Who is teaching Black men about healthy relationships?
When Danielle Locklear, 15, left her grandmother’s North Carolina home on March 11, no one could have predicted that she would never return. And no one, including Locklear’s own family, would have suspected that the culprit would have been Locklear’s 17-year-old ex-boyfriend Je'Michael Malloy.
After a body was found in a nearby river on April 3, Malloy confessed to local police that he and a friend killed Locklear after the two fought. According to news reports, Malloy choked Locklear and then watched his friend stuff a sock in her mouth. Soon after, the two dumped Locklear’s lifeless body in the river.
No funeral plans have been made for Locklear, because DNA tests are being done to confirm whether or not the body is hers. In the meantime, Malloy and his friend are being charged with second-degree murder.
There are some unknowns when it comes to this case. Was this the first time that Malloy had put hands on Locklear? Or was there a history of physical and verbal abuse?
But what we do know unfortunately is that stories like Locklear’s are not rare. A 2013 study from the Violence Policy Center found that 94 percent of Black women who were victims of homicide knew their attacker. Of that group, 52 percent were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders. These researchers also found that Black women are almost three times more likely to be murdered by men they know compared to white women.
The statistics around dating violence are just as sobering. Women of color report higher rates of violence from adolescence and in adulthood, up to 35 times more than white women.
It’s clear that we have a serious problem when it comes to violence against Black women. And while one crucial way to fight violence is to educate and advocate for women and girls, I often wonder: Are we missing the boat when we don’t do the same for our boys and men?
Who is teaching them about healthy relationships and respect? Who is there to counter the hypermasculine images they see of themselves in the media and in their own communities? Who is there to teach them that being a “real man” has nothing to do with oppressing or dehumanizing women? But most important, who is there to prevent murders like Danielle Locklear’s?
Now, I ask these questions not to overlook the amazing work being done around empowering Black boys led by Black men. But that much-needed work is far and few between and often ignored and underfunded (minus President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative).
And I also ask these questions not to let these perpetrators off the hook or undermine their responsibility for their actions. But if we want to address violence and actually reduce it, we have to get to the root of the problem.
And that means more than teaching young women and girls how to not be in violent relationships or the red flags to pay attention. We need to teach men and boys not to be violent. It’s really that simple, because just like sexual assault, dating violence often begins and ends with our men and boys.
And despite the sexism and the devaluation of Black women in our community at the hands of our men, that doesn’t mean Black men and boys are lost causes or pathological or that this type of work can’t make real change. Because to give up on them is to give up on us.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: John Slater/Getty Images)