When it comes to certain “unpleasant” topics, Black people willingly choose denial. As a people, we tend to categorize problems by race. “Only White people have Downs Syndrome” or “Only White fathers rape their daughters”. 20 years ago “only White guys were gay”. Sadly, we have no choice but to own robbery and gang violence as “Black problems”.
Conversely, we also have a need to perpetuate the myth of “the strong Black family” or “a strong Black race”. Are there strong Black families and are we strong as a race? Sure; but like any other people, we have severe evils that plague us and it’s to our detriment that we deny or ignore these. As a race, we rail against those who would dare to “air our dirty laundry”. When Bill Cosby called out urban parents on their poor parenting and lack of involvement, he was demonized by both our so-called civil rights leaders and the black proletariat. When he thought he was off camera, Jesse Jackson maliciously whispered that he wanted to “cut Barack Obama’s nuts off for talking down to Black people.” You know what happens when you don’t air your dirty laundry? It stinks. Roaches make their home in the folds or your linen, and you have an infestation problem. We as a race like to believe we’re so solid, despite our numerous challenges, but a closer inspection of our foundation will reveal several cracks that we are far too willing to gloss over. We need to demolish and rebuild structures.
What has me on such a tare against my people? I’m glad you asked.
I watched Oprah yesterday. Her guest was Gerald Imes, Mo’Nique’s eldest brother, who as it turns out, was also her sexual abuser from age 7-11. I watched the show with several emotions coursing through me: disbelief, disgust, grief and disappointment. Disappointment was chief amongst these. As Gerald gave an account of events, and attempted to explain that his reason for molesting his little sister was because he was also molested by several family members, I was struck by my lack of compassion for him. He said that the abuse he suffered drove him to drugs and alcohol. He said it turned him into an abuser himself. Well Gerald, you and every other pedophile out there can cry me a bleeding river. It’s time for people to begin taking responsibility and stop the cycle of violence. Not every person who has suffered sexual abuse becomes an abuser. Just like not every person who grew up with negligent parents becomes a poor parent themselves. Not everyone who grew up with godly parents grows up with compassion and a love for God either. Not every person who has been hurt hurts other people. Not everyone who has received good will return that good to others. We all make choices. STOP THE EXCUSES.
The fact that Mo’Nique’s brother was the one who touched her inappropriately was shocking enough, but it was her family’s reaction that caused my brow to furrow. They simply could not understand why she had chosen to go public with the story.
“We have always been a close-knit family,” her mother proclaimed. “I just feel like she should have given us an opportunity to work this out as a family first, and then go public if she wanted.”
I got news for you Mrs. Imes, it’s her tragedy to tell. If she wanted to make a Shakespearean play of it, it’s certainly her prerogative. As Oprah conversed further, she noticed Mo’Nique’s other brother Steven smiling and shaking his head. She asked him what provoked his reaction.
“We are not the family in turmoil you’re portraying us to be.” He smiled patronizingly at Oprah. “I just think this whole thing has been blown put of proportion.”
“Everything was going fine in the family,” Mr. Imes added. “If Mo’ had a problem, her big brother was the first one she called.” He intimated that there were no signs that she was troubled.
These people were genuinely shocked that Mo’Nique is coming out with this story and expressing a deep sense of pain. I sat watching the TV and asked myself “Are Black people that clueless when it comes to molestation??”
The answer is yes, yes they are. And we choose to be.
It’s estimated that 1 in 4 girls in America have either been molested or inappropriately touched. 90% of those children are molested by friends and/or family members. I can’t fathom what those numbers might be in the Black American community, or say in Africa, where we have a culture of sweeping things under the rug and expecting the best. My disappointment in Mo’Nique’s family may stem from the disappointment I felt when I revealed my own experience with an uncle. I still don’t know if that was “molestation” or not. All I know is when I was 8 my father’s brother asked me for a kiss, stuck his tongue down my throat and looked at me with longing afterward. I never told my father until 2009. I’m 32 now. As a child, when my uncle would come by the house, I was expected to serve him water and afford him the respect he was due as an elder. Any behavior to the contrary would have surely resulted in my punishment. For his part, he played the loving, friendly uncle who had come to visit from Asylum Down. When I finally mustered the courage to tell my dad last year, he was silent for a moment and said “Don’t mind him. Some uncles are like that.”
People generally ask those who have suffered abuse a children why they never told. Why did they wait so long to come out with it? The answer is always fear. Every little girl’s fear is different. Mine was that my dad would kill his brother and wind up in jail, and then I would grow up with no dad. For all his sweetness, my dad had a violent temper when it came to his children. My childhood best friend just told me that had also been molested when she was no older that 7. She never told her mom that her abuser was the man she was in a relationship with because she “was finally happy.”
In Ghana, when a girl is raped or molested, the family generally tries to settle out of court with a local chief or elder. The abuser is generally required to pay the family some sort of compensation (usually no more than $100-300), the matter is considered settled, and he is free to ruin some other little girl somewhere else. She gets no counseling, no therapy, and is expected to carry on as if it never happened. It is the rare, but happy occasion when child rapists are reported to the police. Every day, little kids silently carry the weight of the world on their shoulders when those shoulders are not equipped for such a burden.
So if Mo’Nique is just now dealing with the pain of being fondled by her monstrous brother, and I mean really dealing, her family cannot seriously behave befuddled, bewildered and baffled because she has cut off ties with them. She may have been putting on the front of a happy and comical child, but deep inside their is a resentment that always lingers with a victim of abuse. Imagine how much worse that it must have been for her living in the same house? Yes, she could have taken the punk way out like Gerald and turned to drugs (and later abused another family member), but she instead turned that negative energy into a stunning career.
At the end of the show, Gerald pleaded for Mo’Nique to accept his apology and move on with him as siblings. It was all so simple to him. He did it, and after years of denial, because he had come to terms with his vile act, she was supposed to welcome him with open arms and be his sister again. Her family nodded in agreement. Now, if she chooses to, that is certainly her right…But if I saw my nasty abusive uncle laying aflame in a pool of gasoline today, I wouldn’t piss on him to relieve his pain.
With all the problems we have in our community: AIDS, gangs, abortion, murder, child rape…we can’t sit idly by and turn a blind eye to these very real problems. The only life form that thrives in dark and shadowed crevices is mold, and we can ill afford the mold of molestation to continue to spread throughout our families and community. Open the windows folks.