What is with Black men harassing women on the street?

(N.b. I posted this a while ago on my old blog. But thought I’d start the convo again)

‘Yo buff ting, ya looking nice today, still’. I walk past the bus stop, eyes focused on the crossing a few steps ahead. “Psst, psst – eh gorgeous, can I talk with you”, the thick West African accent cuts through my thoughts, and I glance to my side to be greeted with a smile, dry lips, halitosis, and a phone grasped by an expectant ashy hand. I smile back weakly – ‘no, thanks’, and continue to walk briskly, while an angry voice shouts ‘You’re not that nice anyway!’ in my direction. I roll my eyes, slightly embarrassed at the looks of vaguely amused passers-by. It’s nothing new – I’m just another black woman, walking another street, in another town that could be anywhere in the world.

I’ve been to Jamaica, America, Chad, Guadeloupe, and I happen live in England. They all have unique cultural habits, ethnic mixes, foods, outlooks and landscapes. One thing is for certain though – anywhere where there are black men, I can guarantee I will be approached by a random member of the male species who feels that it is his privilege- no, inalienable right, to have an awkward conversation with me that he hopes will inevitably end in the exchange of numbers and ensuing ‘hook up’ or date. Unfortunately for him, all he will receive is a polite ‘no thank you’, or depending on the manner he decides to approach me, a complete lack of response.

Why so harsh? you ask. How is a man supposed to find a good woman? Answer: Generally, not outside the big cat in front of Catford shopping centre. As a black woman, I feel embarrassed, violated and intimidated when someone aggressively follows me and then demands that they have my number. There have been cases where I’ve been approached in a manner that hasn’t been intimidating. I’ve had simple compliments -‘I like your hair’ or ‘Sis, you look beautiful’, that made me smile (usually in Brixton), and in no way offended me, but sadly, they don’t form the majority of my experiences. The majority of my experiences are formed by barely post-pubescent (either in body or mentality) men, mumbling some psuedo understandable chat up line in my vague direction, while looking over their shoulder almost as if to make sure another piece of fresh bait doesn’t walk past without them noticing. If I respond negatively they usually slink away, but then I think I give off a general air of ‘go away you silly boy’- still, I’ve definitely had the ‘you’re butters (ugly) anyway’ response, and I know many of my friends have too. I don’t get approached by men in the street as often as the majority of black women who I know, fortunately, so I’ve had less negative experiences.. My brother tells me it’s cos I dress weird *shrugs*.

I’ve travelled a fair amount in my short years, and no matter which country I’ve been to, I’ve noticed that white women don’t seem to have to face similar interactions with their male counterparts. Sure, in certain areas you’ll get the odd builder wolf whistling from a wall, or on a night out a short skirt will attract a fair amount of cat calls, but day to day, I rarely see white guys stopping white women at random on the street and then hurling abuse at them if they refuse to entertain conversation. (eta – this is not to say that white men are generally more polite or treat women better than black men. Men are men. When it comes to street harassment specifically though, these are just my observations). I refuse to believe that white women carry themselves in a way that commands so much more respect than I do, so what is it that makes (a significant number of) black men feel that their behaviour is acceptable, or even strangely attractive? More worryingly, what in the psyche of these men tells them that a respectable woman would give her details out to someone who has quite obviously been malingering on a random street corner in order to solicit numbers? Why do these men not have a job? And if they do have a job, why the mittens are they not focusing on travelling to and from their place of gainful employment instead of interrupting my train of thought? Or maybe these men are purposely looking for women who aren’t respectable, which makes me even more concerned. Do I have ‘Hi, Tyrone, looking for a good cheap time?’ written on my forehead? What is it about black women that makes men feel that it’s ok to treat us like this? Someone, help me out here.

My Grandfather’s generation had a completely different mode of interacting with females than this generation, so I’m not sure I would be honest in just blaming my experiences on  the standard ‘psychological effects of slavery on black male – female interactions’. Maybe it’s a reflection of the general moral breakdown in society. Maybe the fact that the media portrays black woman as sexual playthings at every available opportunity also plays a role. It could be the fact that more black men grow up without a father at home now, than ever before, and so are at a loss as to how to interact with women on a meaningful level. Maybe it’s a combination of all these factors.

All I know is that I’m tired of having my daily routine interrupted by every Tyrone, Dick and Harry that wants some ‘digits’ from me. Ladies, what is your experience? Black men, why do some of y’all do this? I love you guys, but WHY?? WHY??

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9 Comments

  1. October 25, 2013 / 8:25 pm

    You need to stop attracting all those,”down with the struggle,” black males. A Conservative black always behaves as a gentleman because he is concerned with having class. Of course, sisters like you only want the weak ass Obama types and that is what you are attracting.

