Ray Rice Aint Nothing But a Punk

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens star was recently cut from the football team and suspended indefinitely from the NFL in light of new video evidence that show him knocking unconscious his then fiancée – now wife- Janay Palmer.  

 

In May of this year video surfaced of a February 2014 incident where Rice is shown dragging the limp body of Palmer out of an elevator to an open lobby.

 

A few days ago the full video of the incident was released, apparently showing Rice initially spitting on Palmer before she gave him a backhanded swat to his face.

 

 Once the two get into the elevator Ray hovers over Janay and spits in her face again as they exchange words – she puts her arm up in an attempt to push him away from her and he responds by punching her in the face twice, the second punch knocking her out cold.

 

As her body lay unconscious on the floor of the elevator, Rice attempts to reposition her, eventually dragging her halfway out of the elevator.

 

Slowly we see Palmer regaining consciousness as security and passersby assemble around the two of them. The video ends with Janay being helped up off the floor by an unidentified person.

 

As Palmer stands, Rice attempts to reach out to her but Palmer swats his hand away as he is encircled by what looks like security.

 

Both Palmer and Rice were arrested after the incident and charged with simple assault –a charge which was  later dropped against Palmer while Rice’s charge was bumped up to aggravated assault after the case was presented to a grand Jury.

 

Rice pled not guilty and agreed to an intervention program instead of  jail time.

 

A month after the assault and day after Rice’s charges were bumped up, the couple were married.  

 

Violence Against African Women is Unacceptable

 

This situation raises a lot of questions mainly about the integrity of both Rice and Palmer, specifically Palmer’s willingness to stay in a relationship that will likely result in more physical abuse.

 

However,  Palmer’s situation is not different from many other African women who suffer silently from horizontal violence at home.

 

The exception of course is the very public video, which forces the couple to challenge their own confused ideas about what constitutes love and respect.

 

Certainly spitting on and  beating your partner unconscious does not constitute a loving or respectful relationship.  

 

These are acts of violence that convey feelings of pure hatred toward the person on the receiving end.

 

It is  evident that under capitalism, professional sports is fueled by the drive for profit and is notorious for its inflated culture of machismo; Rice has internalized a false sense of manhood that has led to him displaying dominance over someone who is supposed to be his equal.

 

  By attacking his wife, he exposed himself as a coward who is unable to cope with his own deficiencies.

 

Instead he found it acceptable to bring violence against someone he claims to “love” thereby establishing power over her – as her oppressor.   

 

But Rice is not an anomaly, Omali Yeshitela, Chairman of the African People’s Socialist Party notes that we’ve seen this before, where we have these “heroic negro athletes who are courageous on the gridiron, in the boxing ring and the basketball court, but punks in real life.

 

They are able to dominate opponents on white corporate terms and in their interests, but when it comes to standing up for their communities, people and themselves, they assume a foot-shuffling grinning posture like days of old.

 

They can beat women and sundry others with impunity, but they know not to stand up for themselves, their families, communities or people.

 

Their rage is contained and directed at non-antagonistic, horizontal victims. They have been punked out.

 

We could have used Rice and all his heroic buddies in Ferguson, but we won't see them there unless it is to assist the state in subduing the masses.”

 

The women who are with these men are likely isolated in these destructive relationships, not having a community of people who can offer concrete alternatives to their emotional or financial dependency.

 

It used to be that, without intervention from the State,  if a brother even thought about hitting a woman, there would be a community of African people ready to make him understand that sort of behavior would not be tolerated.

 

Nowadays there are young African men starting fights or jumping in on  fights between African girls – visuals that we see streaming across our online spaces.

 

Not only is the Rice video a demonstration of bourgeois media’s fascination with African horizontal violence, but sites like worldstarhiphop.com constantly hosts videos of working class Africans engaged in acts of brutality against one another.

 

 This reinforces the white nationalist perception of an inherent violence associated with African people and the Rice’s are no exception, even with their economic status.  

 

The NFL and the Commoditization of African Labor

 

Rice’s actions are disgusting and they must have consequences. While many Raven’s fans lament the death of Rice’s athletic career, few say little about the brute force that he carried out against his wife.

 

The focus has mainly been on the ability for him to keep his job as opposed to the reality that this man brutally assaulted his wife.  

