“Why aren’t more men slapping the shit out of other men who insult Black women?”
I’m off all media except YouTube, specifically the Robert Glasper playlist (that brotha understands the assignment). I have events coming up. Got to stay focused. Got to stay encouraged. It’s hard to be focused and encouraged with all of the images that come out concerning Black women. I’m busy writing content to cultivate palates so that more people know about the softness of Black girls and the compassion of Black women. More to come on that, stay tuned.
And then something happens that makes me know that everything is gonna be all right. This weekend, Will Smith slapped the shit out of Chris Rock for making a joke at the expense of his wife.
Dave Chapelle went through the wringer when folks were saying he was “punching down“ on trans women. But why is it that people feel it is okay to punch down on Black women?
I got a few thoughts. First, a brief history lesson.
Rosa Lee Ingram and sons
In 1954, a Black woman sharecropper named Rosa Lee Ingram was having issues with a white male sharecropper. The problem was that he liked her and she didn’t like him. The problem was that as a white man from the South he believed he was supposed to get whatever he wanted. Instead, he fucked around and found out. Four black men came to Rosa Lee’s defense. They were her sons. All of them were arrested, with the baby boy being let go and all charges against him dropped. Everyone else was put on trial. They got their defense attorney the night before the hearing. They faced a jury of 12 angry white men who, I guess, felt like it was the right of a white man to have his way with this Black woman and everyone was supposed to take it. I mean that’s what history has permitted — for many of us, our “rape colored skin” bears witness. (Thank you, “Work In Progress” writers, especially the beautiful queer character who flawlessly delivered that brilliant line.)
After a one-day trial, Rosa Lee Ingram and her sons were sentenced to death. It was supposed to be a slam dunk case. Three Black men killed a white man for forcing himself on a Black woman. How dare they! We can’t have that!
Fortunately for Rosa Lee, there were Black women of note who had access to resources and mainstream media mics who kept up the pressure on her case. Thanks to Lorraine Hansberry, Alice Childress, Nina Simone, and other members of The Sojourners For Truth and Justice (tell me that doesn’t sound like a super-heroine group.) They used their access to media mics to keep up the pressure. They took trips down south to stage protests. They even went to the Georgia governor’s mansion to chat with lil’ dude, but his wife answered the door and said that he had gone hunting. They did all of this because it was important for them to exploit their access in service to a Black woman who was not resourced, and who was expected to simply play the part that other Black women had done for centuries prior: lay down and take it.
Although justice was delayed, it was not denied. Rosa Lee and her sons would eventually have their death sentences commuted to life in prison and then be released on parole for being “model prisoners”. She died in Atlanta, Georgia in 1980.
Upon hearing the news story about Will Smith and Chris Rock, I immediately thought of Rosa Lee Ingram. And then I began to question why is it that we don’t have more people like Rosa Lee Ingram’s sons and Will Smith standing up, and slapping the shit out of more people who punch down on Black women? Here are my thoughts.
- People have become accustomed to Black women being so strong that we allegedly don’t need anyone to defend us.
- People have become accustomed to Black women being so strong that we can just “take it” (allegedly we have a high tolerance for pain).
- People are accustomed to Black women being so strong that they assume no matter what happens to us we will bounce back.
- People assume that Black women are so spiritual, that no matter what happens to us we will take it to Jesus and everything will be all right.
As for Will Smith and Chris Rock, both of them will be fine. As we speak right now, one of the other brother millionaires is hosting a gathering at his house. Brothers gon’ work that shit out. And also, Netflix is probably about to produce another Chris Rock special. His tour schedule is about to sell out with people wanting to hear how he comedically tells this story.
In other words, they gonna be fine. And you know what? So will Black women. It feels good to know that we have brothers that will go to the mat for us. And even when they don’t, we go to the mat for each other. Don’t let anybody try to convince you otherwise. Everything’s gonna be all right…eventually.
Until then, may the command to love lead us towards creative solutions. Asé. Selah. So be it.
(Alexus Rhone, playwright and producer of “10-Minute Blooms”, a Black creatives showcase and translation of feelings into language shared as stories, dance, short plays, and other #10MinuteBlooms, 7:30 PM EST, April 7, and 3 PM EST, April 10, 2022, Pure Life Theatre, Raleigh, NC.)