This week, we were all reminded that no one on the planet is above reproach, not even Black Twitter media darling Angela Rye.
Usually when I write this column, I only go after injustice, racism, misogyny and other systems built to bring down my people. I never “drag” anyone or anything just for sport. So it’s with a bit of a heavy heart today that I find myself writing about a sister I not only admire, but respect.
Angela – we love you, but you were wrong as hell this time sis.
For those of you who haven’t heard, on Monday, the CNN commentator disappointed her fanbase after standing up for her close friend Charlamagne Tha God.
Come On, Cousin Angela
The issue first arose after a commenter wrote on Rye’s Instagram, “Angela are you going to speak on your friend Charlagmagne allegedly drugging then raping a 15-year-old girl years ago. I know you speak up for black women being respected but for some reason your [sic] kinda quiet on this subject. I hope you don’t let it slide and hope for it to go away…..I’m just thinking out loud”
And with a swiftness and lack of tact that would make any publicist cringe, the political analyst clapped back with, “My BROTHER is neither a molester nor a rapist. He never drugged anyone. He never touched the girl. Read more about the incident from 2001 in his book Black Privilege and note that he regrets having a party where underaged folks where [sic] drinking when he was young and dumb (that’s the ONLY thing he pled to…why?”
Dissecting the facts of the case, Rye continued, “Because there was no physical evidence connecting him to the girl. Why? Because he never touched her. I truly pray for her piece of mind. Truly. However, she will not ‘come up’ on my brother off a lie. I stand for truth before I stand for anything else. God bless you and your family.”
Say what now?
I had two reactions when I first heard about this. First I asked for a fact check cause this is such a painful rookie move, a part of me found it hard to believe it ever happened (spoiler alert: it did). And then for a second I found myself sincerely empathizing with her.
Charlamagne the Charmer
Don’t get me wrong, Charlamagne has been incredibly problematic in the past. So much so, even he’s admitted it at this point AND his hit radio show The Breakfast Club even makes compilation videos of his more tactless, inappropriate and borderline #MeToo worthy moments.
But the thing is, he’s now branded himself as a changed man, speaks in motivational quote sound bites, releases self help books geared to help hood ninjas consider therapy, AND has a penchant for endearing himself to the very same woke women who would otherwise drag him.
His famous gal pals include, Amanda Seales, Tiffany Haddish and Angela Rye, three women who through comedy, entertainment and politics use their platforms to call out problematic people all the time. But someone, when it comes to Charlamagne, they all have a very clear soft spot.
Hell, to be honest, he even glamoroured me!
After theGrio published my article about respectability politics, which explained why women like Cardi B and Tiffany Haddish deserve a seat at the table, he shared the piece with his following and said some incredibly wise things about embracing authentic Black womanhood in all its forms.
Really great read. They both are prime examples of why you shouldn’t trade authenticity for approval. I wish more people knew that.
— Charlamagne Tha God (@cthagod) April 12, 2018
By the end of that week I legit found myself thinking, “I know he’s supposed to be a shock jock, but I really like Charlamagne. I could see us being friends.”
So if there is anyone who understands why Angela felt that first knee-jerk reaction to defend her “brother” it’s me. He’s mad cool.
And only time will tell whether Charlamagne is truly a changed man or just a charming master manipulator. But there is one thing that is universally true regardless of his character.
Women need to stop attacking OTHER women on behalf of their men when it comes to sexual assault.
There is no scenario where a woman attacks another woman in defense of a man and manages to not come off looking like a dummy.
Fight me on this if you wanna but history is on my side here.
Just the optics of a Black woman telling another Black woman off after she’s accused a Black man of sexual assault can be subconsciously triggering. It immediately brings back images of little girls in abusive families who are shamed for speaking up about that cousin who touched them inappropriately, or the uncle who keeps slipping into their room at night.
It brings up flashes of family portraits where abused women and children are forced to awkwardly smile while standing next to their abusers and say “Cheese!” as if a piece of them isn’t slowly dying on the inside.
It takes us back to the comments section under the photos of Rihanna’s swollen and bruised face after Chris Brown’s arrest, with girls in their teens and grown women both inquiring, “Well what did SHE say to make him do all that? You know West-Indian chicks have a smart mouth. She probably have deserved it.”
