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I will not be lectured on violence by these women

29 Mar 2022

The real shock for many was witnessing a Black man stand up in defence of the Black woman he loves. It really was shocking for some, that a Black woman would be deemed deserving of being defended, and we saw that in responses that questioned the legitimacy and significance of her disability as well as her moral character in relationship to that entanglement saga.

Okay, we get it, you don’t condone violence. 

But yesterday I celebrated it, and this is why. 

Yes, there was something shocking about the Will Smith slap on Chris Rock on the Oscars stage, but it wasn’t the slap. And yes Patricia, it was a slap, and not a ‘bashing’.

The real shock for many was witnessing a Black man stand up in defence of the Black woman he loves. 

It really was shocking for some, that a Black woman would be deemed deserving of being defended, and we saw that in responses that questioned the legitimacy and significance of her disability as well as her moral character in relationship to that entanglement saga. These takes weren’t about the violence of the slap, but revealed the violence inherent in the weighing up of whether or not she was worthy of protection. 

But there too was a violence in the pathologizing of Smith’s expression of his love for his wife. In his act of protection, he was quickly cast as a perpetrator of family and domestic violence. Again, it wasn’t the slap itself, but in his words in his acceptance speech where he said ‘love makes you do crazy things’ that white women saw as their invitation into the Black group chat. 

What was conveniently overlooked by the white feminists was the part where he said ‘Richard Williams was a fierce defender of his family’. This is because Black men, in the discourses about Black family life from the arts to academia, are routinely cast as either absent or violent, and rarely as loving, as protecting, as providing

Indeed, Smith nods to this when he says ‘Art imitates life. I look like the crazy father, just like they said about Richard Williams’. Yet this context was erased by the ‘I don’t condone violence’ while also proclaiming ‘I don’t see colour or race’ white feminist selective takes on violence. This is part of the ritualised racialized and gendered violence that Black men are subject to the world over, of which white women are perpetrators of, in their triggered trauma dumping selfishness. 

Yesterday they drowned out the voices of Black people, including that of Black men who have been victims of family violence, who as children have been forced to step up, and put their bodies on the line to protect their Black mothers. 

And for these men, Smith’s act was not a trigger of trauma, but a validating act of love and protection, of which Black women are deserving of. It too was quite possibly a redemptive act for Smith, who in his memoir wrote of his guilt as a nine year old boy not being able to defend his mother in a most vicious assault. 

He wrote “Within everything that I have done since then — the awards and accolades, the spotlights and the attention, the characters and the laughs — there has been a subtle string of apologies to my mother for my inaction that day…For failing her in that moment. For failing to stand up to my father. For being a coward.”

What’s toxic here, is not Black masculinity, but white feminism. 

Because white women, despite not being the target of the joke, or the victim of violence in this whole affair, quickly found a way to make it all about themselves. It is a well-worn path for them. They simply cannot believe that Black women could be loveable or defendable because for them, we have only ever been an accessory to their agendas (when they actually consider us worthy of the category of women that is). 

And this was what was most shocking to me about what Smith did. That he chose to step up, not privately, but in the most public way, to let everybody (literally the world over) know that Black women do not deserve to be ridiculed. It was shocking because tragically, it is such a rare sight to see. 

Smith did not set the precedent for sanctioning violence (white people have done a good enough job of that). The precedent he set, was of the ‘fuck around and find out kind’, when it comes to coming for Black women. And that is what so many of us, celebrated. 

For Blackfullas here, it was unbearable having to suffer the lecturing of settlers that ‘violence is never okay’. This just weeks after their ‘justice’ system rationalised the violent death of an Aboriginal man in his own home. When Walpiri literally called for a ceasefire, too many settlers remained silent about their non-violent stance. And to be clear, this deafening silence surrounding racialized and gendered violence, is not the stance of an innocent bystander, but is one of accomplice. And sadly, this public stance will never be met with the same scorn meted out to Smith yesterday.  

In having to deal with violence on the daily, in all of its forms, Blackfullas have come to see that Black people cannot count on white people, white laws, white civility, white society to protect us. And, as the oldest living culture in the world, we also know about violence as a conflict resolution strategy – not as first response, but as last resort, to settle the matter. And the fact of the matter is, Rock won’t do another Jada joke, and he and others might even choose their words more wisely next time, in particular in choosing between punching up or punching down. 

The lecturing of Smith, that it was he that should’ve of chosen his words instead, that he should’ve been more classy, or that he should have been more quiet in his objections, is part of the regulation of Black acts and thought that has been central to sustaining our oppression. The demand that redress take place privately, doesn’t result in transformative outcomes, but is a tactic of erasure which too is violent. 

The indifference to the violence that Black women experience is sustained not only on stages of award ceremonies elsewhere, but everyday here in the colony. This week the coronial inquiry in to the disappearance of Ms Bernard resumes and we note the silence that surrounds her story, even in a public inquest. 

Thus it is simply not enough for the defence of Black women to be public, it must be offensive to white sensibilities, and refuse sympathy with their sanctimonious pleadings. For too long, there has been no consequence, no protection afforded Black women, not even those charged with such duties, from the police to the courts, even when we follow the rules they set. 

The best defence and protection of Black people, men, women and children is in our own hands, on our terms. 

So yeah, sure don’t condone violence. 

Try instead to celebrate it, choose it, just make sure you’re punching up.

 

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My name is Shirleen Campbell. I’m a mum, a grandmother, an aunty, a daughter, a sister, a wife and a proud Warlpiri and Arrernte woman who is a third generation resident of an Alice Springs Town Camp, Lhenpe Artnwe, better known as Hoppy’s Camp.

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