Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Soul On Ice Effect - Why The Lives Of Black Women And Children Have No Value

Former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver published the world famous manifesto Soul On Ice in 1968, many consider this work a classic political text. I do not. While I acknowledge the power in Cleaver's words, the text is also infamous for Cleaver's admission of being a rapist. Cleaver attempts to justify his rapes of white women as a strike back at the white man and a way to recover his black manhood, as he states about his rapes ["an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man's law ... defiling his women."]

As frightening and problematic as that explanation is, Cleaver admits to "practicing on black girls in the ghetto" first. Cleaver never served a day in prison for his assaults on black women, in fact he would become a celebrated black leader during the Black Power movement, a voice of the people, black people. I have always been troubled by this glaring double standard image of Cleaver and the Black Power movement. Forty years later, black women as rape victims, murder victims are considered even less valuable than they were in 1968. We are expendable. And it is not just because white people have devalued the lives of black women, we have, the black community. We make excuses for black men who hurt and kill, for black men who hurt and kill their own people.

On my blog, I have covered the gang-rape at Dunbar Village in West Palm Beach, the slaying of an entire deputy sheriff's family by her own son in Atlanta, the murder of Nailah Franklin in Chicago, the senseless murders of black women and children on Hovey Street in Indianapolis and on Lester Street in Memphis. All these cases have received more detailed attention on black-owned blogs than on the mainstream media. Our so-called black leadership, the Al Sharptons, the Jesse Jacksons, the Tavis Smileys, the Cornell Wests, including black presidential candidate Barack Obama have been woefully silent and hopelessly inadequate at making any of these cases have any sense of importance in terms of getting a resolution or some sense of justice. The overall black community has been outraged and saddened at these cases, but not enough to last more than a few days, no lasting impression. Once the bodies get buried, our collective interest wanes. We just seem to wait for the next case.

All these cases represent one black woman gang-raped, her black son beaten and terrorized, six black women and six black children murdered. I do not discount the value of the 2 black men that were murdered as well, but a running total of 12 to 2 in less than a year is shocking. When one considers that the suspects in all these cases are black men, one must feel a deep sense of unsettling despair about these cases. Where is the collective black outrage? Black folks mobilized and marched with passion for the quite frankly, extremely unworthy Jena 6 group, but have been virtually dead silent about the black women and children that have been battered, raped, and murdered, then discarded like paper cups when the picnic is finished.

Recently, the two high profile murders of a Auburn University student, Lauren Burk and a UNC Chapel Hill student, Eve Carson received the lion's share of media attention as is the habit when young and privileged white women are murdered, I was reminded again of the scant attention that black women regardless of age, social or economic background that are missing or murdered ever receive. When confronted with the fact that the alleged murderers of these women are black men, I was reminded of Eldridge Cleaver. I wondered if these same black men that murdered white women so callously and senselessly, what were they doing in the black communities where they came from? How many of their own people had they victimized before they moved on to harming people that would attract the attention to mobilize the police to stop them? How much "practice" had they had in our community before they moved on to white communities?

White people will make no excuses in these cases. They will accept nothing less than the highest level of prosecution under the law. Not just because the murderer was black, they demand the same when the murderer is white, they will demand justice because one of their own has been senselessly murdered, for no good reason at all. Where are the Megan's Law and the Polly Klass' laws for black children? Jerry Lee Lewis career was destroyed when he married his 13 year old cousin, but black folks celebrate R. Kelly for his sexual relationships with underage girls. Why does this man still have a career? Do you actually think white people would have waited this long for such a clear case of pornography, underage sex and statutory rape to be prosecuted if R. Kelly was white or his victim was?

Black people should be outraged that black murderers are allowed to "practice" in our neighborhoods first, before they move on. Black people should be outraged that convicted murderer Jessie Dotson was released from prison, only to commit multiple murders of his own family members just two months after his release.

Yet, we won't be, we will make excuses. We will talk about what these black men didn't have and how they didn't get what they needed. We will blame white people, we will blame the prison system, the educational system, we will blame television, music, and movies, we will even blame the victims themselves, but we will most certainly refuse to hold the murderers 100% accountable. We will refuse to call for justice and demand that these predators be locked up and the key to their freedom forever destroyed. And that makes absolutely no sense at all.

It doesn't matter if black men feel trapped by their personal circumstances and the only people available to hurt and destroy are black women and children, you don't have the right to murder people. It doesn't matter how dire your life, no matter how much you are struggling, you have no right to murder people. It doesn't matter if you suffered racism or any kind of discrimination, you have no right to murder people. No matter how hungry you get, no matter how desperate you get, you have no right to take someone's life. That is what is supposed to separate us, human beings from wild animals.

We really need to stop wondering why black women and children that go missing or turn up murdered get scant attention in the white-owned mainstream media, we, us, black people have made it a standard practice in our own communities. The black community repeatedly fails to openly and honestly discuss and confront domestic violence, rape, incest, or sexual abuse in our own communities, but we expect white people to care about black victims of these types of crimes when we do not.

