I’ve been following these most recent discussions surrounding HIV/AIDS and its spread by “Down Low” men. These conversations are dishonest and have gaping holes. Thanks to several proponents and their rush to prove the potential gay bashers wrong they’ve managed to shift the conversation and ignore the obvious: those who are contracting the disease don’t do so in a vacuum.
How does this relate to black women? The lack of activism and advocacy on behalf of reducing the likelihood of their being infected is utterly appalling! The number of women being infected is not being discussed publicly or framed with urgency because people would rather talk around the issues and focus on the symptoms not the causes.
I’m not suggesting anyone develop a grudge against black gay males or assign the Down Low phenomena to them. This focus on the sex lives and emotional attachments of certain black males was chronicled as fiction very cleverly by author E. Lynn Harris. Invisible Life remains on my favorite books as it was an honest portrayal of a character’s relationship interactions. I’m certain that many “successful” men like the fictional athlete Basil Henderson have an interesting journey in real life that we could benefit learning from.
This is the real world and there are real consequences at stake where outside pressures can take precedence to being honest. In the same way people discuss crimes in black neighborhoods but don’t discuss who the criminals are and who they’re mostly targeting, it’s the focus on dishonest manipulations that I take issue with. On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of ‘Straight’ Black Men Who Sleep With Men as written by JL King – who has formed a cottage industry on being an “authority” on bisexual and homosexual black men exposed this to a mass audience. Just as I’m not interested in coddling criminals I will not defer to males who knowingly put women in harm’s way with their reckless sexual behavior (and then seek to profit from it years later).
I remember the Oprah interview and media attention King received. It was all about his pain, his needs and his path while he shrugged off all responsibility for putting his wife’s life at risk or the damage to his family while he played at being a husband until he figured out what he wanted.
I saw the pushback from those that said these discussions would be detrimental to black males and just one more thing to hold against them blah, blah, blah. Yes, there was sensationalism but nowhere did I see a balanced conversation that included the voices of the black women these men had relationships or interactions with. Even King’s former wife Brenda Stone Browder’s follow-up book to his initial public revelation talked about her journey to acceptance (since they were already divorced when he went public with his book) but mixes a lot of religiosity by suggesting homosexuality can be cured. That line of thinking could lead some women to remain in a relationship with someone they need to distance themselves from.
It’s why I support Elin Woods in getting as big of a divorce settlement as she can from her cheating husband whose mistresses revealed his choice to not use protection while sexing them. Misogynistic thinking had many outraged at the idea of her getting hundreds of millions of dollars (as if it was their money) but they were silent when it came to the potential of her being exposed to an STD or worse. Be it another male, a woman, the next door neighbor or a prostitute the choice of betraying someone’s trust and exposing them to a deadly or life-compromising infection (not to mention the emotional harm) is still wrong no matter what the “reason”.
When I attended the TedxPotomac conference in DC in May one of the speakers was the self-professed Czarina of HIV, Dr. Shannon Hader the (now former) Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA) for DC. I’ve been wanting to write about this since the incident but I was so angry I had to wait.
During her speech she proceeded to discuss specifically why DL men are not the cause of the near 90% HIV rate of blacks in DC but left the conversation hanging about the factors that led to such a disproportionate percentage to begin with. Only she never mentioned the HIV rates for blacks in DC specifically – only that the former administrations (including Marion Barry) DID NOT KEEP ANY RECORDS until recently. Yup, read that again. DC had a huge criminal culture, many people were addicted to crack and the City has no records of how many people were exposed to and spreading HIV for decades.
The stats being touted are that 1 in 20 people in the DC Metro area have HIV with no specific racio/ethnic/orientation distinction. That’s still a LOT! She used a case study of 750 people to frame her argument – not the current CDC statistics. Her definition of DL men was an intentional obfuscation of talking around the big elephant in the room. She briefly mentioned black males exposing “others” to HIV (thereby tying DL behaviors to them exclusively since she never mentioned whites specifically) but nowhere in that conversation did she clearly mention black women as the highest percentage of recipients of the exposure!! She talked overall US population percentages (which is less than 2%) and why “we” didn’t need to be alarmed since “most” people are okay. Also ignoring the very high rates for DC as I indicated at the top of the paragraph. Bear in mind her audience was predominantly upper middle class, highly educated crowd of white heteros over the age of 25 – and then there was me!
I was livid! While I live-Tweeted this travesty I met another woman of color who was in attendance because we were following the hashtag (link) to the event on Twitter. She was equally outraged by the skewed presentation. Score one for the power of connecting via social media. Another attendee saw our conversation and had no idea why we were so incensed so I explained to her in person the overall ramifications from these misguided conversations.
