By now almost everyone has either seen or heard about the vicious assault that former NFL player Ray Rice did against his then fiance (now wife) Janay. Now we are in that place that America loves to go…analyzing what went wrong and who is at fault. The media, talking heads, and social media is going crazy with critiques on Ray Rice and indeed, he deserves the harshest punishment we can mete out but I must ask the question, “Who else is responsible?”
For one, we know the NFL is responsible. Domestic violence is notorious in the league. Some of you might remember that activist and Hall of Famer Jim Brown had a reputation for abusing women. He allegedly threw a woman off a balcony. Ahmad Brooks (Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers) abused his partner. Warren Moon (former Houston Oilers, and Canadian football player) allegedly abused his wife. Brandon Marshall (Chicago Bears) was involved in domestic violence. The statistics indicate that NFL players are more often involved in reported incidents of domestic violence. The league knows this, the coaches know this, and the Commissioner knows this. Clearly the NFL is also responsible for the domestic abuse Janay Rice experienced. But it is not only the NFL.
The justice system is also responsible. When we check how few NFL players are actually arrested and sentenced to jail time for domestic violence we recognize that the justice system turns a blind eye to these assaults. Many years ago a woman named Roxanne Gay was accused of stabbing her husband to death while he slept. Her husband was Philadelphia Eagle, Blenda Gay. The records indicate that Mrs. Gay called the police 20 times during the course of their marriage. At her murder trial she indicated that when she called the police they showed up and then fell under the awe of the celebrity of a local football star. Instead of responding to Mrs. Gay’s complaints and cries for help, the police officers sat around listening to football stories and getting autographs. So indeed, the justice system is responsible.
But who else is responsible? I say we are ALL responsible. We are posting and tweeting about Janay and victimizing her all over again. We ask why she stays when most of us have no idea what it is like to be in her situation. We claim we wouldn’t take this or that when the truth is most of us don’t actually know what we would do in her situation. We know nothing of her terror. We know nothing of her economic dependence. We know nothing of her emotional dependence. Instead, we gladly participate in the “victim porn” that this situation has become.
I ache for Janay Rice individually but I ache for women, particularly Black women, collectively. Through this entire ordeal all I could think about is how Black women’s bodies continue to be devalued and disrespected. We have watched them brutalized, sexualized, and objectified. When we view, post, and re-post fights between women and attacks on women we become responsible for what happened to Janay Rice. Who else is responsible…We ALL are!
Stay Black & Smart!