We Don't Trust the Criminal Justice System Until It Clears a Black Man of Sexual Assault. Then We're All In

Illustration for article titled We Don't Trust the Criminal Justice System Until It Clears a Black Man of Sexual Assault. Then We're All In
Photo: Jerod Harris (Getty Images for BET)

In what I imagine will eventually be a very regretful decision on her part, Angela Rye—noted #BlackGirlMagic trumpeter, public speaker, CNN contributor and women’s empowerment scion—decided to jump out the window in defense of her “brother,” Charlamagne Tha God (CTG).


Through Instagram comments that referenced resurfacing allegations that CTG drugged and raped a then-15-year-old girl almost two decades ago (and at the same time that audio also resurfaced of him talking about the time he did have sex with a woman who didn’t remember it the next day after he gave her some Spanish Fly), Rye opened an entire can of worms that brings to light very stark inconsistencies in how many of us, particularly black men, view criminal justice, especially when it comes to black women.

Illustration for article titled We Don't Trust the Criminal Justice System Until It Clears a Black Man of Sexual Assault. Then We're All In

There is a lot to unpack here.

1) Despite the fact that Rye isn’t on trial, her decision to insinuate that the victim is lying in an attempt to come-up at the expense of her “brother,” rightly calls Rye’s own politics and rhetoric into question and will likely cause more backlash for her than it will CTG because women always suffer more than men in these situations, even if the person at the center of the controversy is accused of something as heinous as rape.

CTG will likely not lose his job and will receive the benefit of the doubt from men near and far because he wasn’t charged for that crime and he “did his time”—three years’ probation for pleading to contributing to the delinquency of a minor for serving liquor at a party with underaged people. CTG will likely go about his life and Rye may very well feel real-life financial repercussions for that decision. Patriarchy is a thing.

2) It’s very interesting how and when we, specifically black men, decide that the justice system did its job. If you were to poll a room full of 100 black men and ask us if we think that the U.S. criminal justice system is rigged against us, almost 100 percent of us would say it is. We constantly hear stories about black men freed from jail after serving decades for crimes they didn’t commit. The fact that it happens so frequently should rightly cast doubt on nearly every inmate put in jail under even remotely questionable testimony and witness statements.


How many innocent people are in jail right now because the system has never worked for us? We love to claim that the system isn’t broken, it’s doing exactly what it was designed to do—destroy our communities by institutionalizing us. We believe an entire system is racist towards black people. That can’t also be the case, specifically towards black women in cases of sexual assault where skepticism already exists?


When it comes to rape and sexual assault, we immediately say, “Hey, my man went before the state and beat the case, therefore he is innocent since he wasn’t proven guilty.” Because CTG wasn’t charged with rape or sexual assault (the victim, 15 years old at the time, wasn’t cooperative, similar to the R. Kelly situation), in the eyes of the law, he is innocent, therefore we treat him like he didn’t do anything. If he had, the system would have caught him. Right?


It’s the same way we treated Nate Parker when the story about the rape case he beat resurfaced. Many men, black men in particular, decided to run the “absence of evidence equals evidence of absence” card and declare that if he wasn’t found guilty in a court of law, then he wasn’t, in fact, guilty.


I’d bet that almost every single black man knows a woman who has been sexually assaulted or raped and never went to the police for any number of understandable reasons (like immediately blaming the victim) while the person responsible is out in the streets living his life, never having faced any repercussions. We default to “well if something happened, she should have said something.” Victim-blaming.


“Why did she wait until now? She must want something.” Money grabbing.

“He wasn’t convicted!” or “He did his time, so he should be allowed to move on without dealing with anybody trying to make him pay again.” The justice system works in rape cases!


I don’t understand how we, as a community, who don’t think that the justice system works for us nearly ever, almost always think it works when it clears a man for sexual assault. How is that possible? How is it that the one area we believe justice is always served is rape? The most underreported crime is somehow the one where if he’s guilty, the courts will always get him?

Shit, how many police officers have we seen get off for killing black people we witnessed through crystal-clear video? But we trust the system when men are not convicted of rape?


Riddle me that, Sway.

I have no idea if CTG sexually assaulted that young girl or not. What I do know is this: CTG is on record talking about something that sounds a whole lot like rape in a whole other situation. Even though he says the sex was consensual, if I were to write an article where I said verbatim what CTG said he did, I’d likely be labeled a rapist.


His belief is that consent was provided long before she got hit with the Spanish Fly because they both knew what was up. Even the next day, she asked him what happened and he told her they had sex, and she said, “Well, at least it was you.”

Those words would haunt me forever.

Why is it so important to erase the stories of black women in these situations? And why is Rye—a black woman with a huge platform, one centered around women’s empowerment and social justice, who has become a rising star—publicly taking aim at a woman in defense of a black man who is only her friend when she wasn’t there in the first place? What part of the game is that?


If CTG is guilty of what his accuser says, whether or not he was convicted, one can only hope that he’ll get his karma. The courts aren’t reopening his case for legal reasons. But the court of public opinion is just as damaging. Oddly though, Angela Rye will probably pay more for what CTG allegedly did than he will because she decided to wade into a pool that isn’t hers.

Deciding what hills to die on is as much art as it is science, but what’s more important is knowing when a hill leads to a cliff. And sometimes that cliff means taking a hit for the sake of a friend who, I’m assuming, didn’t ask you to do it in the first place.


Choose wisely.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.


KC Complains A Lot


All your faves are problematic, including Angela Rye.

Thing that really gets me is that Angela is way smarter than this. Or at least she should know better. Even if she does believe that CTG is innocent, which is fine and her prerogative or whatever, she had to know that putting her neck out there for CTG would cause backlash. She had to, because Angela ain’t some Becky Who Knows Her Friend Would NEVER Do Such A Thing(TM), she’s Angela fuckin’ Rye. We’re not talking about some detached, airheaded upper class white girl like Lena Dunham here, which is what makes this shit so disappointing.

To blame this victim in protection of her “brother”...like, you don’t know that dude. That dude is on the record as saying that he drugged a girl and she didn’t know they were having sex. He’s not your brother, he’s a dude you know, and therefore you have no obligation to protect a guy who at best is your homie and at worse is just some guy. And to accuse the victim of trying to get a “come up”?

I mean...come on, man. I expect better than that shit. That’s about as dismissive as it gets.

This is mad disappointing, and just contributes to culture of why most women don’t come forward until years after this type of thing happens. I’m in my feelings about this one. It’s got me all fucked up.