Last year Beverly Johnson, a woman of colour, wrote this story about being drugged by Bill Cosby. The reaction of other women of colour such as Raven-Symone, Woppie Goldberg and Jill Scott was either to suspend belief or disbelieve entirely and call Johnson (and the plethora of other women) liars.
We post this today because it’s now come out that in some court papers dating from 2005 Bill Cosby admitted to drugging women he wanted to have sex with (read: rape). Now Raven-Symone and Jill Scott are retracting their previous statements and admitting they were wrong.
But these women clearly don’t know their history.
Dating back from slavery, the bodies of women of colour have been abused, used and degraded. Our bodies were used by slave masters as baby-making machines for the slave system and as the property of slave masters for them to do whatever they pleased with. At this historical juncture it wasn’t so much that we were disbelieved in our stories of abuse but that the abuse of our bodies was totally acceptable; both morally and legally.
Following the abolition of slavery this legacy continued, but over time its boundaries shifted. The work of various women’s movements meant it became less and less viable to so overtly allow the degradation and abuse of women of colour’s bodies within the legal system and moral fabric of society. This doesn’t mean it went away (quite the contrary); increasingly different versions of old strategies were developed to enable the free use of women of colours bodies for violence. One of the main ways this is justified is through constructing racist gender binaries about black men and women.
The construction of black women as hyper-sexual, always ‘up for it’, with animalistic, emasculating and raw libido and sexuality is one of many myths that have been used to justify, excuse and disbelieve sexual violence against us. The other side of this binary is that men of colour are sexually dangerous (Amy Schumer knows all about this, with her “joke” that Latino men are rapists. What she didn’t realise is her joke is part of a long history – from Scotsboro to the Central Park 5 – that constructs men of colour as inherent abusers).
Other myths include the idea that the reproductive capacity of (cis) women of colour is the explanation for poverty. This thinking underpinned some of the eugenicist ideology and practice that saw women of colour sterilized in the U.S. This too relates to the myth of the fertile, hyper-sexual black woman whose stories of abuse are to be disbelieved because she always wants it.
These myths about women of colour reflect sexist myths in general that say women ‘ask for it’ by wearing particular clothes, or going out drinking or daring to walk down the road whilst being a woman. The sexist, racist ideological myths that justify and enable violence against women have created a cultural phenomena whereby our immediate reaction to women who report sexual violence is “I’m going to suspend judgement or disbelieve”.
Unfortunately, despite the fact women of colour are more likely to face gendered violence, our own anti-racist movements have a legacy of ignoring the abuses against our bodies and persons. Eldridge Cleaver was a respected member of the Black Panther Party and Black Power movement; he was also a known serial rapist and domestic abuser. It was because of the courage of women and their supporters in the Black Panther Party – like Elaine Brown, Erica Huggins and Fred Hampton – that violence against women of colour was raised as a fundamental issue of black liberation.
Fighting racist myths of black male and female sexuality must go hand in hand with actually fighting gendered violence against women in general and, specifically, violence against women of colour.
It’s in the spirit of this history, and in the spirit of rejecting myths that silence survivors of violence that we post this today. We believe Beverley Johnson. We always have believed Beverley Johnson.
read more: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2014/12/bill-cosby-beverly-johnson-story
Written by: SOM