Thursday, May 23, 2013 Does Disservice to Black Women/Community Through Practice of Unreasonable Censorship

The hallmark of any respectable and noteworthy blog is the free expression of ideas.  This is particularly true within the Black Blogosphere which has provided a platform for members of our community to come together over the past several years in order to share thought provoking ideas in an open forum for the betterment of the Black Community.  Invariably, whenever diverse minds engage in open discussion, differences of opinion will emerge.  This is to be expected.  After all, the Black Community is not monolithic in its thinking, nor should it be.  The members of our community, just like the members of any community, do not always agree on any given topic.  The critical difference between good blogs and not-so-good blogs is all in how the blog administrators handle these differences of opinion whenever they occur.  
Many blogs such as The Field Negro, Jack & Jill Politics, The Uppity Negro, AverageBro, The Intersection Between Madness & Reality, Very Smart Brothers, Abagond and The Obsidian Files (just to name a few) encourage diversity of thought and welcome readers with differing opinions.  Accordingly, substantive discussions tend to thrive on these and other similar blogs.  Readers who frequent these blogs know that even if they vehemently disagree with the blog admins on these sites, so long as they do so respectfully and refrain from any unnecessary personal insults or ad hominem attacks (in other words, as long as they're not "Trolls") then their argument(s) will be heard and given a fair debate on the merits.  Gina McCauley's, unfortunately, is not such a place.

In the "About" section of WhatAboutOurDaughters ("WAOD"), it states the following:

What About Our Daughters was founded on April 18, 2007 in response to an Oprah Winfrey show entitled “After Imus:Now What” . The original purpose of the blog was to encourage Black women to organize to “Stop Funding Foolishness.” In other words, to use economic power to  to impose economic sanctions on those who are producing destructive images of Black women and girls. We’ve evolved since then. Gotten some media attention, founded Blogging While Brown, Michelle Obama Watch, and proven over and over again that when men and women of character come together, we can change the world.
Unapologetic, Uncompromising, and Unbowed in defense of Black women and girls.

To be sure, we here at The Urban Politico applaud this and any other objective which seeks to defend Black women and girls.  Our staff is comprised of both Black men and women who come from various different backgrounds but who come together to discuss social, political, economic, religious, legal, educational and any other type of issue that affects the Black Community and our respective communities at large. (If you're not familiar with who we are, you can read more about us HERE).  It may seem like we're repeating ourselves but let us be crystal clear:

  • We support Black Women (and men).
  • We are comprised of Black Women (and men).
  • The Black men on our staff support Black Women.
  • The Black women on our staff support Black Women.

Just wanted to make that super clear before we continue.  Because apparently sometimes people get a little confused on where you stand when you disagree with their position in a debate.  And by "people" we mean WAOD, which brings us to the heart of this post.

Recently, WAOD published a post regarding Ebony Magazine's decision to do a feature on Genarlow Wilson.  If you don't know who Genarlow Wilson is you can read about his story HERE.  Per Wiki:

Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation in 2005, after, at the age of seventeen, he had engaged in oral sex with a 15-year-old at a New Year's Eve party, an offense carrying a mandatory penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.
At the time of his conviction, provisions for similarity in age that allowed underage consent to be taken into account were only applicable to vaginal sex. Because the case involved oral sex, the consent of the girl was not at that time legally relevant.
On October 26, 2007, the Georgia State Supreme Court, while not overturning the conviction itself, ruled that Wilson's sentence was disproportionate. He was released later that day, after serving over 2 years of his 10-year prison sentence in the Al Burruss Correctional Training Center in Forsyth, Georgia.

After his release from prison, Wilson went on to graduate from Morehouse College this May where
Genarlow Wilson
President Obama addressed the graduating class last Sunday.

In response, WAOD recently did a post entitled "Genarlow Wilson: The Most Ungrateful and Entitled Child Rapist to Ever Graduated from Morehouse."  As you can glean from the descriptive title, the author (hereinafter the "Admin") essentially takes an anti-Generlow Wilson position.  Fair enough.  We have no problem with that.  Our problem, however, comes from how the Admin of WAOD both discourages and censors all but the most indulgent opinions put forth by any of her readers.  Our own Janitor was one such reader who respectfully agreed in part and disagreed in part with WAOD's original premise regarding Genarlow Wilson.  He posted the following:

