One thing for sure, two things for certain: we cannot discuss this past Monday’s San Bernardino shooting without also scrutinizing the downplayed connection between toxic masculinity and the epidemic of deadly shootings in this nation.
The gunman, Cedrick Anderson, fatally shot his estranged wife, Karen Smith, in a special needs classroom in a murder-suicide that also left an 8-year-old student dead. A second student was also wounded and is now in stable condition.
As disturbing and heartbreaking as this story is, what’s worse is the tragic consequences of subverting the control and demands of a man revealed in this horrific incident is nothing new. Further, this is an issue that disproportionately impacts Black women: Gale Hall, Latonya Robinson Moore, Quanta Chandler, Shanice Williams, Dr. Sherilyn Gordon-Burroughs, and Alicia Trotter are among the slain Black women who have fallen victim to intimate partner violence since February.
“Male entitlement leads to men brazenly flouting the boundaries set by women.”
To be sure, white men and their aggrieved entitlement are a considerable part of the overall domestic violence problem. However, as a Black man, I believe it’s vital I advocate for increased awareness about issues stemming from male entitlement in general while also specifically calling out what is often neglected—the suffering of Black women at the hands of Black men.
What fuels these homicidal attacks repeatedly carried out by men?
Consider what we perceive to be “normal” gender roles for men. Society propagates and encourages distorted ideas of “what it means to be a man.” We (men) are reared to be aggressive and assert dominance over others. This harmful social feedback loop convinces us—especially men attracted to women—that we deserve access to women’s time and their objectified bodies to satiate our impulses.
“Male entitlement transforms professed love into weaponized passion.”
This inflated sense of entitlement leads to trivializing the desires of women and femmes in preference for male gratification, whether emotional, intellectual or sexual.
I’ve discussed the problem with male entitlement before in great detail. Sadly, there are those who wish to use instances like this as a way to discredit the Movement for Black Lives. This is bizarre, as addressing intraracial violence rooted in sexism and misogyny doesn’t negate the importance of challenging white supremacist ideas and institutions that pathologizes blackness and undermine Black liberation.
Those that do this exploit such horrifying circumstances to silence discussions of anti-black racism while also glossing over (and thus minimizing) the significance of male entitlement and its relation to violence against women and femmes.
Let us resist the temptation of misdirection.
“Participation in oppressive behavior that threatens or harms Black women is inexcusable.”
We (men) are conditioned within a male-centered society that breeds farfetched expectations and assumptions disconnected from reality. Male egos end up being crafted to be more fragile than glass hammers since the idea that the will of women is subordinate to male longing can never be fully realized. This is why it’s common to read about the dire consequences of men being told “no.”
This environment also produces self-worth heavily invested in male entitlement. Thus, male entitlement engenders irrational and hostile behavior from men whose wants are defied.
Male entitlement leads to men brazenly flouting the boundaries set by women.
Male entitlement invents ways to blame women for our contempt, disregard, and disrespect towards their autonomy.
Male entitlement imagines vitriol or harassment or coercion or violence as being sensible responses to rejection.
Male entitlement transforms professed love into weaponized passion.
And because these underlying issues are so well codified into cultural norms many uncritically accept (similar to the way white folks take for granted the pervasive nature of racism), said issues are hard to recognize. This is especially true for those who benefit from this oppressive standard, as it’s more difficult to identify a problem when it’s not a problem for you.
The bulk of conversations, reporting, and outrage regarding this and similar heinous crimes where male entitlement is the impetus of lethal violence tends to focus on gun laws and gun control, or on suspicion of mental illness, or on the religion of the perpetrator—all typically to the exclusion of analyzing warped yet idolized ideas of masculinity that continuously delivers similar results.
This isn’t a distraction; this is a matter of highlighting a social ill we as a society are reluctant to tackle, or even admit exists.
Can we please start having more candid and “uncomfortable” discussions about the numerous ways male entitlement leads to death and destruction?
Black men, this includes you. Lives are literally at stake. Participation in oppressive behavior that threatens or harms Black women is inexcusable. The time for “I can spot and call out racism all day but can’t detect sexism or misogyny or male entitlement” is over.