Female Sexuality, Racism, & Privilege

The concept of female sexuality is a relatively controversial topic; the idea of women controlling their sexuality has been debated for centuries. Throughout the history of the United States, men have exercised considerable economic, social, sexual, and yes, physical control over women.

Recently, in Charleston, South Carolina, a white man, Dylan Storm Roof, entered an African-American Methodist Church and opened fire.

Nine people were murdered.

As he was executing parishioners,  he was reported to have said, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you are taking over our country.  And you have to go“.

These words spoken by the shooter speak to several larger issues, one of which is the idea of using white female sexuality as a justification for violent racist behavior.  Throughout U.S. history, black men have been murdered due to sexually explicit behavior toward their white, female counterparts.  The level of violence committed against black men on account of “the rape myth” is as pervasive as it is horrifying; the lynchings of the 1800s and the murder of 15 year old Emmett Till are some of the most powerful examples of the role white female sexuality plays in violence against black men.

The concept of privilege is yet another issue that has been raised due to the Charleston event; the shooter reported that black men “take our women”. The virulent idea that white men need to protect “their” women from sexual assault/rape of black men is, very simply, a myth.

Racism is systemic within the U.S., and its presence is indicative of the depth of its roots within our society.  As such, it’s important to observe that the concept of intersectionality, as it plays an important role in the social construction of male power and domination; for centuries, women, particularly women of color, have struggled to overcome oppression within multiple domains, as indicated through the framework gender-race-class, or intersectionality. 

The vicious act of violence committed by the Charleston shooter is an ugly example of the way in which our country’s violent history continues to be a significant problem within today’s society.

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