First, thanks for posting about this story because it does provide a good opportunity to dialogue about rape and rape culture in our society.
I should say at the outset that I am an attorney who has followed this case since 2007 so I am aware of the legalities surrounding it. As much as we despise rape and anybody who commits such an unjustifiable act, it's also important that we get our facts straight. Genarlow Wilson was not convicted of rape. Although it is true that he was charged with raping a 17 year-old girl while he, himself, was also 17, a jury who carefully heard all of the evidence and watched the video in question found Wilson innocent on that charge.
Wilson was actually charged with "aggravated child molestation" ("ACM") which is a very different charge than "rape". Rape is sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. ACM under Georgia law does not require sexual intercourse - it is simply any "immoral or indecent act" done in the presence of a child. A "child" under Georgia law is anybody under 16. It's notable to observe that at the time in question, Wilson was 17 and the two girls in question were 17 and 15. So even though they were all teenagers (one girl the same age and one girl only 2 years apart in age) the law on the books at the time in Georgia (which has since been removed as a result of this case) did not make any exceptions for teenagers who perform consensual oral sex on other teenagers.
Wilson was convicted of ACM for oral sex with the 15 year-old girl in question because this particular Georgia law did not consider consent for oral sex, even though Georgia law did, at that time, consider consent for sexual intercourse. In other words, if Genarlow Wilson and the same 15 year old girl had engaged in sexual intercourse -- and not oral sex -- then he would not have been charged with ACM.
All of that to say, I agree with the folks who have commented here who find what happened here disgusting. I certainly would not want my 15-year old sister to be associated with the type of guys who have group sex and put it on video (what's with this younger generation feeling the need to constantly put everything on video anyway?). But that's a significantly different discussion than whether or not Genarlow Wilson was guilty of rape. Again, he was found guilty of ACM but he was found innocent of rape.
Just because I'm personally offended (and to be clear, I am offended) at what Wilson did does not make him a rapist. Raping somebody makes you a rapist. Having oral sex on video at the age of 17 with another teenage girl just means you have extremely poor judgment, a lack of respect for yourself and for women, and no home training. But let's be clear, it doesn't make that individual a rapist. That's a bridge too far.
Rape is a serious matter. Therefore, we should not toss around the label of "rapist" lightly before gathering all of the facts. We may not like it when a group of young women and young men get together in a room and decide to disrespect themselves by engaging in group sex acts. And we should counsel our young men and women on the consequences that such actions will have on their respective futures. But let's not confuse that with rape. Forcing somebody to have sex without their consent or taking advantage of somebody when they can't consent is rape. It's a question of consent. You either have it or you don't. Nobody should be forced to do something that they did not consent to. Period. But let's not forget, the jury in Genarlow Wilson's case did not find a lack of consent between Wilson and the two young ladies in question.
If I can change gears for a moment, as a black attorney, what originally drew me to this case was the abuse of prosecutorial discretion used by the white southern prosecutors who decided to go after Wilson for 10 years on the charge of ACM when they knew full well that the ACM statute was not intended to apply to a case like this. Even the Georgia legislator who wrote the ACM law in 1995, Matt Towery, said that it was not intended to apply to cases like the Genarlow Wilson case. The law was intended to stop adults from performing inappropriate sexual acts around children. It was not intended to send a 17 year old boy (who is himself a child) to jail for 10 years for engaging in oral sex with a 15 year old girl. The prosecutors knew that, but they went after him anyway. Fortunately, because their abuse of discretion resulted in national media attention, this law has been removed from the Georgia books so that this type of case cannot happen again.
May 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterThe Janitor

The Admin responded with the following:

Blogmother comment - We are no longer in a court of law. Genarlow Wilson has hired a PR firm and is attempting to remold himself into a public speaker and cash in on his disgusting behavior. Whether you like it or not. A large portion of the population views a man who has sexual intercourse with an unconscious girl along with 5 of his friends and then dumps her unconscious body on the bathroom floor to be a rapist. There no abuse of discretion. A 17 year old Black girl said that he raped her. I believe her. That's what initiated the prosecution and thank goodness there was a district attorney willing to attempt to seek justice for a violated Black girl. Genarlow is out of jail he's doing well. He is not entitled to fame and fortune he seeks without comment. And you wouldn't DARE go write what you wrote about this Black girl in a forum addressing the Steubenville rape case which is basically identical because White women would not tolerate it.

