The Strong Silent Type

Recently, I read an article by Tim Lockette in the Anniston Star about a “good guy,” H. Brant Ayers, and his youthful (at age 40) mistake of spanking women at his job in 1975. I could imagine the responses. Stuff like “This was so long ago. … Why did they wait so long?” I went ahead and broke the No. 1 rule of reading on the internet.  I read the comments. I only read the first 20. These are real responses (typos and all).

“So she carried this around for 50 years. I hope you feel better now.

This METOO stuff is turning into a genuine amusement for those of us who still have a sense of humor. This tattler obviously deserved her spanking and now another one to boot.

me too, me too, me too, me too!!!

In the 1970s??? When will this witch-hunt end? My grandmother was assaulted by President Roosevelt. Whom can I sue?

Well….Maybe she was a naughty girl?

it’s really simple ladies…. If your boss tries to spank you? KNEE him in the nuts. That’s all, it only has to happen once or twice.. He will learn…

I heard that before he died, Spanky of the Little Rascals told some stories about Darla. But he too waited a discrete time. All’s well that ends well.

Maybe she had it coming.

 47 years ago.”

The best (and by best I mean the most haunting) explanation to those expected questions and comments was given in the article itself.

“Two other women who worked at The Star at the time told similar stories of spankings by the Star publisher, though each declined to have their names published, citing repercussions the revelations might have for their careers and family members.”

Something I’ve learned about myself in the past few months is I have a problem processing threats that aren’t physical. For me, most things aren’t real if they don’t involve a physical consequence. But the comment above made me slow down and consider a text exchange with a friend about experiences she’s had with Black men and street harassment.

Friend: The thing about her not sharing because her dad woulda shot him and went to prison? Understand.
Me: I just … What’s a nigga on to be like, “Come here and get this spanking and not know he [effing] up
Friend: He’s white.
Me: I guess. … I ain’t never thought, “I can spank this stranger.”
Friend: They’re some young girls. Who’s gone speak up? This is in ’75 …
Me: I’m not talking about THEM.
Friend: If you’re rich and entitled, there is no “no.” … Same niggas that told me I needed d*ck and they would give me some, as I’m on Marta with nobody to help me … fools, people who assault and creeps … That’s who don’t think about saying shit to strangers.
Me: Wow.
Friend: They saw

I was visibly shook and proceeded to laugh and say they were joking. They weren’t. I didn’t know either of them.
Me: Wow.
Friend: So … Niggas is and will and have …

For a while, I thought I understood. This was the first time I realized I actually have no idea. This [tell us what the “this” is] isn’t about women and girls. This is about men. At what point do we do something?

Mike Stamler, the coward, who saw Ayers, the “good guy” by some standards (but I’ll just call him a 40-year-old man who sexually suggestively spanked women without repercussion and blamed it on age when asked about it) reflected on the moment and said he “didn’t know what to do” because he wasn’t expecting something like that to happen. But honestly, don’t we live in a time where we can’t pretend to not know this is happening and the ‘70s wasn’t the Stone Age. Our women and girls are under attack and we are, too often, sitting quietly, like Stamler, not responding.

It’s our silence that creates this culture where women and girls aren’t allowed to be free. The silence emboldens the worst among us. Our silence gives them enough of an okay to get worse.  They are incubated by our unwillingness to stand and address their vile behavior. The silence says they’re okay. They are not okay. We must say, “That is wrong.” We can’t laugh uncomfortably. We must accept the responsibility of being present. We must intervene. Not touching and assaulting isn’t good enough. Just cause we aren’t in the mob screaming “niggers, go home” doesn’t mean we are on the right side of history on this. Not screaming isn’t the same as intervening. And just being a witness isn’t good enough anymore.  We have to do something. What I’m still trying to figure out from one day to the next, but there has to be action.

That Martin Luther the King quote “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” is something we, especially men, need to ruminate on this year. Will we continue to be silent to the suffering of our women and girls? Will we continue to uphold the systems that attack them? Will we continue to make excuses or will we do something? We must.

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