    • October 25, 2013 / 11:21 pm

      Wow. So many assumptions made about me. Firstly, you don’t know my dating history, so why would you assume who I do or do not date. What is a’sister like you’? I don’t date ‘weak’ men, and I wouldn’t consider Obama weak whether or not I disagree with his politics. Secondly, I wasn’t talking about men I date, but random black men who approach me on the street. You seem a bit tense about this subject, have you had negative experiences with black women? Blessings.

      • Donny
        March 19, 2016 / 2:29 am

        I live in a gates community , with mostly older retired people there is about 40-50 units in here . I live here for about 4 years now and up until now no problems everyone is around 30-60 years of age family’s etc mostly white people and few Hispanics ( me ) since I lived here I never seen any blacks living in my complex until this last year . Mind you no problems have ever occurred in out complex until now these new black men, knock on random doors asking for money, they sit in there parking lot playing music loud, stealing laundry baskets and lets not forget they harrass everyone women they see , acting like they never seen a women before , never had any problems until the black moved in .

  2. October 26, 2013 / 2:47 am

    when i was growing up and some of my friends acted like this no matter color they seem to share one trait lack of confidence and a ego issue. I dont bother women walking on street prob for same reason you dont want to be bothered… i just figured people were busy just like me. Most i say is a polite you look very nice today.

  3. yes
    May 22, 2014 / 12:24 am

    I think it has more to do with the lack of father roles in a lot of black households today, than anything else. Black women are objectified more than white women, but women period have been objectified for thousands of years regardless of race so it’s more so an issue with the men than the women. I’m not black (I’m Mexican/Puerto Rican) but when I walk down the streets of Chicago I notice the same thing: on any given day at any given time 90% of the men who approach me and ask for my number are black. Most of the time I’ll just ignore them and keep walking, but if I’m in a really bad mood I will threaten to call the police if they continue to harass me. What makes it even more sad is that a lot of them don’t even care if they go to jail, because they already have such low self expectations one more call to the police doesn’t mean anything to them.

  4. June 6, 2015 / 5:55 am

    A lot of black men are taught from a young age that our value lies in; A) our ability to bed women and b) our sexual prowess once we bed them. This is reflected in our daily interactions with women, in most of our music and in our entertainment. As such I think a lot of brothers have a “fast food” approach to courtship almost akin to learning how to make love by watching pornography. It never crosses their minds that “this isn’t how it works in real life” or outside of very limited/specific contexts. Just my 2 cents.

  5. Jane
    June 17, 2015 / 12:59 am

    I get stocked by black men often in the city I live in,I am a tall white woman. It used to happen a few times a week but not as often now as I moved. I would consider it sexual harassment. I just met one ugly one on the elevator in my building who was younger and pretended to forgot something so he could ride the elevator up with me alone, have a big smile on his face and said” Do I know you, are you new in here?, and i said No. Then I said I dont talk to men I dont know, and he said that is weird, and i said No its not and I proceeded to get off the elevator,no one was around, and did not look at him at all, and i heard him getting pissed off and he said You are rude! ….the best thing to do is shut them down right away…but the thing is the area I live has a pretty big black population of newcomers they are not born here so their mentality is very different but they must learn in school that they are not supposed to do such things. Indian men at times give me problems as well and some moslem men (the uneducated ones)…..white men know better, mind you white m en used to be like this in the 70s here but not as aggressive and angy as these black guys are, and this was one ugly dude.

  6. Pleaseleavemealonesexualharasser
    March 4, 2016 / 12:40 am

    Oh dear where to start.
    I live in London too.
    I have had men stop me in Peckham literally begging on their knees (Nigerian) to give me his number, him NOT understanding hell would have to freeze over first.
    Another man followed me into Brixton tube station one day and had to be told by me “leave me ALONE or you will end up as a bloody heap at the bottom of the escalator stairs as I will hurl you down them”, he slunk off.
    I do not work in London, and the energy is so different, now I am not sure if we can say a definite correlation however in the area that I work in and others in the past also on the outskirts Black men are very in numbers and the energy while walking around just seems less..intense.
    Then we have the “London rude bwoys” who hang around on the streets (the streets is their office) being a nuisance I always smile as they have already given up in life and choose not to see it.
    I used to have empathy for such people, no more.
    I now stare through them with head high, or if they are persistant threaten the police, speaking of which I dared to turn down the “great offer” to provide my conbtact details to a layabout no mark, he became very bodily aggressive/intimidating, stepping into my personal space, asking on repeat why he could not have my phone number.
    Um because you are a CREEP!!
    Phew I feel better now, I have often wondered this, sure other groups of men can be forward but there is something in particular when it comes to black males and the idea it comes down to no dad, blah blah blah is simply making excuses for such men to sexually harass girls and women as part of their daily norm.

    Not all black males this way but…

    More than a few.

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