 

For many the punishment does not fit the crime, as life under capitalism places profit over humanity; this  is why the NFL didn’t act until now, because as long as the public didn’t see the violence between the couple, it was ok to keep their worker, Rice, employed so that he could continue to make money for their sports franchise.  

 

The NFL and most professional sports leagues are reminiscent of the slave auction houses that facilitated the buying and selling of Africans; making black bodies available to highest bidders.

 

The prize choices will then move on to produce billions of dollars in profit for their respective sport teams, of which only a fraction of the profit is divided up amongst the players.

 

It is this commoditization of African skill that forces poor Africans to enter such a hostile market, chasing the resources held by a small minority of white people, at the expense of their own physical health.

 

Africans who couldn’t afford to live on their own one day, are now able to buy huge houses, expensive cars, clothing and jewelry which were previously out of their reach.

 

However when  their career comes to an end, either because of retirement or injury, these players are often confronted with the possibility of returning to the very same housing projects that they struggled to get out of; when the reality of the cost of maintaining the big houses and the expensive items, without the big check, comes crashing down on their shoulders.   

 

A 2009 study released by the University of Michigan reports the grim statistics for retired NFL players.“for younger [NFL] retirees…the proportion with income below the poverty level is not very different from the general population”, and younger retirees (ages 26-44) represent the overwhelming majority of retired NFL players. Based on these statistics it’s safe to assume that 27 year old Rice’s future doesn’t look very bright financially.

 

Janay Palmer Defends her Husband

 

From the beginning Janay has defended her husband and what she perceives to be her role in contributing to her own assault.  She has stood by Rice as the two of them showed the world a unified front and for that she has been attacked.

 

In addition to being physically brutalized in a very public way, her character is being assassinated by the media and public.

 

Janay Palmer is the VICTIM here and although a lot can be said about the choices that she’s made, it’s  time now, not for criticism but for overturning the contradictions that have led Janay and other African women to choose to stay with an abuser.   

 

Under capitalism African women occupy a precarious position as members of the oppressed African nation.

 

As Africans we are oppressed as a whole people and as women we have been marginalized because of colonial defined gender roles that says women are subordinate to men.

 

African women have had to face real struggles against oppression that oftentimes challenges colonialism but also  has us fighting the oppression that African men dole out.  

 

 It’s a tiring position to be in and what  usually ends up happening is that some women choose either to side with the State, becoming collaborators  or with their abusers.  However, neither of these sides are good for African women.

 

Janay and other victims of horizontal violence need another choice; one where “economic, political and social equality is an absolute prerequisite in the struggle to advance the interests of women” says Yeshitela.

 

Which means that a revolution  must occur that will overturn our relationship with the capitalist system, and it will require  African women to be full participants in that struggle.

 

Otherwise there will continue to be a void, one that has plagued the struggle for African liberation for years.

  

It is then that we will destroy the dependency that accompanies the relationships between the abuser and the abused along with all other forms of oppression.

 

Because “the reality is that the dependency of women in these relationships will often cause such confusion that they are unable to truthfully confront issues of "love."

 

Especially when love is directly connected to the ability to pay the bills, feed the children and have a roof overhead, says Yeshitela.

 

Palmer is likely confusing “love” with living when she says, “To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for …is horrific.

 

If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you’ve succeeded on so many levels. Just know we will continue to grow and show the world what real love is!”  

 

She does not understand that  it’s the actions of  Ray Rice and his total disregard for her well-being that is the thing that has taken her perceived happiness away.  

 

When the Janay’s of the world feel that their interest lie in the successes and failures of their abuser, we have to draw a sharp correlation to the economic system that we live in which has shaped our conclusions.


Capitalism has created this space where the oppressed have to choose between the colonizer’s forms of punishment or our own; and sometimes the latter choice makes more sense.

 

The latter choice has manifested itself as,horizontal violence better known as black-on-black crime.

 

The way to solve horizontal violence is to make the revolution.

 

We saw the fledgling beginnings of this in Ferguson as so-called gangs stopped committing violence toward one another when they were given the opportunity to fight against their overall oppressor.

 

Our revolution must include pivoting criticism away from victims of oppression to placing the blame directly on the purveyors of oppression.

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