Not telling black women the truth ALL of the truth = aiding and abetting their death.
Then two weeks later I see the person who questioned my initial reaction at another event and she informed me that Dr. Hader was out of a job. Officially she left on her own accord, but at another conference in June I confirmed with some HIV activists who work for the City that she was indeed fired. While initially I was happy now I’m not so certain.
I felt she was spreading misinformation that could be interpreted as all-inclusive when it was merely factually correct. Yes, you can make an accurate statement that still only tells a half-truth! That doesn’t guarantee the next person hired won’t do the same thing. I did find her hubris in referring to herself as a Czarina rather off-putting though.
The bottom line is that some people would rather focus on not offending others (usually because they have political clout or it’s in the interest of those that do) while allowing such apathy to lead to the death of others. All for the sake of political correctness. When the HIV conversation is related to blacks it’s almost unanimously supported by the assertion of two causes:
b) Racism (the focus is only on what’s employed by whites)
That’s misleading for a variety of reasons which I’ll discuss after the jump. I’ll see you that argument and raise you with:
c) Low Self-Esteem
When black women have already been compromised by the constant negative barrage of their image publicly as sanctioned by the black “community” from those males and their female supporters who are in fact trying to destroy what they hate – their blackness, their inadequacies at not being able to compete against other males in a patriarchal society and the very source of life for future black children – those black women will do all they can to proceed even under extreme duress.
When black males (African Americans esp) define themselves by their ability to procreate (not to rear their offspring but simply to reproduce), the size and prowess of their member and their sports agility instead of the ability to build a solid community infrastructure (the dearth of functioning & thriving 2-parent homes bound in by marriage) they pose a threat to society in general but to other blacks in particular.
The continued in-fighting amongst fatherless black males who kill each other and spurn and mock black women does more harm than any external opposition or barriers. In other words being poor and white racism has no bearing on any individual’s personal spiritual practice, use of common sense or value system.
The only people who are pushing that agenda are “liberal” whites and willfully ignorant blacks. One stems from paternalistic appropriation and sacred cow worship of black males as “endangered species”. It assumes adults cannot make life-affirming choices due to lack of a) intellect b) morality c) core ability to function in step with the majority of society. Therefore they’re off the proverbial hook.
The other stems from the mass undiagnosed mental defects that have been allowed to become the norm post-Civil Rights but in a court of law you are still expected to accept responsibility for your actions when you know right from wrong. The acceptance and promotion of never-married women raising children alone is one such destructive propaganda agenda. Regular readers of this blog know of the pushback I got last summer when writing about that from a few black women, but the established studies on poverty are unanimous in stating single (never-married) motherhood as the leading cause for such a destructive cycle.
Which brings me back to the topic at hand: HIV/AIDS. If women are getting pregnant the same exchange of body fluids that allows for that also allows for the spread of the infection. If these emotionally battered women are already feeling desperate and unsupported they will choose to compromise themselves in any number of ways to feel adequate. It isn’t just or fair and most certainly works against their self-interests and survival but it’s what’s happening and we need to talk about it.
THAT IS WHAT IS MISSING FROM THESE CONVERSATIONS! Those who’d prefer to focus on case studies, absolutes and exceptions do a grave injustice to black women who have the highest rates of impact out of all others. Conflating the ignorance of some who’d make negative blanket statements about DL men under a homphobic slant by ignoring the actual results of the behavior of some of those same DL (who don’t identify or agree with any of the above assessments) males and their negative impact on black women creates more problems that remedies. There are those who may not know and are only looking at from a potentially homophobic angle. They’re still ignoring all the aspects. Then there are those who do not care. Either way you’re adding to the problem and not offering viable solutions. The questions people should be asking is who framed the conversation to begin with, who set the agenda and the paramenters for the discussion and why? Who’s voices are being heard and who’s given consideration?
When the ratio of black women and men is so obviously skewed in favor of the males by more than three-to-one, when said males are not monogamous, when said males are in and out of jail, when said males define themselves by their ability to (*&^%) and not on being a man of valor, when said men don’t want to use condoms or take other precautions and when these are the men black women are having sex with – THAT is the reason why HIV/AIDS is the #1 KILLER OF BLACK WOMEN (25-34) IN THIS COUNTRY.
The destruction has not been televised (yet) thanks to all of the deniers, excusers and obfuscators who’d rather split hairs over semantics, ignore basic common sense and get sidetracked by political correctness AT THE EXPENSE OF BLACK WOMEN. It is unlikely to be discussed in the mass media until it is far too late to do anything. Like many decisions the Powers That Be will make, we won’t know until it’s already in place.
