I See the Flaws of the Men of Oakland

This is just to let you know: I know.

I know about what you did. I know because she told me. Yes, that’s right. We have started to talk. And your name came up. In fact, the names of most of the men in Oakland who I knew and some I didn’t come up.

It’s not much fun to go out anymore, now that I knew. It was much easier for me to pretend that none of this was happening. I didn’t have to be angry when I didn’t know. I didn’t have to think about how it would look if I was seen talking to you at a party or a bar. I didn’t have to think about every interaction I’ve had with you and how I failed to see that you – yes, you! – had abused her. Or that you would abuse her. Or that you were capable of abusing her.

I feel fucking guilty. Because of you. Because of what you did to her. Because of what you did to me. I don’t want to go out anymore because I know that if I see you, it will be the same thing: the lies. Pretending to care. Wearing that guise of a good guy so well. You fooled me. I feel like a fucking fool.

I also do not want to see the people who knew and did nothing. I am afraid that at some point I was one of those people. I am afraid that I will be called on my bullshit because, yes, I have been there, standing by the side of a man who abused a woman and not knowing any better. That is a completely story, but, don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about what he did in due time.

But now that I know – now I know who defends those men, too. They are everywhere. They are people with power. Perhaps this is why I don’t want to go out and see any of you anymore: your collective social capital will crush me the minute I open my mouth and say, “He hit her.”

I almost want to laugh. Because I’ve risked my social capital on that before, and, no, it did not go very well for me, and he still gets work in this town, and now I look like the crazy one talking shit about a member of our community.

It’s true. He hit her. Y’all just didn’t want to hear it or do anything about it.

Because what are we supposed to do. What kind of justice can we extract in these situations? I see that the women do not have a voice, they do not have a chance to defend themselves, they do not have a chance to attain good social standing, they do not have the opportunity to leverage their communities in order to advance. But the men are given forgiveness, and then all is forgotten. The women? They languish as they try to put the pieces back together. The bills do not stop rolling in just because you’re depressed because your boyfriend hit you.

Make him pay for her therapy. Make him pay for it all. Make him pay for her cab rides home because she doesn’t feel safe at night. Make him pay for her rent so she can stay in a safe place. Make him pay for her food so she can eat healthy and take care of herself. Make him pay for her medication. Make him pay for drinks and dinner for her and her friends so she can go out and talk about what happened and feel taken care of.

Make him wear a scarlet letter. Make him register as a woman beater. Let it show up in Google searches so all future employers know. Put an asterisk on his Tinder account so women know that he did this to someone.

I know none of that will happen. But it would be nice if something happened. If one thing happened. If there were one consequence for the pain you have caused us. If we didn’t have to run and hide on Facebook groups, whispering for fear of retaliation.

How come every time a man hits a woman, she is committing social suicide? Can we change that?