The black community continuously asks and expects black women to hold black families together in the most trying and difficult circumstances without the assistance of the majority of black men and then have the nerve to ask black women to be the most forgiving and understanding victims in the universe when the perpetrators are black men. We are always expected to blindly support black men no matter what they do to us, no matter how they fail us, and never ask any questions, but do black women receive the same kind of unconditional support and protection? I think not, the Soul On Ice Effect has become standard practice in the black community.


BLKSeaGoat March 10, 2008 at 12:30 PM  

Professor Tracy,

I am actually in tears after reading this post. Would you mind if I cross posted this on my blog or at least linked to it?


Professor Tracey March 10, 2008 at 12:44 PM  


feel free to cross post or link. Your choice. I'm glad you liked the post. That means a lot coming from you.

SheCodes March 10, 2008 at 1:21 PM  

Professor Tracy,

I am crying too. Thank you for allowing us to cross-post this.

Randi523 March 10, 2008 at 1:43 PM  

I was so, so, so angry when I saw these 2 perps on the news this weekend and that they were Black men. I just don't know what's going on with our Black men.

The Auburn girl's alleged killer's mother got on TV, apologizing for the actions of her son. Like you said, Professor Tracey, Black women apologizing/making excuses for our Black men, relative or not. I really honestly wish she wouldn't have apologized on (national) TV-the apology won't bring the girl back or keep her son out of prison or the electric chair (still used here in AL), but I'm sure reporters bombarded her front door and she felt like that was the best response.

I have a 1 year old nephew with not-the-best father. All of us aunts and my dad are going to do WHATEVER we have to to make him grow up to be an honorable young man.

I think you raised an important point too about not making excuses like the perp being hungry, broke, homeless, etc. and deciding to go out and murder an innocent person, then try to use her ATM card, possibly joy-riding in her car! (Even though, I wonder if he was successful in getting $ out of her account without a PIN-don't tell me she wrote the pin somewhere on/near the card!)

Professor Tracey March 10, 2008 at 1:49 PM  

Hi Randi,

I agree with your statements. I do feel for the mother, her son is supposely an Irag war veteran and apparently has not been right since his return. I do not accept that as an excuse, but I am worried that some Irag War veterans that had a very hard time will become the new criminals in our communities because they have been abandoned by the government. Particularly those that were forced to join the military because of prior criminal acts to avoid prison.

RockNRollSista March 10, 2008 at 2:00 PM  

I am going to raise my future son to be respectful and if he is mentally unstable I will get him help.

wisdomteachesme March 10, 2008 at 2:36 PM  

these soldiers are already like the ones from all the other wars.
i remmeber several coming home a few years ago returning to ft. bragg and all of a sudden all these men started killing their wives and children and many tried to kill themselves -some suceeded..some did not.
if they do not watchout there are going to be sooo many more killings from these vets--it has happened in the past--and they were not helped then , not years ago nor now. they have got to get these people some help--they have suffered great mental set backs from this war--not to mention haliburtian and feeding our troops tainted water! ?? on purpose...
i believe other murders have happended by vets --it's just not being reported that way.

you are correct..there is no excuse for killing anyone (other than self defense) in my book.
there are too many places to go to get food, shelter and the likes--

as for cleaver, never liked him and i don't care how smart he is or has written--he is a criminal--not a leader of good!
he's a leader alright...but i would not follow him into the gates of hell! all those people that followed him...sad..

sorry, just sorry...and i'll not get started on the killings of gay people just because they are gay!

great writing prof. ! thank you!

Faith March 10, 2008 at 2:59 PM  

Wow! Great post. You know the San Francisco Film Society hosted a Trapped in the Closet screening at an area nightclub in January. I emailed the Director to ask why they were supporting R Kelly and how much value did they place on the lives of young Black girls in light of his pending court cases and how I found it unacceptable. The response was *crickets* as I was informed it was a parody sing-along and therefore satire. Yet I countered that it wasn't advertised that way and a cover was being charged, etc. I had to say something though I didn't get the response I wanted. This blog does a great job of shifting the perspective even if I find myself disagreeing at times. I realize it's because I've been bombarded with all the ways to ignore Black women being treated as less than even though I KNOW it's been happening intellectually. Feeling it is really painful...but necessary.

Miss Issues March 10, 2008 at 3:11 PM  

Thank you Professor Tracey. I am just wondering when our communities and our so called leaders are going address what's going on with our young men. They act like they have no soul.

Again, you don't see the white media blaming the victim. Like Nancy Grace said, these young women did nothing wrong. No matter what time of night they were out. They have the right to live out their lives in a safe environment. Same with the woman in Dunbar Village and the young woman pictured here. When are we going to hold the mirror up to ourselves.

wisdomteachesme March 10, 2008 at 5:12 PM  

I'm going to see Meshell Ndegeocello in carborro,nc Tonight!!

to get my mind off all this mess! you have to have down time-or all the "to & fro" will take you down with it!

i wish we could come up with a way to alert the public to the missing/nurdered black women/children on the scale as tv does other skin colors.
all murders sadden me--but i do feel the pain and being "invisible"-

the parents and families of people that have the 'means' to pubilizie their murders and kidnappings are a small group. there are times i think about what i would do if that happened to my child or a loved one! i have NO doubts that i could and would create a mass attention getting way to get people to notice.

but there must be a way to help the people that do not have the 'means' to do so. ohhhh wait amin. doesn't oprah own a network now?
ahhhhhh never mind....

there must be a way to get the word out.

