Commentary: Ray Rice Defenders Need to Change Their Attitudes

Ray Rice

Commentary: Ray Rice Defenders Need to Change Their Attitudes

Society’s resolve should be to protect all women from domestic violence and not to defend criminal behavior.

Published September 10, 2014

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell used the word “sickening” Monday to describe the elevator video of Ray Rice knocking his fiancée unconscious, and sickening was the right word.

Yet what is even more sickening is the callous attitude that Black males display toward domestic violence. Too much of how we conduct ourselves suggests we want women as subservient as they were expected to be in the early part of the last century.

I say this because I know first-hand how too many of my Black brethren feel about what Rice, a star for the Baltimore Ravens, did.

I spoke Tuesday with a Black journalist in Cleveland who told me he had gone to a Black barbershop in the city, and the talk around the barber’s chair was all Rice. He had his defenders Black men of a certain age and mindset. They blamed Rice’s fiancée; they called his suspension an overreaction; and they didn’t see domestic violence for what it was: a statement about Black women and how marginal their existence is in this male-dominated world.

Of course, not all Black men think like this. I also spoke Tuesday with a 19-year-old college student at Ohio University about the Rice video, which sleazy gossip site TMZ released the day before. The young brother from Akron, Ohio, is politically aware, and he was appalled at what Rice did. He and I discussed putting together a program that would highlight the issue of men-on-women assaults.

But we all know that too many Black men align their views on domestic violence with the barbershop crew, not the college student. We hear their language about women in music and elsewhere; we find the results of their dehumanization of women in the bloody, blackened eyes and broken bones that send women to emergency rooms or to the morgue.

In these Black women, we see the brutality of the other Ray Rices out there, and it’s not just the Black women on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. It’s Black women who are bright, who are rich and who are famous.

Their names are Rihanna, Whitney and Tina, too. Now add the name Janay, a Black woman who has become a more recent domestic abuse statistic.

Those statistics are sickening as well. According to the Violence Policy Center, 30 percent of Black women suffer abuse from men they love. This isn’t just a statistic; it’s a crisis, one that we have been all too willing to ignore.

We ignore it as a people. We allow the cops and the courts to ignore it. And the message it all sends is this: We don’t care about our women.

If we cared, we’d have been more outraged when we discovered that our courts were sending Ray Rice to a pretrial intervention program instead of to a prison. Rice’s punishment, one legal scholar said, was an embarrassment to our judicial system.

It wasn’t justice; it was injustice.

For what the courts were telling anybody who cared about Black women was this: They were no better than hogs headed to the slaughterhouse.

Eventually, our tolerance for such widespread brutality had to reach its end point, and the casino’s video of Rice and his cowardly attack on the woman whom he would later marry was that point.

Yet the public’s reaction doesn’t change the attitude of Black men who stand in Rice’s defense. They seem too quick to blame women and too slow to admit men shouldn't hit women.

To think that any man Black or white would forgive a sin as unforgivable as Ray Rice’s is most sickening of all. But I didn’t need Roger Goodell to tell me as much.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

BET Sports News -- Get the latest news and information about African-Americans in sports including weekly recaps, celebrity news and photos of your favorite Black athletes. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

 (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Written by Justice B. Hill


Latest in news