The Janitor followed up with the following post, which was deleted by the WAOD Admin (in addition, the Admin banned The Janitor from WAOD as a result of this exchange):

A large portion of the population views a man who has sexual intercourse with an unconscious girl along with 5 of his friends and then dumps her unconscious body on the bathroom floor to be a rapist.
IF (please note I said "IF") Genarlow Wilson had sex with the 17 year-old girl while she was unconscious then YES that would be rape because - as I said in my post above - you cannot consent to sex when you are unconscious.  We are agreed on that point.  But those are not the facts that were presented here. The jury who watched the video of Wilson and the 17-year old girl having sex found that she was conscious during the act. Accordingly, he was found innocent on the rape charge with respect to the 17 year-old. So while your heart might be in the right place I think you might be a bit off on your facts.
Genarlow is out of jail he's doing well. He is not entitled to fame and fortune he seeks without comment. 
I never said that Genarlow was entitled to fame or fortunate without comment. 

And you wouldn't DARE go write what you wrote about this Black girl in a forum addressing the Steubenville rape case which is basically identical because White women would not tolerate it. 
I am not sure I understand your comment here.  If I'm hearing you correctly, it sounds like you are suggesting that I would have a problem discussing the issue of rape in front of a white female audience? (???)  I don't know what you are basing this on but let me respond for the record that I have no problem discussing the issue of rape with a Black or White audience with respect to a Black or White perpetrator or Black or White victims of rape.  Moreover, I never wrote anything negative about either one of the girls in question in this case so again I don't quite understand where this comment is coming from.
But the bottom line of both this post and my previous post is that rape is a serious matter and we should take care to address the all aspects of rape culture in our society.  If a person is convicted of rape, then by all means, throw that fool under the jail.  But by that same token, if a person is found innocent of rape then we can't and shouldn't continue to call him or her a rapist.  That's not right.  

But you will only see this second exchange printed here because it was not allowed to be printed on WAOD due to the censorship of the Admin.  Moreover, as unreasonable as such a move may be, this pales in comparison to the Admin's general pattern of completely unnecessary personal attacks with respect to any opinion that differs from her own.  By way of example, when disagreeing with one reader who asked a question regarding Wilson's daughter, the Admin said the following:
Blogmother comment- I'm sorry, can someone with reading comprehension locate the portion of the post where I mention Mr. Wilson's daughter?
When one reader pointed out the one-sided nature of the Admin's post, the Admin responded with the following personal attack:
Blogmother comment - Thanks for proving our point that Genarlow Wilson's supporters are Pro-rape culture, delusional and unhinged. You probably don't even know why what your victim blaming is so vile and repugnant.
In essence, anybody who does not agree 100% with the Admin's position on Genarlow Wilson is ipso facto in support of "pro-rape culture."  This is the worst form of censorship.  We at The Urban Politico do not take issue with the Admin's decision to take an anti-Genarlow Wilson position.  And we certainly don't take issue with the Admin of WAOD on a personal level seeing as how none of us have ever met her in person.  
However, it is sad when people (especially Bloggers with influence) who claim to be "intellectuals" resort to this sort of behavior.  How can we all grow and learn and educate in a manner to prevent rape from occurring if we can't even engage in dialogue about rape?  

It seems inconsistent and intellectually dishonest to show outrage about the outcome of rape while simultaneously maintaining a zero tolerance policy towards the opinions of any outsiders who attempt to work towards common ground in our understanding and hopefully our prevention of rape in the future.

Anybody who has read this blog knows that we at The Urban Politico do not condone rape in any way, shape or form.  Let us say that again: we do not condone rape in any way, shape or form. Yet when one of our own attempted to dialogue with the Admin from WAOD on the subject, those attempts were met with instant disdain, derision  disrespect and intolerance.   We have to do better, people.  Blogs like WAOD can not be the model for how ideas are expressed within our community on the Blogosphere or else we're all in trouble.  

Discussion of any topic on the merits should be encouraged.   Especially when people disagree with you. After all, if we live in an echo chamber surrounded by people who repeat everything we say, how can we expect to grow?  Disagreements are not a bad thing.  In fact, they're a good thing.  We shouldn't take it personally when somebody disagrees with an argument that we have put forward.  Those who are incapable of discussing hot topics without regressing to ad hominem attacks should not be in the business of blogging.  Our Black women and girls deserve better.

Best regards,

- The Urban Politico staff

(note: we have reached out to the author of the post on WhatAboutOurDaughters for comment and welcome a dialogue on this issue)

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