Much has been said about the dangers black men face in our modern society. The Trayvon Martin incident helped to amplify this focus, but other dangers have been highlighted as well. The modern criminal justice system is a threat. Modern media (an alleged source of many negative stereotypes and portrayals) is often pointed out as a threat. And, perhaps most notably, other black men are a threat.

These factors and the dangers they pose to black men are well documented, but one other historical threat comes to mind that I feel doesn’t get enough attention: the white woman. Though this threat may not match up to the others above, a bit of thought soon makes it clear that there is real cause for concern here. We live in a society that has not looked kindly on relationships involving white women and black men, and has imposed serious consequences on the male participants in said unions.

Consider the following examples:

1. Black Wall Street

By 1920, the Greenwood neighborhood of northern Tulsa, Oklahoma had long been at the center of a thriving community. The area was home to so many prominent black businessmen, lawyers, doctors, and other affluent professionals that it came to be known as “Black Wall Street”. Dr. A.C. Jackson, a man whose surgical capabilities impressed even the founders of the Mayo clinic, was a resident of this neighborhood. It was a success story in a segregated world.

tumblr_mhmif3UCbY1qm2tv9o1_500

GR024

Then, in 1921, it all went to hell. Three days of race riots beginning on May 31st, 1921 left 10,000 blacks homeless, over 1,200 residences destroyed via fire, and up to 300 blacks dead. And what became of the talented Dr. Leonard? He was shot to death as he attempted to leave his home during the riot.

What caused all of this?

A teenaged black shoe-shiner entered an elevator operated by a white girl. According to most accounts, he tripped and latched onto the arm of the girl as he fell. She screamed, and he left as the elevator arrived at the first floor. A white clerk on that floor heard the scream and reported the incident as an attempted assault. The girl spoke to police and a quick investigation took place. She declined to press any charges and the police themselves are believed to have concluded no crime had been committed.

Capturednegroes

tumblr_lx9bzn4iyn1r5d69eo1_500

It didn’t matter. By May 31st, a lynch mob had already been assembled, filled with men looking to “defend the honor” of the girl in question. The single scream of a white girl sent hundreds of blacks to their deaths and leveled one of the few black economic success stories in the Jim Crow era.

2. Rosewood Massacre

The town of Rosewood, Florida was quiet and predominantly black during the 1920s. Despite the ravages of segregation and Jim Crow, the blacks of Rosewood had managed to find some economic success and create a degree of self-sufficiency while maintaining amicable relations with predominantly white towns nearby like Sumner.

rosewoodsign

What put an end to all of that? In January, 1923, a white woman in Sumner heard a scream come from her neighbor’s home, grabbed her revolver and went over there. The neighbor claimed that she had been beaten, robbed and possibly raped by a black man, but her claims were entirely unsubstantiated. The black man she claimed was in her house at the time her neighbor arrived with the revolver was never found and her story was contradicted by witness testimony claiming her own husband had been responsible for the beating and had been seen leaving the home.

Nevertheless, a lynch mob was soon assembled. By the time the riot was over, two whites and an estimated 26 blacks were dead, and many more injured. The town of Rosewood was burned almost entirely to the ground and abandoned—those black residents who could escape did not return.

samcarter

Rosewood_Florida_rc12408

A mere accusation sourced by a white woman proved enough to destroy a town and end dozens of lives.

3. Emmett Till

Emmett Till was a Chicago kid visiting relatives in Mississippi during the summer of 1955. One day, local boys dared Till (who claimed to have had white friends and even a white girlfriend in Chicago) to speak to Carolyn Bryant, a 21 year old who ran a town market along with her 24 year old husband. Till acted on the bet. It is unsure exactly what happened in the store. Some claim that Till whistled at Bryant and may have grabbed her hand in order to ask for a date before saying “Bye, baby” as he left. Bryant herself asserted that he used “unprintable words” and grabbed her waist as he asked for a date.

Emmitt_Till-500

The story soon spread across town. Bryant’s husband and half brother-in-law decided to defend her honor by kidnapping the 14-year-old from his home in the dead of night and murdering him. They got away with it.

Emmett Till

The mere alleged inconvenience of a white woman proved important enough to justify ending a child’s life.

