Home Other Stuff We Like Street Harassment: Why are black men the main perpetrators?

Street Harassment: Why are black men the main perpetrators?

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man grabbing womans arm

Lately, a plight that I was largely unfamiliar with has dominated the discussion of many blogs and news sites: street harassment. As a man, I figured I was simply unfamiliar with street harassment, because it is largely perpetrated by men towards women. It’s also an activity I have not and do not participate in myself. While I recognize it’s also morally wrong, I largely have and do abstain from the activity because it is highly ineffective when it comes to picking-up women.

In discussions with some of my female friends from my home state of Texas on the topic, I realized there was additional context to consider. For example, in order for street harassment to even occur, one’s primary point of contact has to take place on the street. In Texas – and many large metropolitan areas – the primary means of transportation and contact between members of the opposite sex doesn’t occur on the street. Stated differently, you are more likely to travel to work, play, and everywhere in between by foot in many large, eastern cities than you are in many large, southern cities. Therefore, this isn’t to say that southern men or any more gentlemen-like or less likely to harass women on the street than men from the north east, but they are less likely to even have the opportunity to do so.

That said, regardless of whether the harassment occurs on the street or elsewhere, many women did seem to agree the perpetrators of such actions typically have a few traits in common. They tended be male, young, and black. Since I’m a (relatively) young, black, male, this intrigued me.

Most women I spoke with were careful to say that it was not only black men that had harassed them or generally tried to pursue them in less than respectful manner in their lifetimes, but they were clear to point out that if disrespect or harassment did occur, it was far more likely to occur at the hands (or mouths) of black men.

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A recent Salon.com article, The Worst Thing A Man Can Do, and a commenter on a fellow SBM writer’s post, Cat Calling Pick Up Lines: Is ‘Street Harassment’ Ever Acceptable? seem to support this sentiment. Further, the victims of the harassment were not limited to black women. In fact, a white woman named Jessie shared her firsthand experience with this particular issue in the comments section of the aforementioned post:

Perhaps it isn’t my place to speak on this thread, but this is something that has been an issue for me since I moved to Boston 4 years ago.

I am a white female in my early twenties. I dress eccentrically, to say the least, have noticeable facial piercings and usually unnaturally colored hair. This is an extremely popular style of both men and women at my college and in my social circles.

Now trust me, at a party with a couple beers in him, there are absolutely guys, regardless of race, in my social circles that harass me and believe I owe them flirty banter and sex. No question, it happens regularly, and has nothing to do with my “beauty” or “attractiveness”, I’m aware.

However, the only time I am ever cat called or inappropriately complimented by a stranger on the street, it is by a black male. I will not comment on why, because I don’t fucking know. I am sure my statement sounds incredibly racist, and please, please, correct me and call me out if you find it offensive and ignorant- but it is a fact. Almost all of my street encounters have been with black males.

Once, it was almost sweet. I was standing on a busy street during day time hours waiting for a friend, and the man complimented me on my outfit, and continued walking. A few moments later he turned around and asked if I was single. He was very polite, and perhaps if I was single I would have interacted with him, but I was not at the time and told him so, and he continued on his way. The attention was unwelcome and a little disruptive of the time I was spending on my phone, but polite, honest, and he left when I gave the signal.

Once, late at night on a slightly deserted street, a man on a bike passing me on the side walk said, “Hey, beautiful,” and kept going, only to turn around moments later to start asking me for my number, and where I was going, and followed beside me for a few minutes on his bike. This was far more intrusive to me, slightly frightening, and I was weary that he was asking personal and private questions.

And then of course, there are the dozens of times I have heard, “Hey, beautiful, where you going baby?”, “Damn girl”, “I just want to talk for a second, why won’t you talk to me?” etc. All of these have been threatening to me, and made me a little scared because lines especially like “where you going” and “why won’t you talk to me” are very inappropriate.

Even when I am single and feeling a bit lonely, this attention, even the attention from the polite man I first mentioned, is not okay, and makes me feel uncomfortable and violated. I do not dress myself or do my hair expecting compliments on my way to run errands- I honestly just want to be left alone. Passing compliments are nice I guess, but still inappropriate and honestly do nothing for my self esteem, if that is the harassers aim.

The race issue here is beyond me, I don’t feel I have a place to say much on that topic as a white person. But the issue that street harassment seems to be more popular among black males is the problem that has directly affected almost every day of my life in Boston.

As I noted above, it appears street harassment may be as geographically specific as it is culturally specific; however, regardless of when and where it occurs, it seems black men are the primary contributors. But, why?

