Can You Not, Terry Crews?
Terry Crews exhausts me.
I want to be undeniably clear and say that I believe Terry Crews’ story of assault, full stop. I believe he was sexually assaulted, and I believe that he was treated shamefully when he disclosed. I distinctly remember the hoteps and other assorted ashies coming together to call Terry Crews every kind of faggot and femme and detailing all of the ways he must have wanted to be groped and humiliated. I remember hearing and reading how no “real” man of his size and stature would have ever allowed another man to violently assault him and walk away with his limbs intact. I remember the homophobia and victim blaming. I also remember the women that rallied around him. I remember how women – especially black women – swiftly shut down one man after the next and covered Terry Crews with love and support. I remember how women came to his defence and I remember Terry Crews openly and repeatedly thanking those women for being his allies.
And while I believe that Terry Crews is a victim of sexual assault, I also believe that he’s the product of the same toxic masculinity he claims to be working so hard to dismantle. I would argue that he’s a victim of toxic masculinity, but you can’t be a victim of something if you’re actively working to perpetuate it. And Terry Crews is absolutely working to uphold the same patriarchal, misogynistic, outdated, biologically essentialist, evangelical ideals that led men — especially black men — to his mentions after he went public with his story.
This entire exercise in strangeness began with Terry Crews attacking a New York Times piece written by Derecka Purnell asking why President Barack Obama insists on constantly disparaging black boys for their emulation of their musical and athletic heroes. To be clear, there is no defence of the rampant misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia in both industries and imitation of these behaviours should be discouraged. But that was not Ms. Purnell’s argument. Instead, she makes the argument that respectability politics — the act of policing marginalised and minoritised bodies in an effort to force conformity to dominant values or ideals instead of challenging what is viewed as “normal” — are, at best, ineffective and, at worst, harmful and key in reinforcing destructive ideas about what a “real man” is. Crews took an opportunity for a thoughtful and nuanced discussion on the over-policing of black and brown boys and turned it into a days-long screed on the inadequacy of single mothers and same-sex couples when it comes to raising children, particularly male children. Highlights of this manifesto of masculinity include:
First of all, Mr. Crews, single women have been raising men on their own since, well…forever. They’ve been doing it quite well actually — in fact, countless successful black men have shared stories of their single mothers. Now, there’s certainly an argument to be made for the need for more positive male role models capable of introspection and growth, but that’s not what Terry Crews is bleating on about. He’s actually reinforcing a very real problem that women have been talking about for ages – men don’t listen to us nor do they want to. How could Crews see women as effective parents or role models for boys if he doesn’t even see the value in our words? This hot garbage take isn’t particularly surprising given Crews’ evangelical, fundamentalist background but that doesn’t make the rhetoric any less damaging to the still-developing psyches of boys and young men that look to Crews as a role model.
Now, Terry Crews could have left off here and proffered up a half-hearted, publicist-written apology and he probably wouldn’t have suffered any long-term consequences. But that would have been too easy. Instead, he doubled down on his biological essentialism and insisted that boy children need a male influence. He went so far as to compare the influence of one male and one female parent to the ingestion of vitamins and minerals necessary for a child’s growth and stated that a child without both a mother and a father will be severely malnourished in a now-deleted tweet. To make the bizarre incident even more offensive, Crews told a young woman with a deceased mother that the “Truth Hurts,” when she disagreed with his statement.
After repeated pleas for Crews to take a step back, he finally sent out a 140-character apology for those who felt offended by his words. Note that Crews did not actually apologise for the implied homophobia or transphobia, but he apologised for his “poorly-worded” attack on same-sex, intersex, and non-traditional families comprised of grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, etc., raising children without a partner of a different gender.
At this point, I personally checked out of the discussion. I have little interest in engaging with men, especially evangelical men, on topics where their talking points are derived from a vested interest in upholding patriarchal standards for their own benefit. For all of his talk of allyship and support for and from women, Terry Crews has shown that he is only interested in feminism and womanism so far as it doesn’t inconvenience his beliefs and sense of security regarding his own masculinity. Case in point, Crews saw no need to engage with sentient street corner garbage D.L. Hughley, beyond asking about the appropriateness of slapping him in the face for his repeated questioning of Crews’ sexuality and desire to be assaulted. But when confronted with women questioning him, and not offering their unfettered praise and support, Crews turned into an overlarge man-child whinging about “#WOKETWITTER and #CancelCulture.
It wasn’t until I scrolled through my reddit homepage and saw this post on r/blackpeopletwitter praising Crews for calling out the sometimes reactionary and aggressive nature of Twitter.
If Terry Crews had spent 2 days yelling into the great blue void about the benefits of exercise and healthy eating, I wouldn’t be here. I would actually be on his side – as I have been in the past – asking for people to take a moment to understand what was actually being said. If Crews had simply left his keyboard smashing at “Boys need a male role model,” I would have been a bit more reticent, but I still would have seen his point under the general nonsense. But that’s not what Terry Crews said, nor is it what he did. Instead of backtracking his homophobic, misogynistic, outmoded ideals about what a family should be, Terry Crews gaslighted his critics. He insisted that his words were being taken out of context and that he was a martyr to the unceasing Twitter hordes. Whinging on about non-existent cancel culture and the same #WOKETWITTER that came to his defence when the very men he’s now going up for were asking him if he was a bottom or a top in a concerted effort to shame him for being a survivor of sexual assault.
It’s fitting that Crews wrapped up this tragic exercise in performative masculinity by asking for a “safe space.” An internet enclave where he could espouse his ignorance without fear of pushback or censure, one only open to men.
I get it. I absolutely understand why Terry Crews feels like he needs a space where he can rant and rave without censure. But he can’t have that because he’s a public figure, one that’s anointed himself the face of a movement that can do great work or great harm. His words mean things, they hold weight, and they influence the very same black boys he claims to want growth for. This categorical refusal to accept the impact of his statements and offer a real apology for the harm his words have done and continue to do reinforces the same ignorance that placed him on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse. It can’t be easy to feel as though the entire world is against you, but the answer is not to write off the people that came to your defence time and time again out of the same love that compels them to call you in now. And make no mistake, this reckoning is not spiteful or malicious – women, black women, know that Terry Crews is capable of great things in the same way that we know our men and boys are capable of great things. It’s why we call our sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers to the carpet when they’ve done wrong – it’s all love.
So, what’s next? Terry Crews has prostrated himself before men, thrown himself on their mercy now that women are no longer falling at his feet with approval. He certainly won’t be “cancelled,” since #CancelCulture isn’t a real thing beyond a few people begging the rest to stop supporting celebrities that cause undue harm to already oppressed people and being ignored. It’s unlikely that a real apology is forthcoming when the continued calls for one further deafen ears already hampered by a martyr complex. So, what’s next? I don’t know, because I don’t know Terry Crews beyond his previous struggles with tweeting the wrong thing and doubling down when confronted.
But I do know that women, and men, in all kinds of parental configurations are raising smart, kind, thoughtful, introspective children to question the thinking and rhetoric that led us to this point all across the world. So while I’m not holding my breath for a retrospective from Crews any time soon, I have faith that those black boys that sparked this entire affair will be different, be better, be open and apologetic when necessary, strong-willed and unwavering if needed. If Terry Crews sees the hurt he has caused and expresses honest remorse, that will be great, but I’m honestly not checking for an apology. I care far more about those black boys with lives enhanced by a lack of regressive thought and rhetoric in their diets.