(WOMENSENEWS)–Just when you think NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has displayed the full breadth of his bone headedness, he goes and proves he has so much more to offer.
He openly admitted he “got it wrong” and was “sorry” for his poor handling of the abuse scandals that rocked the NFL during last week’s press-conference-turned-train-wreck. He even confessed that throughout this whole debacle, he’d disappointed himself, “disappointed the NFL” and “disappointed fans.”
Too bad he doesn’t care about disappointing black women.
Asked near the end of what had to be the longest 45 minutes of his life, how he could justify not having even one black woman as part of the group of domestic violence experts hired to advise a league that is overwhelming black, Goodell lost all pretense of contrition and firmly pushed back: “Well that’s not true!” he said. After dodging at first he then referred to an African American woman on the NFL’s staff who has “great experience in this area.”
If, in fact, the woman he referenced has a substantial background in domestic violence, her notable absence from the Domestic Violence Advisory Board he just announced, becomes even more perplexing.
As much as Goodell would like to continue to operate under the illusion of the irrelevance of race, with full ignorance of the intersecting realties faced by those of us who navigate life in the United States as both black and female, the fact is, the racial representation of his advisory panel matters. And his stubborn disregard of the importance of including black domestic violence experts displays a stunning degree of disrespect for black women specifically — the very women in the United States who are most likely to face this horror — as well as an utter disregard for the safety of those women most likely to be on the receiving end of the abusive behavior within his own league.
Nuanced, Complex Issue
Because of the wide range of nuanced factors that are distinct to the African American experience, it is critical that any advisory team Goodell amasses specifically include black female domestic violence experts to ensure the cultural competency this complex issue requires and deserves. This was pointed out a week ago by the Black Women’s Roundtable, a group of female leaders who requested a meeting with Goodell. It’s also a need that was recognized and acted upon through the Violence Against Women Act, which now includes a specific provision targeting the needs of communities of color.
If Goodell can’t see his way to diversifying the advisory group, I call on the four women involved to step up and do so. That will be a first test of how much trust we can place in this process.
Domestic violence goes way beyond the realm of the NFL, touching every community, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. But the sad reality is no woman in the United States today is more likely to be beaten or die at the hands of someone she loves and trusts than a black woman. Yet, because we’ve had a front-row seat to the danger that awaits black men throughout every level of society–and particularly the criminal justice system–we are especially likely to slip into the role of protector, even if that means putting our own lives in danger.
‘I’ve Lived It’
I know this, because I’ve lived it.
I am that 1-in-nearly-3 black women who have survived an abusive relationship. I understand all too well the deadly mix of isolation, fear and racial solidarity that makes exposing the pain of abuse paralyzing for some and a complete non-starter for others. I’ve been that woman who’s had the police show up at my door only to send them away in the desire to defend the indefensible and to protect the person I still, inexplicably, loved.
You see, unlike the catchy tune of an abusive entertainer or the foolish parroting of a popular pastor, the fact is, black women are loyal. Too loyal. And our loyalty is killing us. Today we are nearly three times as likely to die at the hands of a spouse, boyfriend or significant other than white women. And in spite of all of this, Goodell still needs convincing our lives do matter.
Domestic violence against black women remains an issue Goodell refuses to even acknowledge, much less act upon in any substantive way. It seems, the stubborn behavior and blatant disregard that got him into this mess in first place, despite his best efforts, are still in full view.
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