There is no better way of hoping harm comes to a pop singer we don’t like than racist dreams of rape. Full disclosure, I am not a fan of Justin Bieber. In fact, I just had to go double check the spelling of his last name, that is how little I follow him. I do know that he spent some time in jail and the reason I know that is because I started seeing images like the one above involving Bieber being paired up with a black man who it is implied will rape Bieber as he goes into jail.
Racism and rape give us two wonderful things at which to laugh. The reality is that the image above could have had a white person where the black man is (we would still be talking about rape) but that apparently is not “good enough” for Bieber. The image above tells us that there is nothing worse than a white man being raped by a black man and isn’t that rape funny when it is perpetrated against someone we don’t like.
The image goes into the white fear that there are big, dark, black, scary people out there ready and willing to do harm to white people at a moment’s notice. It plays into all of the stereotypes of black men as sexually unrestrained, violent, criminal, and dangerous. The stereotype is then used to make us laugh about Bieber being raped in jail. The rape is not bad enough unless it is by a scary black man.
The inherent racism of the image is vulgar but it does not stop there. The joke of the image is not just the racism but that Bieber is going to be raped. Isn’t that just so funny? There is something about this image that we are to cheer and say, “Yes!” let Bieber be raped because his music is annoying and he violated a law. I can imagine some people just drooling over this possibility. The problem is that rape is not funny to me. No matter how much I dislike a person, I do not wish that person to be raped. I do not find rape to be a tool of justice or to be someone’s comeuppance for something he/she did.
These types of images degrade the act of rape. It is so degraded that the Daiquiri Factory in Spokane, WA even has a drink called Date Grape, a clear play on the phrase date rape. The fact that a bar would have a drink called Date Grape and be completely blind to the fact that alcohol plays a large role in rape and that drugs are mixed in with alcohol to make a woman more vulnerable to rape is beyond belief. Rape is becoming something that is now becoming nothing more than a punchline even though it is an act that still to this day is not punished fully. Men still get away with light sentences after raping women. Yes, men can be raped but the overwhelming number of victims are women. These types of images and word plays help to make rape seem less destructive than it is.
Am I making all of this up? Well, I wanted to see if there was some research and lucky for me there is this blog, A Scientific Case Against Rape Jokes that already discusses this topic. There are also a large number of studies looking at how racist jokes make and environment unwelcoming for people of color.
Why do these things matter? Why not let the joke go? Simple. People are still dying in this country because of racism and misogyny. I do not mean the blatant, foaming at the mouth racism or misogyny. I mean the racism that has men check their wallets and women hold their purses closer to them when a black man gets close. I mean the misogyny in which women are still not believed when they are raped. I mean innocent black men and women being shot for no other reason than they were black and it was assumed they were engaged in criminal acts though they were not. Images like the above one matter and they have consequences.
In a previous post I mentioned moments of socialization. This image is another moment of socialization. By itself it won’t change the world but when combined with all of the other racist and misogynist images we are bombarded with, our perceptions of the world become shaded. We become slightly more afraid of people who are different from us. We may not be able to trace that fear or concern to anything specific but it is there and it is real. These feelings than guide how we act and how we think about everything from friendship to justice to love to enemies to politics to just about everything. When messages like these, that down play racism and rape, continue to bombard us on an almost daily basis, we become desensitized to the actual impact the messages have not only on the people who are the target of the jokes and messages but on those of us who tell them or allow the messages to be said without comment. There is a reason we talk about institutional racism and rape culture.
Racism and rape – still not funny.