La ~ msviswan March 10, 2008 at 6:56 PM  

"Eve Carson received the lion's share of media attention as is the habit when young and privileged white women are murdered, I was reminded again of the scant attention that black women regardless of age, social or economic background that are missing or murdered ever receive. When confronted with the fact that the alleged murderers of these women are black men, I was reminded of Eldridge Cleaver. I wondered if these same black men that murdered white women so callously and senselessly, what were they doing in the black communities where they came from? How many of their own people had they victimized before they moved on to harming people that would attract the attention to mobilize the police to stop them? How much "practice" had they had in our community before they moved on to white communities?"

Great! This took the words out of my mouth. I felt this when I visited another blog this morning. I too want to cross post when I get a chance. This is some serious stuff, it's so sad, and upsetting.

mrshadow33 March 10, 2008 at 8:10 PM  

Professor Tracey you have written a brilliant and insightful article. Our people have to wake up and take reponsibility. The excuses that have been made for these criminals and their acts have got to stop. We have to keep on working and agitating for this to happen.

I not only provided a link to it on my blog but I wrote a response to it. If you have time I would be honored if you would read it and let me know what you think. Thank you again for the article and the inspiration.

roslynholcomb March 10, 2008 at 8:42 PM  

I remember dating a guy years ago who was of a nationalist bent. He admired Cleaver and gave me the book saying that it 'changed his life forever.' I got to the part about practice rapes and didn't read any further. I returned the book to the guy and put his ass on ice forever.

Classicrose March 10, 2008 at 9:07 PM  

Great post Professor Tracey!! I've always felt that the black community has their heads in the sand when it comes to black men committing crimes against their own. If white men were committing the same crimes against the black community we would be up in arms and protesting in the streets.

Our community seems to be more forgiving and comes up with all types of excuses as to why some of these young black males are so violent. The excuse is always it's the white man's fault. Personal reponsibility doesn't come into play.

tasha212 March 10, 2008 at 9:20 PM  

Professor Tracey,

I was really touched by this post. I have often wondered why our leaders are sislent and inactive in the face of the murder, kidnapping, and rape of black women. Is it that they don't know how to address the issue or do they simply not care? Is it because the perpetrators are often black men? What is the reason?

It seems like for the last year or so, black women are being murdered and kidnapped at an alarming rate. It really disturbs me moreso because of the silence that follows these tragedies. One of my sorors was murdered last September by her fiance. He shot her in the head and burned her body beyond recognition. We all mourned her in the sorority but here in Baton Rouge there was no outcry over her death. That was around the time that the Jena six thing was going on. I guess that was more important. When is there going to be a march or demonstration protesting the murder, rape, and kidnapping of the sistas, protesting against the silence? I guess that's something WE will have to organize.

Rent Party March 10, 2008 at 11:05 PM  

Great post.

And: anecdote on the topic, why don't people get it? I read Soul on Ice in the seventh grade, for a book report, when it was first out. I said: this author will be an arch conservative before long and you can tell because of his attitude toward women. Everybody thought my reading was eccentric and perverse but: history bore me out!!!

focusedpurpose March 11, 2008 at 1:32 AM  

Professor Tracey-

thank you! well done.


BLKSeaGoat March 11, 2008 at 11:48 AM  

Professor Tracey,

Al Sharpton will be in Dunbar Village speaking out on behalf of the RAPISTS.

Remember that post about the fine art of missing the point? I completely get it now and I am so sorry for the things that I wrote about the Hovey street murders.

Thanks again for this post. I remember you saying that no one wanted to talk about the serious issues. I think it's because the truth really does hurt.

Here I am thinking that I'm doing all I can to keep my sexism and chavaunism at bey by joining the "personal responsibility" band wagon. This post has challenged me and my thinking. I sent the post to several women in my family and on my list serve.

Anonymiss March 11, 2008 at 12:20 PM  

It just hurts to read this. It hurts because this is my biggest pet peeve with our community and I'm reminded of it every time I watch the news or visit Black-focused blogs.

This new generation has to have personal responsibility drilled into their heads.

Katrina March 11, 2008 at 4:16 PM  

Professor Tracey, this was EXCELLENT!!!

It was so on true....God bless you, Tracey.

blackoncampus July 13, 2008 at 1:46 PM  

The invisibility of Black women is an issue that rarely gets aired in discussion of race in America. There are many reasons, but the effect is that Black women in crisis rarely get their needs met.

I think Black women aren't more outspoken on this issue because in many communities we don't even have the expectation of be heard or cared about.

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