Let’s call you by your name: coward. Let’s call you by what you are: coward. A coward is someone who harms or attacks people who are weaker or unable to defend themselves; someone regarded as fearful and uncourageous. The video of former Baltimore Ravens running star back, Ray Rice pulling a Mike Tyson knockout punch on his then fiancée, now wife Janay Rice, in a Casino elevator is rightfully shinning the light on a human rights issue that has been on the hush-hush for far too long. We see tell-tell signs of battered spouses when we visit with some of our friends and implicitly endorse the savage behavior by shrugging our shoulders and looking the other way, or drinking a beer to male power. Shame on you! Shame on me!
Who beats up on their significant other?
The spouses they beat up are almost always trophy wives – I believe Mike Tyson had to pinch himself every now and then when actress Robin Givens fell in love and eventually married him. I reckon Tyson must have been asking himself why him; why would Robin get married to someone like him who grew up in the gutters and knew no self-esteem; would she marry me, Tyson must have wrestled with the thought, if I had not punched my way into money and fame? He must have pondered, Tyson did, whether this woman of high education and upper class demeanor would marry him if she did not like a little bit of the ghetto in him.
The truth about abuse is that it is not about the victim, it is about the insecurities of the coward who is perpetrating the abuse. It is about the insecurities of those, like Mike Tyson, Chris Brown, Terrell Suggs, OJ Simpson, and you who beat on your significant other. It is about a checkered childhood; it is about growing up without a role model in a loving father figure; it is about growing up and seeing the man in the house ambush their mother; it is about wanting to own and control this being that you think owes you her life because she would be nothing without your money or education or status in society; it is about thinking you are better than what her past had, and what her future holds without you; it is about wanting all of her love for you and you alone, to the point where you isolate her from her friends and family and you become her only family.
Growing up in Cameroon I heard, and still hear, anecdotal tales of how women from the Bassa Ethnic group in the Littoral Region agonize if their husbands did not beat up on them to outwardly manifest their love. I have heard some men and women strongly support, justify and glee at such dehumanization. At every turn I have always had a few questions for these scumbags: 1) would you stand by and watch your son-in-law punch your daughter unconscious? 2) Would you let your brother-in-law punch your sister dead? 3) Would you, as a grown man, watch your father unleash his fury on your mother? 4) Would you watch the boyfriend of your niece punch her eyes black? 5) If you are beating up this woman because it makes you a loving husband, would you also listen to her if she asked you to stop on the highway and be run over by a truck?
I am in luck, I have always said, that I don’t have to sleep and ever bother that my brother-in-laws have never found reason to become heavy-weight champions on my sisters as a way to “break them in”. I am in luck, I say, my mother of blessed memory did not need for any of us to come to her defense. It was not only because of her strength, which she was a woman of steel will and strength. It was also because my Dad was and remains a gentleman.
A gentleman, among other practical definitions, knows when to walk away. In every relationship there are hazy moments when our judgments are clouded and bursts of anger seize upon us. A coward is one who seizes upon these moments to instill fear while shrouding their own apprehension. The gentleman is one who recognizes the moment of weakness and walks away till the fog is settled. Just as it is foolhardy to drive when we can hardly see ahead of us, anger has a unique ability in relationships to push us over the cliff.
A gentleman walks away, not out of weakness, but because of self control and the promise to be the protector of his spouse. A gentleman walks away, not because the spouse is louder, but because you don’t want to throw more gas to the fire. A gentleman walks away, not because the girlfriend is stronger, but because your strength is more than physical, it is also emotional and psychological. A gentleman walks away, not because you cannot knock her unconscious, but because when you come back home the circumstance(s) would have changed and there would be room to dialogue and opportunity for reason and compromise to prevail.
A Human Rights Issue:
Even as this human ignominy is battled by the better forces of society, finger pointing on racial, religious or cultural grounds is shortsighted and undermines the holistic approach that must be brought to the fight. Every race is guilty of horrific crimes perpetrated by men against women. There are ledgers to fill of Caucasians killing their wives and preferring to serve prison sentences than live to see their wives “enjoy” another dime of their wealth. I have heard a worrisome number of black men talk about “breaking” their wives with snake beatings. We are familiar with the Indian culture wherein women are roasted alive if they have “know a man” outside of marriage, thereby bringing great and irreparable shame to the family honor. I don’t know the God who endorses criminal conduct as justification for sin.
On September 20th in Atlanta, Women are Core will be having a 3k Ran/Walk to continue raising awareness on the plight of women in South Sudan. According to Lema Nsah, President of the organization that is local to Atlanta but has a global outlook, Women are Core is coming of age, amongst other things, as a voice to women who have been violated and left voiceless by spouses, abused by ruthless men and spat on by society. Only 1 in 10 women are able to read and write in South Sudan; 1 in 7 women die in pregnancy or childbirth; girls marry between the ages of 15 and 19 years. According to Human Rights Watch, girls who resist marriage are often “cruelly beaten, verbally abused, and threatened with curses, or taken to the police to coerce them into marriage. In some cases, they were held captive and even murdered by their families.” Sounds familiar?
Rationalizing calls for the NFL Commissioner to Resign
In the heart of this human tragedy there is the apology of Ray Rice to the NFL boss, Roger Goodell, which should be haunting and revealing. A source told the sports TV show “Outside the Lines” that Ray Rice “made it clear he had hit her, and he told Goodell he was sorry and that it wouldn’t happen again.”
Taken for what it is, the apology does not reveal Ray Rice as one who is in a position of strength. It shows an individual who is looking up, with trepidation, at the one to whom he is apologizing. And this makes perfect sense because Commissioner Goodell controls the purse strings and could cut him loose from the NFL, like he has eventually done under pressure.
But the other salient fact that no one seems to be highlighting at this point, is that the Ray Rice apology to the commissioner on June 16th portrays almost a father and son relationship, or a yearning thereof. They are words of contrition by a son to his father, or God father. I believe that Ray Rice came to his God Father a truly contrite son, needing forgiveness and assurance that all will be well with his contract. This father-son relationship readily explains why Commissioner Goodell could not have thrown Ray under the bus at the first sign of trouble.
The truth of the matter, however, is that these leagues – NBA, NFL …etc, provide the most structured family environments that some of these men have ever known. Unfortunately, these leagues are also products of same society where parents see no wrong in the actions of their kids, especially the boys that rape girls at school and all of it is covered up. We have to teach our kids, irrespective of our origins, irrespective of our cultures, irrespective of our race, and irrespective of our religion, that thou shall not lift your hand on a woman, ever! It is why the calls for the resignation of Commissioner Goodell are only going to grow louder, because his failure represents the failure of the larger society to nip this behaviour in the bud.
Finally, one must find issue with those who are blaming the Bible (Colossians 3:18) for the violence against women. It is but fair to read the chapter in context, particularly paying attention to the verses following verse 18, in order to understand the issues of the day that Paul was inspired to address in his letter to the Christians in Colossae.
18) Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting for those who belong to the Lord.
19) Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. (Other translations say “Husbands, love your wives as Christ Loved his Church” – what does that mean? Christ on Cross! Die for your wife, not batter or kill your wife!)
20) Children, always obey your parents, for this pleases the Lord. 21) Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.
I have no need for friends that beat up on their wives, and I hope you can make a stand and keep your hands off of your wife. Let us join hands in taking a stand against cowards. Join Dunia Magazine and Women are Core in restoring some modicum of dignity to the woman who has known no peace from the coward and abuser. Let us challenge ourselves to be her protector, to speak up for her. Will you be your sister’s keeper?
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