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The Fatal Consequences of Saying No: Black Men and Rejection

Yesterday, in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, 74-year-old Robert Godwin, Sr., was shot and killed, on camera, by another Cleveland resident named Steve Stephens. Stephens’ reasoning for the murder, the footage of which he posted on Facebook and talked about on Facebook Live, was because his wife had left him a short time before. In the video that Stephens made showcasing his murder of Godwin, which, out of respect for Mr. Godwin and his family, will not be shown, Stephens asked Godwin if he knew his wife and when Godwin replied with a simple no, Stephens drew a pistol and shot Godwin in the head once, before fleeing to his vehicle. At the time of writing this article, Stephens is suspected to be within the vicinity of several states bordering Ohio and his location is currently unknown.

This random act of violence towards the innocent took place only a week after the North Park Elementary School shooting in San Bernardino, California, in which a black man shot and killed his wife, a student, and himself, while wounding another. I mention his ethnicity because, as a black person, it is becoming evident that there is something far more underlying than just suddenly snapping and going on a rampage. I’ve talked about mental health in the black community before and how it doesn’t just go undetected but goes completely ignored by those who are closest to the person suffering from it. But something I never specifically mentioned was that black men are notorious within the black community for not being able to take rejection. I was reminded of this, not only because of the two recent shootings but also because, three years ago, a black woman in Detroit was murdered for rejecting a man’s advances. While these could be counted off as isolated incidents of a couple of goons acting out, it’s this innate and nonsensical idea that black men have some type of ownership over black women that is the common driving force that connects all of them.

Affinity has addressed hypermasculinity in the Black Community as a whole before, but I want to go more in depth on the concept of rejection, particularly among black men. Unfortunately, there’s no concrete study, or a plethora of literature, regarding rejection and the violent reaction exhibited by black men in response to it. All of the scenarios that have made the news seem to be disturbingly similar; a black woman is approached by a black man at a club, or some type of social gathering, who then tries to make an advance. The black woman says no and the man then persists in his attempts to get with her. When her answer of no is finally seen as absolute, the man retaliates with violence. Another scenario, which was seen in San Bernardino and Cleveland, is that a preexisting relationship between a black couple is severed, the reasoning of which varies from scenario to scenario, and the black man then targets the former partner, as well as anyone else that is unfortunate enough to cross their paths. The rampage usually ends in suicide.

The fact that I was able to give a general synopsis of at least four separate occurrences of violence against black women with only two given scenarios is horrifying. What’s even more frightening, from my perspective, is that I’ve seen situations like this play out before; fortunately, none resulted in violence, but they are a troubling indicator of how dangerous the ego can be when it’s hurt. In clubs, I’ve seen men literally drag women by their arms so they can dance with them and when the woman resists, the man holds her in place so she can’t walk away. Had the woman resisted any further, the situation could have resulted in verbal or physical violence. That’s what makes this phenomenon all the more tragic, in that black women’s right to say no is willingly suppressed in order to avoid some kind of confrontation or harm.

To my fellow black men: if a woman isn’t feeling you, walk away. If the relationship isn’t working and she wants out, walk away. Don’t hurt her or anyone else because you feel hurt; it’s okay to feel hurt, but you aren’t helping anyone by taking that hurt out on the innocent, which includes the girl. If your homie is rejected, talk some sense into him and tell him to walk away if you think he’s going to do something that hurts other people. The family of Mr. Godwin had to lose him on a day that symbolizes new beginnings and an innocent woman is now apologizing for his death, all because someone couldn’t take no for an answer. Check yourselves, fellas.


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