In honor of Black History Month, this month we will be featuring blog posts from some of our educators who discuss topics like race, intersectionality, and language and how it intertwines with sexual violence prevention. [Blog 5 out of 6.]
I Promise That I Am Not Scary
By Anthony DiNicola
Nuance. What a fun word. It looks like it should be pronounced funny, and when I write it, I always feel as though I am misspelling it. I digress. It is impossible to talk about anything in the realm of social justice without understanding who you are as a facilitator of the discussion, and with whom you are speaking.
As many states, countries, cities, and small towns I have had the privilege to lead discussions about sexual violence and micro-aggressions it has always been from the perspective of a cis-gender man of color. I know this every time I walk into a room. I do all the research in the world to examine these subject matters from other peoples' points of view, and yet that always comes secondary to the fact that this crowd will only ever see this talk being led by a brown man. The scary tales of violent stranger rape scenarios perpetrated by a black man snatching a young white co-ed woman in the middle of the night or during a pre-dawn jog have been told for over a century. This still remains the image many people hold in their imagination as the “typical” rape. We know from research that is a frightening story but does not hold true to the majority of reported assaults in this country.
Nuance is the act of speaking to this dynamic without shaming or frightening those in attendance. I could come right out and say: “I am one of the good ones!”, but that would be messed up. Like, truly messed up. I could also say, “Statistically, you should be more scared of white dudes!” Once again, not cool. Instead, I find ways to casually address and acknowledge the facts versus the fiction and how that has affected me in my life. I have been keenly aware that walking alone on the street at night wearing a hooded sweatshirt I look like the villain cast in the media. I will not stop being who I am, but I can paint the portrait of the person under the hood. The guy just as afraid. Fearful of making women uncomfortable, making white people uncomfortable, pulling the attention of authorities, being victimized myself.
It is a subtle art to examine the intersections of race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, privilege, et al when talking about sexual violence, but at the very least I try not to hide from the glaring stereotypes and misinformation that often frightens people from engaging in this discussion with me.
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