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Many of us are familiar with the harassment women receive at the hands of construction workers. It’s almost as if many construction workers assume or embrace this stereotype. Nevertheless, in many large cities, women are as or more likely to pass by young black men than they are construction workers. Some of these men are comfortable enough to take it upon themselves to harass these women – even if it is up to the perception of the individual woman to define what she considers harassment versus a misplaced and often failed attempt at a pick-up by the man. To be clear, I am not saying that men of other races and ethnicities do not perpetrate unwanted, unwarranted, or outright malicious acts towards women – often women who resemble their own race and ethnicity; however, specific to the issue of street harassment in America, why are so many perpetrators black men?

If I knew the exact answer, I would provide one, but I do not. Yet, I think the issue is bigger than blaming rap music, even if it is a convenient scapegoat and does likely have a role in contributing to the problem.

Is street harassment cultural or geographic: is it an issue you face (or hear about) in your City? Are the majority of the perpetrators young black men? If yes, why do you feel young black men – or men of any race – are comfortable harassing women on the street (or anywhere)?

Comment(22)

  1. Wouldnt you know my org is having an event on this very topic lol go figure. but here goes my thoughts

    "Is street harassment cultural or geographic"

    hmm, you know im not sure this will be my final answer once i investigate further myself, but for the time being im going to lean twoards cultural. You're absolutely right, rap music probably does factor in, but no way in the major way that street harassment has got this bad. Hate to beat a dead horse, but I really do think its the parental factor. Take into account how much culture has changed and what is allowed in these times. People were becoming parents at a young age back in the day too, but now its become almost a trend. You got babies raising babies, and its everywhere. Take also into accout, that cause and effect from this happening all around america can make a big difference in the cultural norms people think is ok. Parents now adays just dont think to teach children the true meaning of respect. This only for the young black male theory, i still have to look into the older portion of black men that do this, to speak on it.

    1. "is it an issue you face (or hear about) in your City?"

      Yup, and I live in Tempe, Az so you know its a problem if its out here lol. Not gon lie, ninjas be acting all the way up, with no remorse.

      "If yes, why do you feel young black men – or men of any race – are comfortable harassing women on the street (or anywhere)?"

      Guess i should have put my thesis on the topic here lol oops. but in summary though, ill just say i dont think the idea of respect in that manner was ever instilled into their brains.When your parents are not teaching you, and your friends parents arent teaching them, and you hang around your friends all the time(Im going to guess that the trend starts from like 6th grade and on, and only gets worse in high school), yall not going to know anything different than what you guys think is ok. If this trend happens around all the states, you got a problem on your hands.

      I could be all types of wrong, but thats what i think for the moment.

    1. Agreed. It is just as frivolous and extremely subjective as 'sexual harassment'. The term harassment by definition is any unsolicited behavior that is unwanted or undesired. Who determines what is unwanted or undesired? No one, other than the individual on the receiving end. And what a person deems a flattering remark on a good day, could be deemed harassment on a bad day.

      And to your point, harassment relies heavily on the presence of 'attraction'. In other words, a charming good looking brutha can get away with a lot more than someone who doesn't fair so well in either department.

      While there are clear lines of violation when it comes to someone's personal space or even dignity, 'street harassment' needs more of a clear definition to warrant any real meaningful discussion. As it stands, a simple greeting or salutation in passing can be considered 'street harassment' if a chick's temperament is a little off kilter that morning. After all, who are you to simply say "Hello" to another human being, under the presumption they want to be spoken to as they go about their day?

      Mr. SoBo
      OpinionatedMale.com

      Mr. SoBo

      My recent post A Closet Freak: A Man’s Point Of View

  2. I have to agree and it happens whether you are a young woman or not, I am not young, in my forties and it happens to me. I have to admit that I get approached by men of many races and the rudest have always been from my brothers. I mean truly offensive, I have also had them touch me and they don't even know me, then they get offended when I call them on the floor about being rude or touching me. I have never had men of other races speak so rudely towards me or just touch me and I don't understand what it is. I don't see why someone would have to tell you it is not appropriate to say some things that have been said to me to people you know and definitely not people you don't know and you really should have to teach a person to keep their hands to themselves. Mind you these same men would have a fit if a man did it their daughters, mothers, sisters or what have you. Well I am a daughter, mother and sister also.

  3. It’s just hood culture. Most of the dudes that do this are bums or are hood nxggas lets be real. If you are in areas w Latinos you will get catcalls from Latino guys too. And they are from the hood too. Even outside of the US in different countries, goonish hood nxggas exist everywhere and it’s part of how they’ve been taught to communicate

    1. I have to say its unfortunate that we have to constantly answer for “why” black people tend to do anything. Like we under a microscope but This is a good question in regards to street harassment in the black community and I’ve always wondered if white women got it too so that’s good to know.

    2. I am in agreement with this. In the most extreme cases where there is clearly disrespect and violation of personal space occurring, it has been in my observation (as many on here can attest to witnessing also) that it is only a particular segment of the population that engages and exhibits such behavior.

