Hiram Monserrate & Gucci Mane: On Violence Against Women & What We Don’t Do About It

Despite my outrage at the continued and ongoing disrespect for Black male life exhibited by police departments all over the country, (the death of Oscar Grant in the San Francisco Bay area being the most recent case), I am equally as disturbed by the continued and ongoing violence against women, LGB and transgender people that receives hardly as much as a footnote by the Left, Black, Brown, or otherwise.

Two cases in point:

New York State Senator (and former NYPD officer, military officer, and chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the NYC Council) Hiram Monserrate, was arrested in December for allegedly slashing his girlfriend Karla Giraldo in the eye with a broken drinking , apparently in a “jealous rage.” He denied the charges, but security cameras in his apartment building were pulled and showed him dragging the woman down the hallway and trying to throw her out of the building. Other video shows her banging on doors and asking for help–and though people were home and heard the commotion, no one responded. Monserrate had the audacity to refer to the NYPD investigation as a political lynching. Like Clarence Thomas before him, Monserrate, in order to defend oneself against allegations of violence and harrassment of women, invokes the language of lynching to suggest that this, like the numerous Black men who were lynched when accused of sexual advances toward white women, is another historical instance of a false allegation against a man “of color.”

Of all the Black and Latino, other people of color ,and white lefties who mobilize when (presumably straight) men are assaulted by the police are dead fucking silent about this? I haven’t gotten one email, text or phone call from the usual suspects in NYC demanding Monserrate’s resignation. I am not sure if Giraldo is white or not, but if she is white, how do people of color activists and organizers think about, and operationalize an analysis about violence against women when the perpetrator is of color?

In Atlanta, the following video shows a local rapper, Gucci Mane performing on stage and violently shoving his collaborator and lover (according to her), ATL hip-hop artist Mac Breezy. She retaliated by throwing her cocktail glass at him, and he punches her in the face. In an interview after the event, she explains that he did that because his other girfriend of 8 years was present, and he didn’t want her to know he was seeing someone else. I am reminded of the lack of a response by Black folks in 1990 when hearing about Dr. Dre assaulting Black woman rapper and radio DJ Dee Barnes. Wikipedia recalls the details of the incident:

After a 1990 interview with Ice Cube in which the rapper discusses his leaving N.W.A. at the height of their feud,[2], the group, feeling they had been negatively portrayed, sought retaliation. On January 27, 1991 Dr. Dre would encounter Barnes at a record release party in Hollywood. According to Rolling Stone reporter Alan Light:

He picked her up and “began slamming her face and the right side of her body repeatedly against a wall near the stairway” as his bodyguard held off the crowd. After Dre tried to throw her down the stairs and failed, he began kicking her in the ribs and hands. She escaped and ran into the women’s rest room. Dre followed her and “grabbed her from behind by the hair and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head.” [3]

N.W.A.’s MC Ren later said “bitch deserved it“, and Eazy-Eyeah, bitch had it coming.” As Dr. Dre explained the incident, “People talk all this shit, but you know, somebody fuck with me, I’m gonna fuck with them. I just did it, you know. Ain’t nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain’t no big thing– I just threw her through a door.” Barnes sued in February 1991, telling reporter Alan Light: “They’ve grown up with the mentality that it’s okay to hit women, especially black women. Now there’s a lot of kids listening and thinking it’s okay to hit women who get out of line.”[3] In February, Barnes would file assault charges bring a $22.75 million lawsuit against Dr. Dre, who pleaded no contest to the assault. He was fined $2500, placed on two years’ probation, and ordered to perform 240 hours of community service and produce an anti-violence public service announcement.[4]

What’s sad (but not atypical) is that in the Giraldo case, she has apparently stopped cooperating with the investigation and her story has changed from what she initially reported at the hospital. Mac Breezy says she threw the glass because she never lets anyone get away with disrespecting her, but by the end of the interview, says she still loves him and that basically everything is all good. I don’t blame either of these women for the violence they suffered, and then their attempts to cover up or try to make some sense of it (for personal or professional reasons), but rather to question why so-called movement people continue to ignore partner violence, and violence against women and queers in general?

People will point to the popularity of Byron Hurt’s film “Beyond Beats & Rhymes” as a step in that direction. I think that the film is an important intervention on Black masculinities and violence, and I completely think we need to intervene on violence and misogyny among Black men, but I do think that work (like Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ “NO!”) that centralizes the experiences of women and queer Black people’s relationship to intra-racial violence is marginalized. It’s not that the two have to be diametrically opposed, but I know political organizations (black, “people of color” or white-led) or who have hosted screenings of Hurt’s film but who won’t show NO!, Tongues Untied, or a range of other work that exists.

2 thoughts on “Hiram Monserrate & Gucci Mane: On Violence Against Women & What We Don’t Do About It

  1. Basically the same comment again. But it bears repeating. Thanks for shining some light on the recent Monserrate case, and on the struggle for recognition of this violence.

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