The objectification of black women in mass media has a long history. We’ve seen it with the Surviving R. Kelly Documentaries and Mike Tyson’s Sexual Misconduct Accusations. The way the media objectifies black women continues to diminish them and impacts the larger society. Many black women hold professional positions, thriving in careers and leading exemplary lives. Yet, we continue to hear repeatedly about injustice and sexual violence against African American women.
These negative notions that women lie about their experiences and rapes come from the history of stereotypes that were created during slavery around the hyper-sexualization of Black women as the justification for why masters had sex with enslaved Black women. These stereotype threats are used to explain that media plays a large role in the way we view and victim-blame people when discussing sexual violence.
However, we don’t discuss enough how the media can control our ideas on sexual violence, and how black male privilege connects with victim blaming rape survivors. Sheck Wes, a rapper, songwriter, and model, who is known for the song “Mo Bamba” was outted on Twitter on Feb 12, 2019 by ex-girlfriend/singer, Justine Skye. Justine Skye has opened up in her music and in a breakfast club interview about how she left an abusive relationship but did not name drop because she felt it wouldn’t change anything. She stated she felt her abuser would still receive support. However, she was courageous enough to speak out later in a tweet about her experience of stalking and abuse she was receiving from Sheck Wes.
Many women and men showed Justine Skye support when she tweeted video footage of Sheck Wes jumping a fence and entering her property. However, many were quick to victim blame and slut shame Justine, which are common themes when looking at sexual assault & rape in the news as well as social media today.
Before you give this article a sigh and eyeroll, I’m very aware we do not know the full story behind the video; but I believe black women get little or no support when discussing assault because of the hyper-sexualization we endure. Black women and the idea of rape are impractical because we’ve been deemed as undesirable in the first place. We have become so accustomed to black men being recognized as community leaders that we do not grasp that their actions come at the expense of a woman. When issues related to sexual violence occur, the terminology “alleged” is used to imply that there is a possibility the victim is spreading false accusations.
When we do recognize that these issues are real, excuses are made, or silence occurs. Men such as Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, and Sheck Wes now become the face of racial discrimination within the criminal justice system rather than predators. The issue now revolves around the criminal justice system and turns away from the topic of sexual violence. This shift from sexual violence to racial discrimination allows people among the black community to begin supporting those such as Sheck Wes as part of a racial pride and loyalty. This is an ongoing occurrence we have seen way too many times, without actually getting to the real issue. I highlight this to discuss the next time one of your “homies,” your favorite celebrity, or community “leaders” decide to mistreat women. Don’t remain silent because you believe minding your business is better, so you don’t correct or call out the toxic behavior.
SPEAK UP. Silence allows that behavior to continue, and that’s at the cost of black women.