On August 8, I published this piece about the Ray Rice saga. I was quite surprised at the reactions and comments that questioned the patriarchy and misogyny that shrouds the NFL and American sports culture in general.
Now, with the release of the entire video clip on September 8 showing exactly what happened in that elevator, I’ve taken the week to not say anything but rather listen and read, specifically the thoughts of black women, on the unfolding of Ray Rice saga.
Here are the 5 statements I found most profound that shook me to my core as a Black American athlete, father, and husband.
Didn’t watch the Ray Rice video. Won’t watch it, but it is exhausting to have to repeat and prove and repeat and try to convince people that violence against women, especially women of color, and particularly black women is real, that it is often close to or in the home, that it matters, that it is a pandemic, that we must do something about it to save these women, their children, and our humanity. It is much worse, however, to live with or die because of it. So many individual and institutional failures here, but the fact that the NFL saw this in its entirety months ago and did so little seems to be worthy of boycott, not so different than the player’s planned protest against Donald Sterling. Not holding my breath. Doing the work.
– Salamishah Tillet, Ph.D., co-founder of A Long Walk Home
Dr. Tillet’s statement has me reeling at the idea that it took the release of this video for the NFL to suspend Ray Rice indefinitely. How long did it take the NFL to punish Michael Vick? Plaxico Burress? What does this say about the NFL’s and society’s position on violence against women vs. violence against animals? I think it says that patriarchy and misogyny are way deeper and way more insidious and institutionalized than many are willing to admit.
Few issues unmask the choke hold that patriarchy has on Black communities like violence against women. I’ve never heard black people object to equal pay, to Title IX, to a woman’s right to choose (really to *other* women’s rights to choose). But when it comes to a woman being raped, assaulted, or brutalized by men we sound like gender klansmen. We sound exactly like the white racists on Darren Wilson’s gofundme page. We sound exactly like the white men who wanted to reemphasize the point that Trayvon swung first and was suspended from school. That somehow a victim is not a victim if the victim committed human acts of imperfection. I am genuinely baffled and heartbroken by the investment that most Black men and many Black women have in the humiliation and suffering of Black women: the humor Black men, and some women, find in physical acts of violence against Black women; and the empathy gap we widen between ourselves and Black women who are victimized by violence and exploitation.
– Saida Grundy, Ph.D., sociologist, University of Michigan
Dr. Grundy’s quote hits hard as I remember days in the locker room when my fellow black male athletes would discuss the rampant racism that we felt both on and off the field but in the same breaths, many would laugh about their women and the stronghold they had over them.
It’s hard to actually say this… I had an extreme reaction to the victim blaming in the Ray Rice case. But I had an even stronger reaction Ray Rice’s wife Janay’s statement today. I found myself judging her like I hadn’t once protected and stood up for my abuser just as vehemently. When I was in college I was in an abusive relationship. I protected my abuser, hid his actions from friends and family, and even found myself in the position of asking a Dane County judge to give my abuser a second chance even after he beat me so badly that my neighbors had to call the police. Domestic violence is one of the most insidious types of control. It starts long before it manifests into physical violence. By the time it turns physical there is a level of mental control is so deep that the bondage feels impossible to escape. This cycle will not be broken by treating the Ray Rice case as an isolated incident, but only when we realize that the root cause of domestic violence is misogyny, patriarchy, and sexism which is an institutional rather than individual problem will we be able to address domestic violence.
– Epps-Addison, Esq., Executive Director, Wisconsin Jobs Now
Ms. Epps-Addison has me realizing that the psychological stronghold not only of domestic violence but of patriarchy and sexism is so strong that DV victims will judge (even if momentarily) other victims for doing the same things they did before. This is the worst kind of mental colonization – one that pits victims against victims. I applaud Ms. Epps-Addison for drawing attention to the psychological trauma of DV and for being honest in her initial reaction to Janay Rice’s statement.
All these folks trashing women for staying in abusive situations have NO clue what happens the moment you reach for a door handle.
– Beverley Gooden of #whyistayed
Reading this hashtag had me completely floored. My wife sent it to me after we had a discussion about why women stay in abusive relationships. I kept asking the question and she kept explaining that my ability to ask this question was indicative of male privilege. The hashtag allowed me to see that the psychological trauma caused by abuse cannot be healed while still being abused and getting out of the abusive situation requires some level of healing. It’s a catch 22. The privilege comes into play because we live in a patriarchy. Men control systems and institutions. Men have power and control and therefore, privilege.
Because I did not want my 2-year-old to think this behavior was “love” #WhyILeft
I have a 2-year-old son. I would never, ever, ever want him to think violence was the norm, much less love.