Rape, race, and Rockland: Why you shouldn’t believe the hype

Rebecca:

The brown men are coming to take and rape our women. Did you hear?

Sorry if this opening is too snarky, but it’s difficult not to pour derision all over the age-old racist trope that we must protect white women from the dark hordes. This seems to be the most elemental of all the dumb racist fears, led to a fair number of lynchings back when lynchings were common, resulted in the murder of Emmett Till, and even formed the basis of one of America’s most-loved anti-racist novels.

Despite being thoroughly discredited, though, the trope — the fear by white men that somewhere, somehow, a brown man is having sex with a white woman — is durable. (We shouldn’t be surprised, I guess: Congress made clear in 1964 and 1965 that African Americans had the rights to vote and to public accommodations; it took a few more years after that for the Supreme Court to add that, yes, it was OK for men and women of different races to get married. That was years after Barack Obama, the product of a black-white relationship, had been born. We treat this like ancient history, but it just happened yesterday.)

I mention this because of James Jackson.

You’ve heard of him, right? He’s the racist who drove to New York last week and killed a black man … because he wanted to kill a black man. Any one would do.

And why did he desire this? The New York Daily News found out in a jailhouse interview.

Most chillingly, Jackson said he had traveled to New York from Baltimore intending to kill numerous black men, imagining that the bloodshed would deter white women from interracial relationships. “‘Well, if that guy feels so strongly about it, maybe I shouldn’t do it,’” he said, imagining how he wanted a white woman to think.

One almost has to admire the pathetic grandiosity of the candor here. Jackson wasn’t even trying to protect white women from the “dangers” of black men — he wanted to scare the white women away from even thinking about romance with a black man.

It’s only been two years since Dylan Roof massacred African American churchgoers for the same reason. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country — and you have to go,” he told victims as he mowed them down.

Maybe, Rebecca, some of our readers will suggest that these tropes are being revived only on the extremes, by the worst of the worst, by killers who might be too crazy to fairly count as being part of the discourse.

Except: The trope is working its way into our politics. It’s not totally explicit yet, but it’s getting there.

Remember, Donald Trump opened his campaign for the presidency with this jaw-dropper:

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

It doesn’t matter that the numbers suggest immigrants have lower offense levels — Trump has kept this up through the first weeks of his presidency. The White House is creating an office specifically to deal with immigrant crime, specifically to hype and rile up the population against the brown hordes.

And just in case you didn’t get the clue, the Trumpist alt-right’s favored insult du jour is “cuck” — short for “cuckhold,” which is a term, that, well…

The cultural importance of the cuckold in America is rooted in racism: in pornography, the wife of the cuckolded (almost exclusively white) husband is most commonly sleeping with African-American men, meant to provide an additional layer of humiliation if the white husband sees that man as “inferior.” In the world of pornography meant to elicit humiliation as an erotic sentiment, cuckold porn takes advantage of its viewers’ racist perceptions.

All of which, unfortunately, brings us to this: A 14-year-old girl in Rockville, Maryland says two undocumented immigrants raped her earlier this month.

The story is horrifying.

Also horrifying: It’s become a national political football, a log thrown on the fire to help ensure  that we get our national blood good and boiling. It’s becoming a cause celebre in righty outposts like Fox News and Town Hall and Daily Caller and, of course, Breitbart.

My friends — yeah — at the Trumpista website American Greatness have published two posts about the matter in the last day. (Which is twice as much coverage as they gave to the failure of the GOP health bill.)

It’s hard to find a good way to respond to this. The public will hear RAPE!!!! and rational mewling responses of “that’s awful, but truly immigrants are convicted of crime less often than native-born whites” will go mostly unheard. Because this story is horrifying, and what? Do you care more about your precious “illegals” than the women in your life? Why don’t you hate rape enough? Guess you’re not an ally to feminists after all! It’s not, for the most part, a good-faith argument.

Me, I’m pretty sure can be a feminist ally and be cynical about the motives of people who otherwise don’t spend much time, interest or energy on rape prevention, except as a means of defending gun rights or criticizing campus feminists who rail against “rape culture.” The problem? Demagoguery has a better, easier, more enticing elevator pitch. It always does.

So. The Rockland story is awful. But the coverage appears to be attempting a narrative — THEY are coming for our women — that isn’t supported by the existence of one awful act. We should work to get the victim all the help and services she needs, all the community support that can be afforded her family. And we should still push back against people who cynically exploit her story to try to make the rest of us as afraid of brown men as they are.

— Joel

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