Recently, I came across a Black millennial Youtuber who talked about being sick of Black folks obsession with the 90’s. She urged us to “let the 90’s go.” I had to laugh, because I’m guilty of this. As you grow older, it’s hard not to romanticize your childhood. Plus, the 90’s were an amazing time for Black folks. Particularly, in music and fashion. The fusion of r&b/hip-hop propelled Blackness into middle America, like never before. The influence of Black culture was undeniable…and hasn’t waned. That’s why you see white moms rapping in detergent commercials.
I think that’s why so many Gen-Xers, like myself, adore the 90’s. It was an explosion of Black style/dance/slang etc. Back in the 80’s, radio stations played a handful of Black singers that consisted of Whitney, Michael, Prince, and Janet. So, we do tend to carry on about the 90’s, but it’s because we remember how Black artistry was treated before then.
Besides music, Black television also grew in popularity. Shows like Martin, Living Single, and of course…A Different World. A Different World was the first mainstream program to represent Black college life. The first two seasons were terrible (sorry, Lisa Bonet), but it picked up steam after Debbie Allen took over as producer/director.
A couple of months ago, I started rewatching the show on Bounce TV. Now, I can’t begin my mornings, until I sing along with Ms. Aretha. “I know my parents love me, stand behind me come what may…”
The other day, an episode focused on Freddie dating a star athlete on campus. Dwayne is concerned after hanging out with the guy. The guy made troubling comments that showed his lack of respect for women/possible assault on another woman he dated. Dwayne tries to warn Freddie, but she believes he is a nice guy. She also hopes it will help her get over her crush on Dwayne (I believe on the show she is only supposed to be 17/18, while Dwayne is in his early 20’s…so he interacts with her more like a kid sister).
Freddie and the guy attend a party. He convinces her to leave with him to go star-gazing. In the car, Freddie consensually shares kisses with the guy. He gets more aggressive. She asks him to stop. He calls her a tease and says she know she wants it. She begs him to stop. He attacks her and rips her clothes. Dwayne comes flying through the sunroof. He followed them, because he couldn’t stop worrying about Freddie being alone with the guy.
Later, the guy brags to his coach (played by Sinbad… lawd remember him?) about his date with a “wild” woman. The guy tells him his date was Freddie. The coach is confused. He knows Freddie. She has a flower child/idealistic personality. The guy says he had to make her because “no, really means yes.” The coach is shocked, because Dwayne had asked him (in an earlier scene), was it okay to coerce a woman to have sex if she didn’t want to. The coach told him nope, that’s rape. The coach realizes the guy is the one who said this to Dwayne. He reports the guy to the school.
After giving a statement to authorities, Freddie and Dwayne return to the dorm. It turned out the guy did assault his previous date. The whole dorm embraces Freddie. They tell her if she needs anything they are there for her. After everyone leaves, Freddie begins to cry. She tells Dwayne “thank you for being my friend.” They hug.
I loved this episode, because it showed a great community response to sexual violence. The coach didn’t laugh it up with the guy or ignore his behavior because he was a star athlete. He took immediate action. The other students at the dorm didn’t ask Freddie what she was wearing or why she went to a secluded place with him. They believed and affirmed her. Dwayne didn’t tell her “I told you so” or go into a lecture about “the problem with you Black women today is…” He didn’t say anything, but listened.
I’ve been growing increasingly alarmed about the backlash against the #metoo movement. I guess it’s to be expected. Change rarely comes without pushback. However, I’ve been disturbed how some Black men (and women) are framing #metoo as Black women mindlessly following after white women celebrities/feminists. It’s always important to note, that #metoo was started by a Black woman, a decade ago. Tarana Burke wanted to provide space for Black girls/women dealing with sexual violence in their communities. Black girls/women are the heart of this movement.
Black women activists/leaders/organizers/writers/artists/singers/everyday women have historically fought against sexual violence and it’s impact on Black girls/women. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer Alice Walker, bell hooks, Toni Morrison, and so many others. The roots of rape culture, come from slavery and the sexual abuse of Black women’s bodies. Also, Black women domestic workers who faced sexual harassment/assault from their employers. Ms. Parks was known as a sexual assault investigator, before her bus boycott.
Black men (and women) need to trust Black women. We need to know that you know we are intellectually capable of forming our own views on the issue of sexual violence. We need you to support us. We need you to be a friend, as Freddie’s community was to her.