When They See Us

Any time I speak of the way patriarchy hurts men, I find it important to first stress that we are also its beneficiaries. And that it is up to us to find ways to relinquish it.

I recently watched Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us on Netflix. It’s a documentary about the Central Park Five. The five men who were exonerated in 2002 after their erroneous conviction for the brutal rape of a jogger in 1989.

It is a harrowing documentation of racism and the miscarriage of justice. And it directly implicates the current occupant of the Oval Office.

I bring it up today because it is important for us to consider the way men of color are perceived to be sexually dangerous. There is a terrible racist twist to the way patriarchy is experienced by men of color.

The history of lynching in our country is a story of men being put to death for being perceived as dangerous to white women. The 14 year old Emmett Till was brutally murdered for being perceived as a threat to a white woman.

As we consider the way masculinity plays out. The way it is defined as more or less dangerous. Let us account for the specific bind that men of color fall into. It is quite the challenge to be conditioned as a man under patriarchy. To be taught that domination is what matters. And then to be made subordinate. To experience structural subjugation. The generational denial of your manhood.

It is tempting to get on this relinquishing patriarchy bandwagon. And to fall into the trap of policing other men. Let us please pay attention to the way our culture has conditioned us to look at men of color as sexually dangerous. Let us be careful not to overlay our work to end patriarchy with the persistent lens that is race.

It is good to be in community with you. I look forward to our call next week.

PS Marlo Pedroso and Isaac Hunnewell are hosting a Boston event on Re-Authoring Masculinity on November 17. Check it out!