Race and Harassment: What do you think?

So up until a few moments ago I was having a very good day. Today was my first day at a new job which I love and this morning I spoke with someone regarding some freelance work that might be in my near future. So you would think that after all that I would be a good mood…guess again. I got harassed on my way home from my great, wonderful day. I walked by this man with his friend and he said “Lovely” to me. I as usual told him to go fuck himself. Now many my not think that the word lovely isn’t all that offensive but I don’t need hear constant compliments on my looks to validate who I am just because I am a woman. Now in response he got very upset told me to “get out of the hood”. Now this brings me to something that I have always wondered about: why does street harassment seem unusually high in the “hood”? And why is it a practice that is becoming increasingly popular among young black men? It has been in my entire life’s experience that 95% of the men to harass me have been black and most of those experiences have happened in poorer black communities. Its entirely safe to say that although I run a risk of being harassed everywhere and most women are I feel safer in Park Slope or Williamsburg as oppose to Bed-Stuy where I currently reside. I even dress a little different knowing that I wont get harassed. I know that whenever race gets brought up it can be a rather touchy subject but I cant help but wonder if more women in the NYC area other myself have noticed this trend or if it is at all significant to bring it up. Should race be tackled in the “Stop Street Harassment” movement? Should it be addressed? The problem that I think this blog is trying to resolve is to get women talking to realize that it happens to women everywhere and with that realization women can stop internalizing. But I wonder if it would serve a better purpose to speak of the harassers. Who are they are and why do they do this. The way I have rationalized my own experiences has been thinking of the black men who do this as an exercise in a power struggle in which they feel as though they are losing. Is it simply one oppressed group trying to oppress another? What that guy said to me resonated because it seemed like he was saying that in the “hood” things are done a certain way and how dare I challenge it by talking back to him. I may be over thinking this it was though he was trying to make some sort of comment on gentrification. I do look like an outsider in my neighborhood and even though I am perceived as minority myself being Hispanic, its obvious by how I dress that I am probably part of the gentrification movement that is slowly but inevitably affecting Bed-Stuy. Are these men noticing this trend and is this a source of anger? I hope this will inspire some feedback because either rude black men are just what I am attracting or this might have some larger significance.

– E.

NOTE: Hollaback! believes that street harassment stems from a culture of violence against women, but we don’t believe it stems from anyone’s culture in particular. Our blog shows that men of all races harass women, and our work shows that it happens in all countries. Still, E. isn’t the only one who has asked this question. What do you think?

6 responses to “Race and Harassment: What do you think?

  1. I definitely think they’re related. You didn’t mention your race (or maybe you did, I’m reading this quickly at work) but if you’re a minority, minority men often think that they have the rights to you. I’m sure that white men are the top harassers of white women. I’m a black woman and it infuriates me that I can always expect my harasser to be black. And I always have to break out of my shy nature and let him know that he DOES NOT own me.

  2. Gabby, she said she’s Hispanic:

    I do look like an outsider in my neighborhood and even though I am perceived as minority myself being Hispanic, its obvious by how I dress that I am probably part of the gentrification movement that is slowly but inevitably affecting Bed-Stuy.

    I think race isn’t something that can easily be written off or ignored. I’m a black woman and most of my harassers have been black men. I agree that men assume that by being the same race as a woman it makes them automatically own said woman. Do I go around thinking all black men are harassers because most of my harassers have been black? No, but the dynamic at play is something that needs to be addressed.

  3. Interesting theory, but I am not black I am hispanic and while I get harassed by hispanic men, black men seem to do it the most. But I do live in Bed-stuy so that just might be due to my neighborhood. Also I live with my partner who happens to be white and its the same for her. Although she spends less time in our neighborhood due to her job she gets harassed by both black and hispanic men the most. Its gotten so bad here that when our lease is up we will have to move and probably have to pay more to live in a different type of neighborhood. Also my neighborhood is below the poverty line so most of these men do not have jobs and stand in front of barber shops and delis. I recently heard that the African American unemployment rate is double that of unemployed Caucasians and because of that disparity I often wonder if they are just looking to feel less like victims of oppression by victimizing someone else. In addition to the increasing disparity of unemployment for African American people, homicide is also up 10 % in the city and actually most of is black on black crime. Viewing all these factors together does not make me justify these men’s actions but makes me think that for these neighborhoods there has to be more access to education, better law enforcement and a culture that can teach these black and hispanic men that all violence is wrong and women of any color are not their personal property.

  4. I think there are many causes to this problem – Mitchel Duneier touched on the class aspect briefly in his book Sidewalk.

    I don’t think talking about harassers is mutually exclusive with Holla’ing back. Hollaback, and increase discourse on the phenomenon and its causes.

  5. i am identifiably white, but i have been groped and harassed by a rainbow coalition of assholes. when i lived in my majority-black hometown, plenty of my harassers were black, just not exclusively. i see it as a numbers game– the numbers were in favor of the black men, so they were the majority of my harassers.

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