blindspots in America’s definition of justice and its treatments of cases involving Black men and White women.
This is why Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer’s recent comments about Black men must be corrected. Dunham’s insecurity-laced account of her arranged “date” with New York Giants Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. at the Met Gala could easily be written off as part of her quirky, awkward brand.
“Part of her brand, of course, is her imperfection, the sense that she unabashedly does not have it all figured out.” – Zeba Blay
In an interview with Schumer, which has since been ripped to shreds on social media, Dunham summed up her night by expressing her frustration with Beckham’s lack of sexual interest in her and revealing her own unrequited lust for Michael B. Jordan. Her comments could simply be innocent deflections she uses to cope with her own insecurities. But there’s something deeper to her comments.
Is this just good old harmless feminism? A woman taking control of her sexuality and defying White male patriarchy by announcing her sexual interest in Black males? Or is Dunham on the verge of ODing on her White privilege— The same narcissistic drug that made her think it would be cute to invade Waka Flocka’s personal space with her flailing Whiteness.
History has shown that America will never hesitate to string up a Black man in the name of protecting a White women. So we can never forget or ignore how this deeply embedded dysfunction informs our society and culture. From the public lynchings of the Jim Crow Era to the courthouse railroadings of The Central Park Five and countless others, Black men are most vulnerable in America when they’re seen as a threat to a White woman’s safety or sexuality.
Bailey Curran knew that when she accused Chris Brown of threatening her with a gun last week. Her claims sparked a TMZ-led media circus as the LAPD sat on Brown’s lawn waiting for a warrant to search his house.
Officers found nothing, but the Internet quickly unveiled that Curran has a reputation for lying and scamming. As with Elliott’s case, witness testimony also disproves Curran’s claims. The audacity of her and Thompson’s allegations, the fact that both felt confident that their word alone would be enough to try and convict the Black men they falsely accused — in the court of public opinion, at least, if not also in an actual court — is scary.
“There is an enduring stereotype of black men in America as hyper-sexual, aggressive, and predatory. These stereotypes are also what have fueled this country’s long, dark history of white women falsely accusing black men of sexual assault and rape.” – The Huffington Post
The issue of street harassment is another feminist issue that can be used to victimize Black men. A report from 2014 that showed mostly Black and Latino men cat-calling on the streets of New York City was used to justify the stereotype that men of color are sexually aggressive. But the editors of the video later admitted that White men made just as many comments as men of color; the only difference was they made the comments more subtly.
Dunham’s friend Schumer threw herself into the controversy by tweeting and deleting comments about her own experience being cat-called by Black men.
Dunham’s apology for her cluelessness seems sincere, but only if her behavior reflects her words. Michael Richards, Mel Gibson and Azealia Banks have all paid for their blatant racist tirades, so Dunham and Schumer also have to answer for their passive racism. Nobody has it all figured out. But willful ignorance is not blissful, it’s dangerous. And playing Clueless when it comes to social politics won’t pay off in the long run. Ask Stacey Dash.