      I think it is very important that this be highlighted in any discussion surrounding 'street harassment', because more often than not, the angst many of these young women feel is misplaced. In other words, if street harassment is such a major concern as it is purported to be within the blogosphere and the moving target for anti patriarchy agendas, then I say such discussions should be directed to those who have been and are more likely to commit such offenses. it is highly unlikely that individuals who frequent and participate on blogs such as this where self improvement and intellectual nurturing are sought, are the perpetrators.

      in other words, I find those who take issue with 'street harassment' need to find their audience and relay their frustrations directly to them instead of using those who are likely 'non street harassers' as the whipping boy for their 'frustrations'.

      Mr. SoBo

      My recent post What If I Make More Money Than Him? Why Do Men Suddenly Ditch Us? If You Need To Know Just Ask (Pt 3)

      1. Do you feel like a 'whipping boy' for women's frustrations?

        The reason women bring it up to other men who aren't likely to disrespect us like that is because
        a) we are looking for support (if you don't want to support us, whatever, but if you are against us, Fxxx you), and
        b) you ultimately have the power to influence your peers. The type of man that is willing to harass a woman on the street obviously has no respect for women, and therefore would be a lot less likely to heed our concerns. He might listen to another man though, and I think as men, that is your responsibility. If you care to change the culture of how men communicate towards women, for the better, than men themselves will have to do that.

        Let's address your point that women should direct their concerns towards the very men that disrespect us. 1) If i am being HARASSED, I sure as f*** am not going to engage with the person harassing me. That is counterintuitive to basic survival skills. As far as possibly directing it in a virtual way, I suppose we do in hip hop forums or spaces like that, where misogyny is prominent, you will see those conversations. Otherwise, surely you don't think thats a viable option for change. This a SOCIETAL problem even if it's more likely that uneducated, ignorant people are doing it. Furthermore, a lot of teenage boys do this. And they come from the suburbs. So I guess it's made it's way into the mainstream (black) populace as well.
        My recent post It is hard for me to respect men after going to the strip club

  4. One argument for street harassment, is that if a girl does give you play in the streets, it's no mistaking what she's gonna do when she gets back to your crib. You come all polite at a girl at your uppity friend's wine and cheese function, then take her Ruth Chris a couple times, and she still get all brand new when you try to smash. Something to be said by the using a strong filtering mechanism when it comes to approaching women, even if it lowers your percentage of "success".

  5. Seeing as I spend most of my time in environments with mostly white men, I really do think it’s a cultural thing. Street harrasment is something I only get from black or Hispanic men & it’s usually only black or Hispanic men in certain areas and cities.

      1. The cat calls my fellow jamaicans make are some of the loudest, most absurd and/or most vulgar things I think I've ever heard casually thrown around.

        While walking home from the grocery store in Brooklyn I head some guy catcall from his car to some random woman: "Ey baby! Wha gwaan? Mi neva know say ah pum pum could look so fat!"

  6. I think it’s not specifically black men as it’s men who ain’t never been anywhere…whether it’s the construction worker who hadn’t seen a Sundress all day, brothas or that friend from home who visits you in college Not to make excuses they don’t know no better, they think they’re being charming, or they are trying to bond with men o’er the mutual attraction to woman x.

    1. Wholeheartedly agreeing with you there, Tristan. You're right, some of them THINK that they are being 'charming' others are just doing what 'the other knuckelheads are doing…either way, its mostly annoying to women and they would not want someone approaching their sisters, moms, daughters, nieces and cousins in the same manner. yes, the term KNUCKLEHEAD applies quite nicely here.

  7. Unfortunately it is usually black men who do this. I find it interesting that , although they do harrass all women, they tend to harass their own women (black women) much more. Please don't tell me its b/c black men are more attracted to black women than other women- bm have proven that they are very attracted to women of all races – look at the marriage rates. But when they harass and get aggressive, they seem far more comfortable doing it to black women.

  8. Euh… All the perpetrators aren't young black men. Its all type of men and they approach all type of women!
    They do it because they have absolutely nothing to loose and guess what; if the girl likes them, they might get the number…
    Also i don't call it harrassment unless the guy tries to touch me (THAT I CAN'T STAND!!!) or uses some slurs (I thought you say i was pretty, why are you calling me a h*e now :O?). Then again only mentally disturbed men go that far…
    If he's nice and polite it's just annoying…

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  10. As a black women, I agree and disagree with what she is saying. When black men approach me they are often times ruder than when someone of another ethnicity approaches me. However, I feel the woman who wrote this article if she wants to admit or not does not particularly care for the attention of black men because they are not her preference.

  11. My two cents as a black woman…we have been saying this about black men for years…BUT YOU ALL NEVER WANTED TO LISTEN..NOW A WHITE WOMAN SAY'S IT AND ALL THE BLACK MEN ARE IN AGREEMENT ..SIDE NOTE ..NO ONE LIKES YOUR DISRESPECT.

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