Last Sunday, Afrika Bambaataa was accused of sexual abuse by Ronald Savage in an interview published by The Daily News. Savage, a former music executive and author, alleged that Bambaataa fondled him and forced him to perform sexual acts on other members of the Zulu Nation when he was 15. Since then, three more men have stepped forward with their own stories of abuse by the Hip-hop icon. The allegations comes as a shock to the black community, that is already trying to get over Cosby’s rape sex scandal after dozens of women came forward accusing him of drugging and raping them. These scandalous stories of sexual abuse by Cosby and Bambaataa share key unique details:
1. Both of these men are pillars in the black community and 2. They have been accused of atrocious, unforgivable acts. Yet, the Black– particularly male– community’s response to these allegations has been quite different.
Many black men, including Kanye West, rushed to the defense of Cosby, many proclaiming his innocence.
In the opinions of such men, Bill Cosby’s public takedown was the end result of a conspiracy to tarnish the legacy of a black legend. The women who came forward– more than 50 of them — were all liars looking for a moment in the limelight or trying to milk Cosby of his hard-earned cash. Others questioned why the victims took so long to come forward. Many of the men who shared these opinions were my close friends and acquaintances. We spoke, at length, about the Cosby case, and no matter what evidence or testimony came forward, the wholesale rejected it and continued to proclaim the tv legend’s innocence. Yet, many of these same men appeared to have gone silent on these allegations made by men about Afrika Bambaataa.
When I asked numerous male friends whether or not they believed the allegations against Afrika Bambaataa, many were slow to deny them.
“What kinda man would want to admit to having sex with another man,” one questioned.
Immediately, I thought this was a clear example of sexism — male victims and female victims facing different levels of scrutiny for the same allegations. Then, sadly, I read through the comments sections on many of the articles that broke this news and found that I was wrong. These kinds of black men are willing to throw all sexual assault victims under the bus, regardless of their gender.
Many of the attacks launched against the female victims of Bill Cosby, have also been used in an attempt to discredit Afrika Bambaataa’s victims. This reveals deeply startling and disturbing reality that women must always consider when dealing with certain demographics of men: They will always excuse male predatory behavior, even when that behavior can potentially directly and negatively impact them or other men/boys. For such men, the protection of powerful men is more important than the protection of more vulnerable boys, girls, men and women in the society. It is precisely these kinds of men that every woman should be sure to weed out when seeking potential partners or even friends.
Sadly, this problematic thinking is very prevalent in the black community and explains why 60% of girls have been sexually abused by black men by the age of 18. While a large demographic of black men continue to refuse to hold more powerful men accountable for their predatory behavior, the women and children of the black community continue to suffer. These very public cases of alleged sexual abuse by powerful men of color force us to see who black men choose to empower and support. As Black women, we must be sure to never support men who would much prefer to protect the position of other men, rather than the innocence and dignity of those more vulnerable.