There was a documentary on HBO recently titled, The Greatest Silence: Rape in the
What struck me deeply, once I could see beyond the pain of the women, was the barbarism of the Congolese men.
I grew up influenced by men such as Cheikh Anta Diop, Chinweizu, Louis Farrakhan, Bruce Wright and certainly my own father. One of their collective and abiding lessons to me was that of counter example. In different ways they all pointed out that the attacks on black people, and black men in particular, are incessant and ubiquitous. They made the connection between black people in the Diaspora and
What these mentoring men did was make sure that young black people like me did not fall victim to the assault - that we did not begin to believe that African men have a monopoly on human weakness and indecency. They prompted us to take the offensive and point the questioning finger at others. That is not to condone bad behavior, but to recognize that it is manifest in everyone, particularly white men who were held as sacrosanct in our public education history. In doing so we find that the black male persona – whatever that might be – is not disproportionately prone to wickedness as the history books, the news and all manner of messages would have us believe. No, the human spectrum – our capacity for both good and bad – is found in everyone. That is a simple intellectual conclusion, but a very difficult psychological challenge.
The function of the counter example is not only to know the positive sides of the black experience, but to be aware of the far less examined instances of human wickedness among white men and others such that in arguments of history and human capacity we are not bowed into a corner of shame and broken pride about ourselves.
Armed with that balance, I sat down to watch The Greatest Silence. I was conscious that it was directed by yet another well intentioned white woman going deep into the heart of
In this case the counter examples couldn’t help. The African continent is virtually in convulsion under war, rape, pillage, looting and human fracture. There is scarcely a continuous line that can be drawn from one coast to another that will not cross some incident of gross human barbarism meted out on African people by African men.
What I wonder now is what the next set of examples will be? What will the mentors of black boys in the coming generations be able to draw on as examples of our heritage as African men?