How Mychal Denzel Smith gets Ray Rice (& Ishmael Reed) all wrong

“When you go looking for the truth, be prepared to find it.”

-African Proverb

In my previous column, I took up the question of Black male feminist Mr. Byron Hurt, and presented a little publicly acknowedged but nevertheless very well known truth in Black America: that abuse, be it verbal, psychological, emotional or indeed physical, is hardly the sole preserve of Black men – Black women are well represented among the abuser ranks of American life, and have been for decades.

Mr. Paul Elam’s initial article on Hurt, which my own was a followup to, referenced the term “Panda Bear” and several times suggested that Mr. Hurt was equal parts supplicant to and useful idiot of, the Black Feminist Machine – and rightly so. For Black America – and to put a finer point on it, that part of Black America one might regard as Bougie – has, for quite some time now, produced a small but somewhat influential cabal of Ebony White Knights, also known as Simps, Panda Bears and downright AFCs – ostensible “Good Black Men(TM)” – who fancy themselves full of empathy, sensitivity and self-righteousness, along with a mighty quaff of Critical Race Theory. Seeing themselves as the allies to the Black Feminist Lobby, they have taken up the sword against their own brothers, other Black men, in an effort to reeducate us as to the sundried and varied grievances of Black women far and wide.

Enter one Mr. Mychal Denzel Smith, token Black man in residence at popular Miss Ann hangout Feministing, home of Ms. Jessica Valenti, and part of the stable holding forth over at The Nation, home of Prof. Melissa Harris Perry. Smith has been diligently doing his part to hold Black men everywhere responsible for all that ails Black America on a whole, forever attempting to hold the Sistahood down. In one of his most recent pieces for Feministing, Smith makes the case that Black Lit fixture, Mr. Ishmael Reed, totally gets the Ray Rice issue wrong, by misunderstanding where Smith is coming from on the matter. Perhaps. But, last time I checked, Mr. Reed has the right to express his take on Smith’s rendering of events surrounding Rice, right or wrong; and, since we’re keeping score here, it occurs to your correspondent, that Reed isn’t the only one who seemingly can’t keep his facts straight.

For starters, Smith continues to do the very thing he charges Black men writ large do to Black women en masse: refuse to listen to them. Mrs. Janay Rice has repeatedly gone on the record in stating that she was just as much to blame for what went down in that Atlantic City elevator on Valentine’s Day weekend last year, as Mr. Ray Rice himself; she has repeatedly taken to social media and the straight-ahead news media, to voice her outrage at the way her husband has been treated, not just by the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens organizations, but by the general public at large. I guess that whole hashtag thing about believing all women only works until they happen to say something that goes against the pre-approved feminist narrative, huh?

Secondarily, with regard to Mr. Reed’s supposed more than three-decades-running “mad on” with Ms. Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple“: again, he makes a highly legitimate point. It is rare to find Black Lit written by Black female writers, where the Black male leads in general, are good guys, or even just average everymen; rather, they tend not just to have foibles, but they have them to such an extent that they represent the utter worst of humanity.

This is a standard trope that does indeed make dollars – the bestselling novel went on to win both a Pulitzer and a National Book Award, and the film adaptation based on it made a whopping $142M USD on a meager $15M USD budget, had for all intents an all-star cast, was directed by one of Hollywood’s biggest names in the business, and was musically scored by one of the biggest names in popular music in the past century. On top of all of that, the film garnered nearly a dozen Academy Award nominations.

It would seem, that Mr. Reed’s observations are not without merit.

