Well, maybe not ALL people, but…

How is it that rape and sexual assault is so common on college campuses and in the nation’s military?

handglovesKen Screven was, according to the Times Union newspaper’s Chris Churchill, “the most recognizable black person here in one of the nation’s whitest metropolitan areas,” i.e., Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY, for most of his 34 years as a now-retired television reporter. Having lived here for most of this period, I daresay Churchill was right. Screven even covered a couple stories I was involved with, notably the January 1985 Rock for Raoul benefit, honoring the late Albany cartoonist/FantaCo employee/my friend Raoul Vezina.

I had this, literally, nodding acquaintance with Screven when I’d see him in Albany’s Center Square, sort of the curse someone who has met a LOT of people (Ken) go through. We’ve more recently become Facebook friends, sometime after he became a blogger for the Times Union website, as I am.

Churchill reported: “Cellphone footage of the [Arbor Hill street brawl among black teens]… has circulated widely by now. Screven saw it shortly after it happened — on Facebook — and decided it would be provocative material for [his] blog… So he posted it, along with his reaction.”

Part of the narrative was that Screven found “the fight troubling — and, as an African-American, embarrassing.” And I totally GOT that, because I tend to feel that way. My late father most assuredly did.

Churchill noted that he doesn’t feel embarrassed by the stupid things white people do – such as the Kegs and Eggs riot of 2011 in Albany – and I’m sure that is true. Screven noted, “It just takes one black person to do one bad thing and the whole culture is demonized… The white culture is going to say, ‘There they go again.'”

Churchill is technically correct when he suggests that “not the entire white culture” reacts that way. It happens often enough, though, that this cartoon by Keith Knight feels very true, particularly the comparison between a misguided youth and a thug.

I remember reading a black columnist back in December 1993 – William Raspberry, perhaps? – talking about how much he, and black people he knew, hoped that the Long Island Railroad massacre shooter was not black. Of course, he was.

In an interesting variation, I’m now seeing this narrative, after the recent shootings near Santa Barbara, California, about some men feeling a sense of entitlement when it comes to access to women’s bodies. #NotAllMen, the Twitter hashtag reads; some guys are decent, sensitive souls who fight sexism with every fiber of their being, and surely that is true. We should not castigate an entire gender, because isn’t that prejudiced?

Yet #YesAllWomen resonates as true. I know a strong, independent, accomplished, married woman who has recently noted “an innate instinct of self-protection around, yes, most men learned very early.” Women give out wrong phone numbers, tell guys they have a boyfriend (this piece notwithstanding), avoid eye contact with men lest they think you’re “interested.” You don’t even have to be in conversation with a guy; the drive-by schmucks are alive and well.

How is it that rape and sexual assault is so common on college campuses and in the nation’s military? Why is women demanding the same access to contraceptives as men do to Viagra met with slut-shaming? How is it that “gun extremists” target women with spitting, stalking and threats of rape?

What has prompted someone to initiate a petition to stop sexual harassment at the San Diego Comic Con and to create a formal anti-harassment policy, a document I signed, BTW? Maybe it’s Yes, All Men? Or as Louis CK put it, “There is no greater threat to women than men.”

No, most men are not rapists, or deadbeat dads, or mass murders. But almost all mass murders are men, and, in the United States, white men at that. Maybe that’s a good thing, because, perhaps, the situation will spark enough concern and outrage to aid in dealing with mental health issues, and controlling the sale of guns to people who are deranged. Nah, I’m just messing with you; we’ll have the same damn conversation after the next massacre.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

8 thoughts on “Well, maybe not ALL people, but…”

  1. Completely agree—and this really resonated with me. White men (speaking as one…) tend to think that ALL violence, oppression, bigotry, crime, etc., is committed by others, not them. I think that being gay, and, by definition, an outsider, I get to see things a little differently than I otherwise might. But, I also sometimes squirm at what other gay people get up to, even as I try chastise myself for buying into the oppression. The harsh reality is, after a lifetime of training, I can pass as straight, and being male and white, I hit the trifecta of privilege. Heck, I was even raised Christian! So I decided to try and challenge that privilege whenever I can. Until I get dismissed, too…

  2. No, it’s not “all” _______________.

    After working in an environment with loads of sexual harassment (and I found out later, sexual assaults against other women), the biggest thing you can do is clearly an openly say it’s not okay, particularly when it’s happening.

    My current job is 100% free of sexual harassment and the impact on my stress level is amazing. I constantly give reasons why I love my new job. I don’t mention that a huge reason is the absence of sexual harassment, but it’s huge.

  3. Great job Roger! You definitely GOT what I was trying to say. Thank you for the perspective.

  4. Part of the reaction is simple ego and what men see as a double-standard. As the ultimate expression of oppression (white, male, straight, American), I tend to ignore blanket statements about my ilk because I’m self-aware enough to realize that we’ve had a good run and maybe we should shut up. But I do feel a twinge when I read something about how horrible white straight men are, even though I know the author isn’t talking about all men, just a majority. If I wrote something a small percentage of another group, I’d get shouted down because people would believe I’m writing about the whole. So men are reacting against that. The reason it doesn’t really bother me is because several people have pointed out that this is what they live with all the time, as you note in your post. Why should all black people be indicted when one commits a crime? Why should all women be “sluts” if one woman doesn’t want to date a certain man? I’m starting to live in a world that other groups have lived in for decades, if not centuries, and I think many men realize that and understand that it’s something we all have to work on. The men who don’t are the ones who think it’s unfair. Well, of course it’s unfair, but it’s been unfair to anyone who’s not while, straight, and male for far longer.

  5. Raoul was sweet and gentle; i knew him through his sister, Maria.

    i was totally embarrassed by Kegs and Eggs. I’m embarrassed by every stupid white person screaming the n-word. I’m embarrassed that my neighbor (where I am the minority) has to say “I needed to know you were an ‘okay’ white person” Why can’t we accept people NOT on the color of their skin or whatever…and on the content of their character? I was raised in an extremely diverse neighborhood, and I live in West Hill in the projects where my color does NOT afford me the privileges it almost always does everywhere else, where I am suspect. Why can’t we live together in peace? In the end, we’re all simply trying to get home at the end of the day….trying to get through our days in…peace.

  6. Just throwing another “Not all __________” out there: “Not all Christians.”

    I get really embarrassed by the Westboro people and other Christian haters. I do make a point to say something, however (e.g. when I was at a dinner party when a fellow Christian was picking on a Hindu friend’s dietary habits.)

  7. Oh, I TOTALLY agree about those “Christians” who do and say what feels to me to be less than Christian things.

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