While the CDC seeks to cover it’s a** with cleverly worded caveats the last time I checked 1+1 still equals 2. They don’t want to deal with the fall-out from certain loudmouth opportunistic black mouthpieces who’d cry racism by stating it clearly but I will. If the majority of black women are having sex with black men and such a large percentage is a) pregnant or b) infected then the common denominator to this equation is still BLACK MALES. Whether they or you want to classify them as down-low, not down-low, poverty stricken, oppressed, unlucky, misunderstood or not at fault does nothing to change the results that we can take a visual assessment of and identify the trends for.
I could care less about Sherri Sheppard and DL (IDIOT) Hughley’s shameful mutterings on The View. They are uneducated paid performers. One dropped out of high school, was a gang-banger and has a shameful history of bashing black women despite being married to one. The other has publicly admitted her ignorance on a variety of current events, voted for the first time at 41 and spoke of how she gave up all power in her previous marriage. More recently she has focused on making a cottage industry from being the spurned wife of a cheating husband (mostly because he left her for a white woman that he impregnated). Are these the people we’re listening to…about ANYTHING?!
The problem lies with those who in their rush to “support gay men” by not “bashing” those who’d be categorized as Down Low is in selectively choosing how to frame this argument to begin with. It is especially dangerous to see certain white women with a platform who consider themselves liberal or feminist to misappropriate the conversation (since it has NOTHING to do with them) who value a misguided protectionism for the po’ downtrodden, misunderstood black male meme that is inherently sexist in its singular focus at the expense of black women.
The conversation about homophobia and black women being exposed to HIV are two separate and distinct conversations. It’s when these misguided fools start telling black women “there’s nothing to see here” about HIV exposure by including “DL” black males in the mix that I have to step in and say: SHUT UP! To focus on a a Q&A section on the CDC website while ignoring the extensive reports that point to the jump in HIV/AIDS and the overwhelming percentages that are affecting black women as provided by the same CDC is a very narrow focus. Stop focusing on the labels and pay attention to the behavior.
If white women were being infected at the same rates that black women were all this obfuscating and attempts at understanding would immediately cease. When gay men were exposing each other to the disease organizations like ACT UP! were created so that people would be forced to get real about their behavior and choices. I see no such conversations with regards to black women.
I was very pleased to hear that Dr. Hader has been fired but horrified by the prospect of the continued lying on the part of “HIV Awareness” initiatives that solely focus on listing lack of education and money as the defining factor for its spread amongst black women. Those are not the core issues at play. Just as there are numerous ethnicities amongst blacks in this country there is also more than one class-tier. We are not a monolith nor do we all share the same histories.
All you have to do is ask one of these activists a direct question to get them to confirm the real scenario. They have a spiel and a script because they are relying on government funding for their programs. It’s the unspoken incentives (finding and holding onto a black male, ANY black male at all costs) that guide the choices of many of black women to make decisions that may cut their lives short or forever alter its quality. If others want to have a narrow focus on how they have these conversations then hey – so can I.
My focus is on SAVING THE LIVES OF BLACK WOMEN without compromise. If black women stopped having sex with these conquered and inadequate black males period we’d see an immediate reversal of the statistics. I’m not one for relying on the honesty of insecure males who may or may not be in a revolving cycle of incarceration, testing their “manhood” by racking up large numbers of women who also will not properly use protection or choose quality over quantity. Remember the guy who’s been charged with killing Jennifer Hudson’s family? After serving six years in prison and while he was married to her sister he had two additional “girlfriends” – one of whom was pregnant at the time of his (re)arrest.
THIS is what I’m talking about. BEHAVIORAL PATTERNS. While some many see that situation as an extreme example I don’t believe it is. When people behave in abhorrent ways it’s usually displayed across the board. The flip side of that is the educated black male who may not have gotten so much as a parking ticket but still has no intention of ever “settling down” – at least not until he’s older. IF he’s even dating black women at all he’s in the power position of negotiating the terms of contact. Only those black women who know their value, don’t limit themselves by race and set strict standards in vetting men will be able to avoid or refuse such males.
When I see the FULL CONVERSATION BEING ENGAGED I will amend my assessment of this cafeteria-style selective nonsense. That also includes the need for accountability on the part of black women to accept their own role in their destruction. So far I see white paternalism and sexism along with black dysfunction apologists working against the protection of black women. If these “concerned” parties want to actually do some good then focus on empowering black women instead of adding to the drone of confusing noise.
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