For anyone out there reading this who may consider themselves to be skeptical of Reed’s arguments or my citation of the facts which support it, consider this thought experiment:

Switch the places of the people in The Color Purple, essentially making the Black women in the story the bad guys, and the Black men the good guys, and ask yourself seriously, if the result would get anywhere near the level of accolade and acclaim. Indeed, the record shows, as I’ve discussed previously in an article about Hip Hop music and particularly Tupac’s role in it, that Black women are particularly sensitive – and vociferous – about any critique about them artistically on the part of Black men. Moreover, Tupac’s best-selling album of his career, the classic All Eyez On Me, has never won or was even nominated for a Grammy Award, the music business’ highest honor, despite its indisputable status as a landmark album that influenced a generation of musicians. Meanwhile there are scores of books and films, who have made big bank and won major laurels who were created by Black women, and which either directly or implicitly, cast Black men as a whole, in a not so flattering light.

Think on that for a moment.

Now, at this point, one could rightly ask the question as to whether Mr. Reed is only suffering from Sour Grapes hatin’, since Ms. Walker’s classic work has proven much more successful than anything he’s done; fair enough. But, even if one were to accept that premise, it is hard to see how that obviates the facts as laid out above. Being a putative hater, doesn’t preclude one’s ability to observe the truth.

Moving on to Mr. Smith’s other point, about the protests that took place in the wake of the shooting of young Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO: yes, it is true that Black women turned out in support of Brown; but what Smith conveniently leaves out, is that scores of Black men also turned out in support of Brown. So, it is patently dishonest on Smith’s part to present the matter as if it were Black women, and Black women alone, who were out there representing for young Mr. Brown. It is not so.

And since Mr. Smith wants to cite Ms. Feminista Jones’ piece that ran in Time magazine online in the wake of the Rice issue, to paraphrase Paul Harvey, let’s hear the rest of the story – taken from my previous piece on the ordeal that Mr. Jorge Pena suffered at the hands of Ms. Danay Howard:

“Even diehard Black Feminists of the likes of Ms. Feminista Jones, has admitted that violence in the Black community is hardly as “gendered” (read: done only by Black Men) as many of her ilk would have the rest of us believe. I quote from her own column appearing in Time magazine earlier this Fall:

“Researchers have also found that Black women report feeling more obligated to fight back than to report abuse and that is reflected in the disproportionate rates of DV/IPV reported by Black men. Our attempts to embody the “strong Black woman” stereotype have often done more harm than good, to us and those we love.”

Of course, Feminists of every color, remain utterly silent in the face of daily occurances of real street harassment and assault taking place in our country’s public spaces on the part of largely Black Women; as we all know by now, the Social Justice Warrior crowd is more motivated by “Who, Whom?” than by anything resembling fairness or the facts.” (Jones’ quote bookended by quotes of my own from the original article)

Notice how, for all their preening and self-congratulatory manner, Black feminists, be it Feminista Jones or Brittney Cooper, or Byron Hurt or Mychal Denzel Smith, never, ever, discusses the fact that Black women can be and often are as abusive as any (Black) man – and in some ways, in some cases, much moreso. To let them tell it, Black women are angelic creatures, who can never do any wrong, and are composed of the same stuff as the Power Puff Girls: sugar and spice, everything nice, and some mysterious Chemical X. In so doing, and far from being the purveyors of “social justice” they claim to be, it is people like these who hobble Black women and by extension Black people on a whole, by placing Black women on a pedestal and infantilizing them, instead of seeing them for who they are: Human and adult, with all the potentials and capacities for good and bad therein.

Aside from their obsequiousness, the other thing that really bothers me about the Ebony White Knight crowd, is their insularity – these are people who tend to come from the cloistered intellectual ghettos of high university society, where cockamamie “theories” about Race and Class are spun, and are rarely if ever put to the acid test out on the streets in real time. This explains how and why you rarely see them out there actually interacting with everyday Black folk. In fact it’s hard not to notice how little they talk to such salt of the earth Black folk, the ones they supposedly speak for.

Finally, as for the contention on the part of Black feminists that the interests of Black women are somehow always subordinate to Black men – if you can’t see how utterly foolish such a statement is in the light of the most basic of facts, then yeah, Mychal, you most definitely need to stand to the side.

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