What Do Misogyny and Racism Have In Common In America?
Misogyny and racism have both been in the courts and news lately. With Ferguson, among many other instances where black men were unjustly killed, and the daily stories of rapes on campuses, both local and national news reflect misogyny and racism on almost a daily basis. Why now, and what do they have in common?
For one, they both are the result of a dehumanization. Women and non-whites are valued less than white men by white men themselves and sometimes even each other. Black lives seem to matter less than white ones when it comes to the criminal justice system. Assumptions about their intentions lead white officers to target them more often than white citizens, and when they do, they tend to assume the worst. When these assumptions understandably lead to mishandled situations often at the detriment of black citizens, the white officers are often pardoned. Why is it that white men get the benefit of the doubt when none is given to the black men they targeted? They expect the courts to pardon their mishandling of situations that result in the death of another human when they did not extend the same courtesy to the men they killed. Black lives are treated carelessly, and this is presented as the norm. Similarly, women who are raped are given less consideration than the men who raped them. Society seems more concerned for the future of the rapist, who gets the benefit of the doubt for "not being able to help himself," than concerned for the health or justice of the woman who was violated. Media and society encourage men to take advantage of women and coerce them when possible, and then present this as the norm. Therefore, when women are taken advantage of, people tend to blame the woman for being in a situation where that could happen, since they should all be expecting this anyway. Of course he acted that way, that's what men do.
Second, they both are a result of a victim-blaming mindset. Our instinct is to make excuses for the perpetrator in both situations. "The officer was afraid for his own life" (even when the victim was unarmed). "He didn't know she didn't want it" (even when the victim was not conscious to say she didn't). Similarly, the victim is held accountable for every move. "Well, why was he walking down the street at night?" "Why did she get that drunk?" "Why was she wearing that if she didn't want attention?" "He/She should know how to protect him/her self better." If a white man is mugged in an alley, no one says "well, he should know better than to walk in that area of town at that time." They immediately jump to his defense and call for justice. White men don't get victim blamed the way minorities and women do, which is also a result of their lives being less valued and thought of as less human. White men are held to a lower standard of action and flawlessness while simultaneously thought of as more human.
For another, and the most dangerous thing about these issues, is that those who are not affected by the negative views of these groups, deny their existence. White men claim both that racism and sexism is over in America, despite the overwhelming evidence of the contrary. I do not doubt they believe it is, with every bone in their body. Those is power see no reason why any dynamic should change, and often do not see their power in the first place. When given privileges by birth, those privileges seem inherent and go unnoticed. The privileged will make every excuse why things like rapes and deaths happen, often blaming the victims and excusing the perpetrators. That is why it is our job, as those conscious of the problem, to keep talking about it and keep the conversation going. It is our job as allies to stand for justice and stand for the equal humanity of everyone.