Black + Woman (Not Either Or)
Our community – including our own women – is taught to defend Black manhood at all costs, even if the price is Black women. This is done under the guise of putting race ahead of gender. A request that is just as harmful as when white women ask us to put our gender ahead of our race in order to join their mainstream feminists movements.
But people need to accept that Black women are both Black and women. Any cause that requires us to force rank one ahead of the other is inherently seeking to oppress us. Because the reality is we never truly get to choose where one of those things end and the other begins.
What makes misogynoir so dangerous is it makes even the most brilliant of us blind to our own hypocrisies.
If a white man had Charlamagne’s track record and was on air unabashedly cracking jokes about it, we can all very easily imagine a world where Angela Rye would be on Twitter or even on-air reading him for filth about his lack of compassion and the message he was sending by further normalizing the mistreatment of Black female bodies.
BUT slap some chocolate on the same resume of problematic behavior, and now suddenly her response is “She will not ‘come up’ on my brother off a lie!”
THAT my friends is how misogynoir works. Suddenly a reasonable question by a commenter on Instagram becomes an excuse for a clapback just because it’s your brother. As if all the other men who have assaulted, abused and/or sexually harassed women since the beginning of time, haven’t also been someone’s brother, play cousin, uncle or father.
And when you add in the extra layers of the #MeToo movement creating a hyper awareness on not “victim blaming” – yeah this is bad. It’s all just so bad, girl.
Charlamagne also admitted to raping his wife and stated that him and other guys did a lot of things that were rape when they were younger. pic.twitter.com/ZSJahNA71b
— ❤️ (@Loveelly24) July 17, 2018
To the women out there who are reading this asking, “Well what DO we say when a man we know is accused of sexual assault?”
I know that social media has most of us thinking that it’s imperative to share every fleeting thought and emotion with the world, but I’m here to share an inconvenient truth that you probably haven’t heard since the late ’90s.
Your opinion isn’t always necessary and sometime shutting the hell up is the best option.
A woman who is accusing a man of misconduct is more likely than not going to be at a disadvantage. I know fear mongers love to shop around this rhetoric about how there are legions of “females” walking the earth, making false claims just to make some quick money off the backs of poor innocent men who did nothing wrong.
But the statistics say something glaringly different.
Don’t Believe the Hype
The myth of the Gold-Digger Thot Monster is just as prevalent in discussions about sexual assault as the myth of the Big Scary Black Guy is in discussions about police shootings of unarmed Black men.
In both scenarios, Black people are painted as grotesque caricatures whose sole purpose is to cause malice. And when we super impose either of those stereotypes on our men or our women it causes real harm.
Are there gold-diggers who lie about sexual assault? Of course there are. The same way there really are scary Black dudes on the streets who’d make even Suge Knight clutch his purse. But the same way we don’t want the police to judge every Black man for the actions of a select few, we also can’t jump to assume that every sister who makes a #MeToo claim is just a thot, tryna “come up.”
In fact, her use of the term “come up” and the way Angela inserted it into the discussion to insinuate the motives of a person she’s never met is what made me groan the hardest. Like, “Damn. Is this what we doing today? We regressing all the way back to basics huh?”
Unless you are with a man 24/7 including bathroom breaks, you have no idea what he’s truly capable of. And if he is being railroaded, let him speak for himself. Or better yet let his lawyer and/or their publicist who are both trained and paid to handle this stuff speak for him.
I love Black women and am in constant awe of how we persevere even in the face of some seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But sometimes, we get it wrong too.
To the “super woke” sisters amongst us, who march in the streets without reciprocal support when their blood is shed, and yet still have a penchant for turning on Jill Scott anthems, while taking off their earrings and preparing to fight ANOTHER woman on behalf of a Black man… I have a bit of unsolicited (but spiritually grounded) advice for ya’ll.
Sit this one out sis.
Trust him enough to let him fight his own battles. And maybe even request that he (more readily) help you fight yours.
Because the same world that’s attacking him, was even less built for you.
Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram at @bluecentric