The idea and fear of rape is being used to stoke the fires of hatred in modern American politics. It's always been an important theme, but recent developments have brought it to the forefront.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, with his billion-dollar comb-over and combative speaking style, made his claim while announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. In focusing on the hot-button issue of illegal immigrants from Mexico, he said: "They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists."
Raping seems to be a common characteristic of the so-called bad people that right-wing haters don't like. Dylann Roof — the hate-filled young man who shot and killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina — stated his reason for killing was that he wanted to start a race war against black people because "you rape our women and are taking over our country."
Roof couldn't have picked a less likely group of potential rapists at the Bible study gathering where he killed six women (most of them elderly) and three men. Even a dose of reality at the church couldn't overpower the propaganda Roof had been reading. Roof reportedly told police that he "almost didn't go through with it because everyone was so nice" to him.
That love shown to Roof was the opposite of what he believed about the people he intended to kill. But he felt he had to go through with it because "you rape our women."
Donald Trump also played the rape card when he could've easily found evidence to the contrary. A chart on view at BusinessInsider.com actually shows that rape has gone down in the United States as the number of illegal immigrants has gone up. One has to indulge in some heavy mental gymnastics or be totally in denial of the truth to turn the numbers in that chart into an indictment against Mexicans for rape.
But claiming rape is an easy way to inflame your audience. The defense of white womanhood has always been a way to circle your wagons and get ready to fight the other. To claim "they are raping our women" has been an excuse to throw reason out the window and submit to your most animistic rage against the accused.
Black men have been killed simply for the supposed crime of whistling at a white woman or just for having looked at her "that way." All the while the Confederate battle flag has served as a curtain behind which white men have had their pleasure with black women who they owned or who worked as domestics in their homes.
Migrant Latinas working in fields have had to submit in the same way to overseers and farm owners just to keep a starvation wage job.
Rape is always a last defense for irrational aggression. Fear of the Native American Indians raping white women plays large in Western films and mythology. It was considered a "fate worse than death" for a white woman to be captured by those savages who would have their way with her. Yet the prospect of Indian women being raped by white men was a larger danger.
Rape is a crime of the powerful over the disenfranchised. Not the other way around. That doesn't mean that there aren't rapists among blacks or Latinos. There is crime among all groups of people. But the big programs of rape and intimidation against ethnic populations have always come from the powerful.
Could this fear of rape come from a fear of payback for the evils that they have unleashed on others?
When someone like Trump comes out and says the kind of things that he says, you can be sure that the same thing is being said regularly among the kind of people he socializes with. Trump just had the audacity to come out and say it loud and proud in public what usually gets said behind the protective curtain of those stars and bars. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer came out and said that Trump is "Telling it like it is. ... I think everybody knows that he is right."
The facts don't agree. But why listen to facts that belie your beliefs when you're all sipping bourbon and agreeing with each other. Just 10 days before Trump's controversial announcement speech, he said the same things and worse at a North Carolina Republican Party Convention, but there was no controversy. Then he was behind the curtain with his good old friends. Somehow Trump felt emboldened to spread the message to the masses.
The fear of rape is such a good all-round excuse for hating someone. Much of the subtext of the anti-gay forces is that homosexuals are child rapists. That they're just waiting in the shadows to have sex with your innocent, naïve, underage children. That's how they recruit.
"Members of disliked minority groups are often stereotyped as representing a danger to the majority's most vulnerable members," says University of California-Davis psychology professor Gregory Herek in a blog post titled "Facts about Homosexuality and Child Molestation."
There you go. If you don't like somebody you can make up scary things about them to get other people to dislike them. And apparently one of the most effective scary things about people that you don't know is that they are rapists.
Dylann Roof took the bait and went out to kill six female "rapists" in a church that night.
Of course his mind had already been raped by the likes of Donald Trump who spread their slimy gospel of hate far and wide.
Larry Gabriel writes the Stir It Up and Higher Ground columns for the Detroit Metro Times and is editor of The American Cultivator.