I have listened to and read a lot this past weekend about the Eboue story and resisted writing anything because I felt a lot of my friends had written a lot about it voicing their frustrations and I didn’t need to add my voice to the chorus of male complaints on the issue. But then I started seeing a kind of tribal responses to it from my own camp and I felt I needed to say a few words. I’m going to take a different take on this than I’d generally be taking as an ally in the feminist movement. I have seen some of my friends in the movement talk about Eboue without any sympathy at all. For me, this is a no no. An absolute no no! I’m going to preface what I am going to say with a declaration that I do want women in our part of the world to have more social and legal protection against philandering and irresponsible men. I want that partly because my mother has been my bedrock and support for all I can remember. So I have always advocated for women to be empowered to have more money and wealth so that they will be financially independent of their husbands. But this Eboue case is not the same.
We tend to collapse everything together in our analysis most of the time and because we don’t do nuance, we often mess up the story and our analysis of it. In this current organization of the world, and the power structures that be, black men DO NOT have more power than white women. It is just a fact. They have better jobs and education and institutional investment and protection than we do, especially in Western Europe and America. So even in a domestic situation in these countries involving a black man and a white woman, our traditional gender and feminist analysis doesn’t always fit in because of the difference in power dynamic at play there. Unlike white men who can literally rape girls by dumpsters and literally get a pat in the back by the legal system, black men get the book thrown at them on the mere suspicion of impropriety involving a white woman.
This is historical and relates to the overall global white supremacist system. That’s what got Emmett Till killed on mere suspicion of whistling at a white woman. Our relationship to white women, as black men, doesn’t conform to the traditional gender norms because in that traditional scene, women’s social protections are always sub-par to men or non-existent at all. In our case, we are literally at the bottom of the social and legal system. Our voices carry less weight in the legal system than white women—a reverse of the traditional patriarchal system.
I am writing this because I have friends who have come up against white women in the Western legal system, and in the courts system, their testimony meant nothing as compared to the white women’s. In these you against me testimonies, the White woman’s testimony always reigned supreme. It just is a fact. And in the western media, it has to be egregious and clean to have a black man’s voice carry any weight over that of a white woman. So I hear a lot of my friends saying we should wait to hear Eboue’s wife’s side of the story before commenting or showing solidarity. Well, it doesn’t work that way. Anytime a story about some dastardly act by a man against a woman is told, we react and we talk about it. That’s how the world works. And we react and talk about it partly because we read the historic injustice women have always suffered at the hands of men into it. Why can’t we see the same thing here? The power differential and the abuse that black men have suffered in relation to white women have also been historic. Why is it now that I am hearing let’s wait to hear her side? It is not that I’m against waiting to hear her side but it looks to me there’s an attempt to downplay the perceived injustice from listening to Eboue’s story which to me doesn’t sound feminist to me. To me, feminism is about justice.
And how in the world does confiscating everything a man has just? There is absolutely no justification for this. None. I see a lot of my colleagues saying silly things like he should have acted like he was a married man and be responsible. This to me reeks of victim blaming, something I have always been against as a feminist ally. And the kind of assumption there is a lot of stretching. You’ve clearly said we should wait for his wife’s side of the story but you’re making assumptions that he was unfaithful to her and didn’t act as a husband. That’s a bit much for me. A bit disappointing if I may add.
Even if given that your assumptions are right and he did cheat as you’re presuming without evidence, does that justify taking all his hard earned wealth? What justice is there? In what fair world is it just to take everything a man earned for his wife because he was unfaithful? This stance doesn’t make any sense to me unless you’re not interested in justice. I have always advocated that if a woman is a homemaker, having given birth to and taken on the role of raising the couple’s kids while the man works outside the home, she should be entitled to half the wealth of the couple. It is only fair that the one who is looking after (backbreaking work) the future of the couple be equally vested with ownership of the material wealth of the couple. In certain situations, it might be argued to maybe increase her share beyond the 50% (e.g. She’s going to raise the kids alone). But a total confiscation of his assets for her is not just to me no matter his inequities. That just smells foul to me.
In the British and American media market, white women have a field day with getting their stories heard anytime they want in opposition to black men. To suggest that she doesn’t have a platform to tell her side of the story is beyond disingenuous. Remember, in this white supremacist (in itself a patriarchal system), white women are above black men on the totem pole. There’s no one preventing that woman from telling her story. If indeed she didn’t connive with the judge to deliver this injustice in some underhanded way, we’d have heard her story already. I’m sure the western media can’t wait to get a scoop on her story and to parade it as the actual true story. The historical data show that’s how it works. Our testimony as black men can’t hold water in relation to white women.
I am definitely in favor of preventing an irresponsible man from seeing his children if he would be a danger to them. But even with that, I’d much rather see a supervised visitation situation because children still need their father. That is just how children need to be raised. The complete breaking Eboue off his children is just beyond heartbreaking to me. I understand if he didn’t want to see his children, but he appears interested in and affectionate of them. To completely bar him from them without any kind of at least supervised visitation just seem cruel to me especially if married to the confiscation of all his properties.
I am a feminist ally because I am passionate about justice. I don’t see any justice in this Eboue case. Just as black feminists have brought into the conversation about feminism the importance of Intersectionality, we need to acknowledge that black men aren’t always the aggressors in a domestic situation, especially when it involves a white woman because the history of White Supremacist valuation of bodies and voices places us a rung below white women. And to finish, just because other people are throwing tantrums doesn’t mean you should change your stance or have less empathy. Real empathy doesn’t work that way. It is a constant. Saying this makes you sound like those men who constantly rant about how they lose interest in the feminist struggle because some feminist they know is annoying or over the top.
About the Writer
Umar Mohammed is a son of Dagbon and a doctoral student at Texas A&M University in the United States. His interests are in Society, Culture, History, and Social Change.