It has been a difficult few weeks for people of all genders across the world. While having to navigate a series of intersectional battles and struggles, the black race has found itself at somewhat of a crossroads. We simply can no longer ignore the elephant in the room: the tension between black women and men, as a direct result of the disproportionate rate of gender-based violence against black women.
While the confrontations have been tense around the globe, they’ve been relations have been particularly fragile in South Africa where men and women have faced off on social media for much of this week.
Whether he was aware of the situation in Mzansi or not, Nigerian-American musician Jidenna decided that this week of all weeks was an important occasion on which to address his fellow black men. He did not waste his opportunity, nor did he waste any time beating around the bush as he clearly addressed the lack of urgency in the male community when it comes to fighting Gender-based violence.
Part of his letter read:
I’m deeply troubled as I watch my peers deny the realities of women who have found the fortitude and courage to share their horrific experiences. I admire these women. I believe them. And I know their stories too well because they are the same as my friends, colleagues, lovers, sisters, mothers, aunties, neighbors. Today, it made me cry to wonder how they can still love us, how they can still protect us on the front lines, especially when we immediately interrogate their truths the way white men often do to us Black men and to Black women.
There are a lot of slogans out there that speak to these truths, but using a slogan with no action is counterproductive. “Protect Black women at all costs.” Protecting Black women doesn’t mean “owning” Black women; no part of love includes possession. “I stand with Black women.” Just saying we stand with Black women is not enough.
Are we willing to look in the mirror with a therapist? Are we willing to call out the patriarchy and misogyny within our crew? Are we willing to fire a business partner when we discover they violated a female coworker? Are we willing to call our boss out when they consistently interrupt women, dismiss women, or always ask women to take notes in meetings? Are we willing to read bell hooks? Are we willing to deescalate a domestic dispute amongst strangers on the street?
Are we willing to banish a homie who is known for creepy and predatory behavior at parties? Are we willing to vote and advocate for women’s rights? Are we willing to say “Fuck the bro code” at the same volume we say “Fuck the police”? Are we willing to be confided in by survivors when they‘re afraid no one will believe them and when they blame themselves? Are we then willing to temper our rage so that they don’t fear us being locked up for retaliating?
I‘m in constant dialogue with women and men about how to create safe spaces for Black women in my professional, platonic, and romantic relationships. This is because I’m not free of toxic residue. My evolutionary process truly began with believing women by default. Once this became my default setting, I was easily able to see how I was dismissive with a joke at a meeting, how I silently accepted the sexist recording studio culture, and how arguments with my partner started to resemble the toxic behavior I grew up watching in my father. Once I saw myself, I began to confront other men when they use daily microaggressions towards women like “calm down.” I introduced a home court advantage rule in my company where the mic automatically goes to a woman anytime she is interrupted by men. My romantic partner and I established a monthly safe space where we could express our grievances so that we didn’t feel the need to have as many heated disagreements. Although these actions may seem like minor adjustments, the daily practice of holding space makes all the difference.
This is what the “work” looks like, but this is just the beginning. It’s a long uncomfortable journey through self-reflection, shame, accountability, redemption, and rehabilitation. Inevitably, you will lose parts of yourself. You will lose bredren on this road and you’ll have to eat it as a casualty of war. This work is our duty. Black women have been doing the work of protecting us for far too long without us reciprocating. It’s our duty to create a world that is safe for Black women with Black women.
The impact of the letter has been profound across the planet where its timing could not have been better suited to the current climate:
Jidenna’s open letter resonated with our male community who took a stand against gender-based violence this week as part of our latest Livestyle Cover: Men Taking A Stand.
If you are a man who agrees with Jidenna’s points, lend your voice to the movement by recording your pledge on our Men Taking A Stand portal here.