The Erasure of Black Womanhood: Why Anthony Cumia's Twitter Rant is About More Than Race
I have been subjected to three days of Cumia’s supporters, all but one being White men, flooding my mentions with all types of insults and accusations of my “agenda.” They have targeted everything from my being a feminist woman to my being a Black woman and being “racist.” To be honest, all I did was screenshot his tweets; then, after he deleted about six months’ worth of tweets, I re-posted them, reminding him that we would never forget what he said. Since then, I’ve been inundated with primarily White male trolls harassing me in his defense.
Their key points:
- Anthony Cumia never used the word “n**ger”, therefor nothing he said was racist
- Cumia is not racist at all, and none of the words he used are in reference to Black people specifically
- She was a hooker, judging by how she was dressed or she shouldn't have been out late at night
- The five men who defended her were her pimps
- She bashed his head in and he went blind in one eye
- He is a victim being blamed like a woman who has been raped
- “You weren’t there so how are you defending her?”
- Why didn’t she go to the cops for help?
- She hasn’t come forward because she is a hooker
When I have responded to them, my first question is “What about the sexism?” I’ve yet to receive a single response. None of Cumia's defenders seems to want to address the disgusting sexist language of calling a woman a “whore c*nt,” “c*nt,” “whore b*tch,” “c*nt rag,” or any other combination of these words. Cumia had an endless supply of epithets to use toward this woman, related primarily not to her being Black, but to her being a woman.
But here’s the thing: Cumia doesn’t even see her as human.
In two tweets, Cumia responds to questions from his supporters and refers to the woman as being an “it” and even worse, an “animal” that he had to restrain himself from putting to sleep.
Screen shots taken from Cumia's Twitter feed
Black women have historically been denied rights to humanity. As Black people, we’ve been considered property, animals, savages, etc. As women, we’ve been seen, well, not as “real women.” See, “womanhood” is reserved for certain types of women, and those women are generally White. Non-White women are constantly subjected to having their “womanhood” and “femininity” measured against the standards set by White women. Dorothy Roberts writes eloquently about how Black women are denied access to womanhood, and how our motherhood is considered illegitimate and never amounting to that of White women. She writes about historical efforts to destroy the bodies of Black women, and the ways in which racism and sexism manifest in the treatment of Black women.
In short, Black women are denied rights to call ourselves human beings by virtue of being Black and being women. Yet, somehow, we manage to affirm ourselves and assert ourselves as such, often in ways that those who wish to deny us these labels claim are “too much.” We’re “too loud,” “too angry,” and “too uppity” simply for declaring ourselves as human beings worthy of respect.
This woman appears to have stood up for herself, being unhappy with whatever took place in that exchange. For that, her image was spread to hundreds of thousands of people, with all types of disgusting labels attached to it. It could even be seen as if Cumia put out a hit on her, knowing that one of his most devoted fans might be violent enough to seek her out and hurt her now that Cumia has been fired for his rant. (Worth noting: I did find at least one article that addresses the misogyny as much as it addresses the racism.)
As a Black woman living in New York City, I have experienced street harassment on an almost daily basis since I was 11 years old. The ways in which women, particularly women of color, are sexually objectified as they walk down the street is out of control in this city. When I once engaged two NYPD officers about what support there is for women who experience this type of treatment, the answer was "Basically, nothing." Unless women can prove that they are being followed or stalked in a pattern that involves numerous occasions with the same perpetrator, verbal abuse and sexual harassment on the street are not illegal.
Having seen the pictures of the woman tweeted by Cumia, I can only imagine how often she finds herself subjected to this type of treatment. She is attractive, has a curvaceous figure, and appears to be confident enough to advocate for herself when she feels she is being violated (which seems to be the case in this situation, but that is as much speculating as I will do). I can say that if it were me walking late at night and I noticed a man aiming his camera in my direction, I would certainly inquire about whether or not he was taking pictures of me. If I was dissatisfied with his response and felt safe enough to do so, I would likely confront him and ask to see what he is taking pictures of.