Please note. . .

Don't Be Silent DC has been inactive since March 2008 and has not been accepting entries since. If you are in the DC area and have a harassment story to share, please go to HollaBack DC. If you are outside the DC area and want to submit your story, go to Stop Street Harassment. Thank you.

As of 3/1/08, I will no longer be working on this blog. Please read this post for more details.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Does race play a factor in street harassment?

In a recent Don't Be Silent submission, I made a comment that the race of the harasser shouldn't matter. After today, I really am starting to wonder.

I came home Saturday feeling hurt, frustrated and just plain angry at the mess I deal with on the streets. I went to the neighborhood I used to live in, Petworth, to check out Domku and Flip It (the former is a sleek restaurant and the latter a sweet bakery...check them out). I had my path blocked by these men, was followed, had men stopping in the middle of the road trying to talk to me, beeping their horns so loudly that I jumped, had men coming too daggone close on the sidewalk, and calling me names such as "shorty," "baby," and other stupid nonsense. The thing that bothers me the most about Saturday's ordeal with the men on the streets is that all of my harassers were black. It upsets me, makes no sense, and had me getting on the Internet to try to find answers. Why do so many Black men do this mess to me, a Black female, on the streets?

In my search for answers, I found this article from 1999 called "Too Sexy For My Shirt," which was written by Black feminist writer Debra Dickerson. She talks about dealing with harassment in DC. In regard to the way harassers who happen to be Black harass Black women:

Does it matter that this [the "compliments" from the harassers] is most often pointed out to me (in graphic detail) by black men? Courtland Milloy, in one of those three 1990 Washington Post pieces, lamented the "black men who [make] the District a living hell for their sisters." Many of the female letter-writers made the same claim. Julianne Malveaux as well has written about her own abuse from black males and the "contempt" some of them exhibit for black women. "We are at the low end of the food chain for them," she writes. So, yes, it matters if only because 95 percent of the harassment I receive comes from them. If that's group loyalty, I can live without it.

To dig deeper, I found this thesis written by Hawley Fogg-Davis, called "A Black Feminist Critique of Same-Race Street Harassment." The article is 41 pages long and I am still reading it...I'll come back with my take on it in a future issue.

I don't know what I can do to change the way these specific Black men disrespect Black women, but it must stop. I (and the many other Black females who are victim of this) are not "video hos," "chickenheads," or any other hideous stereotype of Black females that floats through these men's heads.

I encourage you to read both articles and to come back with your insight on all this. And I know good and damned well that not all Black men behave so hideously, but the ones who do act like that really have me feeling down.

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