Granted, many of these incidents took place quite some time ago, but has the cultural imperative that animated them—one dedicated to throwing black men under the bus on a whim in order to protect white female honor—disappeared?

Consider the following:

1. Darrell Williams

In 2010, Oklahoma State basketball player Darrell Williams (a promising talent who had left the team in several statistical categories in 2009) was accused of groping two white women and reaching inside their pants without their consent. There was absolutely no physical evidence of the accusations leveled at Williams by these women. Williams also passed two lie detector tests.

It didn’t matter—Williams was convicted in July, 2012. His sentence was suspended a few months later, but he will still have a felony conviction on his record and will need to register as a sex offender. His life is pretty much over, and it only took the mere accusation (absent any evidence backing it up) on the part of a white woman to make that happen.

2. Marcus Dixon

In February of 2003, Marcus Dixon was a promising student-athlete with a 3.96 GPA and a full football scholarship to Vanderbilt University. He was arrested for allegedly raping a 15-year-old student, and sentenced to 10 years in prison due in large part to Georgia’s ten archaic statutory rape laws. He’d spend 15 months in prison before being released following a Georgia Supreme Court decision in his favor.

storydixonap

But why did he have to go through all of that in the first place? Kristie Brown’s father was an open racialist and did not take kindly to the fact that his daughter had slept with a black man. She was well aware of this:

On Feb. 6, 2003, Dixon accepted a full scholarship to Vanderbilt University, historically the SEC’s weakest football program and the strongest academic school. He could have gone to Georgia, but thought a Vanderbilt degree would carry him further. Four days later, after basketball practice, he had sex with Kristie Brown, a white 15-year-old virgin, in a classroom trailer behind Pepperell High School.

“It was consensual sex,” said Dixon, who was 18. “When we came in there, it was set up like we was going to have sex. She unbuckled her own pants.

“At the end, the only thing she told me was like, ‘My dad cannot find out about us having sex.’ Because in my town, black people having sex with white girls is not something you do. She said, ‘My dad cannot find out about us having sex, because he’ll kill us both.'”

slide_20040226_04_350

He found out, and that was enough to nearly end Dixon’s life. Dixon’s story has a happy ending, at least: he was released after 15 months, got a scholarship to a smaller university, managed to get a shot at the NFL in 2008 and is currently a member of a playoff-bound Kansas City Chiefs squad. But that doesn’t erase the injustice done to him as a teen.

marcus-dixon

3. Jameis Winston

If you’re not familiar with this particular case, you can get acquainted with it via my previous article.

All of these examples illustrate a similar theme: the power white American women have to bring down black men, a power derived almost entirely from the emphasis that this society puts on their protection and the lengths said society is willing to go to enforce that imperative.

White females are the most privileged demographic in American society. This fact is substantiated by society’s tendency to do more for white women than it does for others: white females who go missing are given substantially more attention than others, and those accused of harming white women receive much harsher sentences than they otherwise would and are more likely to face serious convictions. This society prioritizes the protection of white women over that of everyone else.

kids

At the same time, black men have historically been portrayed as the greatest threat to white women that exists in this society. Depictions of the unrestrained, “animalistic” negro ravaging white womanhood (something he apparently couldn’t help and was naturally inclined to do) have been used to justify all manner of things in the USA, from run-of-the-mill lynchings to slavery to entire socio-legal systems of discrimination. Race relations in this country have largely been defined by this fear. Black men must keep these historical precedents in mind and understand the very credible threat that white women pose to them if not approached and dealt with carefully.

fa8

This is a society with a deep, longstanding prejudice toward the notion of black male sexuality as an inherent threat to the white female and a long history of coming down hard on black men in order to guard against that alleged threat. It is also a society dedicated to serving the whims of white women and protecting them at all costs and above all others. When a white woman accuses a black male of committing some form of sexual misconduct against her, society will take her claims more seriously than they would accusations by women of other ethnicities against most other men, thus placing much more pressure on the accused. Society has her back, and she knows this.

rsz_116902_v1_001_8726

These societal prejudices accompany any white American woman associated with a black man. They are the source of her power and lurk perpetually in the background and can be called upon by her at any time for use against him, often to devastating effect. Do not underestimate that threat.

Read Next: How Black America Has Predicted Our Future