Man in alleyway

OPINION

This woman running from a man in an alleyway wasn’t racist. He was sexist

A Twitter user posted a video of him chasing a woman in a dark alleyway, because he thought she was racist (Photo: Getty Images)

A man accused a woman of racism because she panicked when she saw him in an alleyway. It shows a serious lack of understanding of what women experience when walking at night

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By Yomi Adegoke on

A few days ago, Twitter user @realest_lk uploaded a video to the site in the hope of being heralded for highlighting racism. He ended up bringing attention to his sexism, instead. The man recorded himself chasing an Asian woman as she attempted to make her way home, who he accused of racism for turning the corner after coming across him in a dark alley. “Dumb bitch bussed a U turn as soon as she saw me in the alley,” he wrote. In order to punish her for her apparently race-based assumption that he was a rapist, he proceeded to chase her, grunting and growling loudly, as he trailed her journey home.

“Scared of black people, yeah?” he shouted, as she started to scream. He continued to follow, shifting from a jog into a run as she quickened her pace and calling her a “dumb bitch” through growls and snarls. He ends the video by telling her, “We’re not scary – we’re just normal people,” and no doubt expected to garner virtual backpats and fistbumps for teaching this lone, female, 5ft-odd “bigot” a lesson.

Much to his surprise, the now-deleted video was widely shared but even more widely derided. “I can’t believe we’re at a point where we have to explain to people that a woman running in fear because a man she doesn't know is running after her in a dark alleyway at night isn't racist,” said one user. “I can’t believe a young 6ft man chased an innocent fragile woman through an alleyway and he assumed she was racist because she ran for her dear life,” another added.

Through his self-centred and self-serving post, @realest_lk has highlighted the wilful lack of awareness and empathy to experiences of oppression that lie outside of his own. Women of any race are likely to panic when faced with a male stranger in a dark alleyway – a point that women from all backgrounds flocked to make in the replies, which he dismissed even when the women were black. The fact her fear was immediately written off as a fear of black men, as opposed to of men generally when walking alone at night, reveals a fundamental misunderstanding. Even if the woman in question had been racist, I have no doubt she would have run at the very same speed if the man lurking in the shadows had been white. If it’s inherently racist when a non-black woman runs from a black man at night, then what fuels black women, who are also victims of racism, when they do the same when faced with men of any and every race?

Coming across a man at night is scary enough as it is – the most rational minds wander to rape and murder, because that’s what we’ve been warned of since we can remember. But this man played on the very real fears of so many women to emulate something out of a horror film. Watching him chase, growl at and swear at this woman as she fought to catch her breath was enough to give me second-hand anxiety. I can only imagine what it must be like, being so blinkered by male privilege, that it didn’t even occur to him that her fear boiled down to more than bigotry. At the end of the video, he even bemoaned the fact she had extended her journey by three minutes to avoid him – something most women have done to avoid men of every hue when they’re alone.

Just as black men are victims of racism, women of all races are victims of sexual violence

No one is denying that black men are subject to dangerous stereotyping that sees them criminalised and feared in a way their non-black counterparts aren’t. This is not comparable to the pulling of a purse closer when a black man passes or shade-based stop and searches, however. Just as black men are victims of racism, women of all races are victims of sexual violence – and the archetypal “man in the dark alley” is someone that we’ve all been warned of, whatever colour he comes in (if you can even make it out in the dark).

But, too often, only the oppression individuals face is visible to them, making them blind to everything else. In the same way white women are often well aware of gender inequality, but often require convincing when it comes to racism, black men can be similarly clued up re racism, yet just as flippant when it comes to the realities of being a woman today. In this Twitter user’s eyes, there was only one victim – him. This was about him being black, not it being pitch black. It was about race, not him being a 6ft stranger. Sexism ceased to exist, as did his own male privilege, which he utilised to terrorise a woman making her way home.

This isn’t the first time the obliviousness to women’s fears has been brought to light by an ill-thought-out social-media post. In 2015, an anonymous 24-year-old man submitted what he himself referred to as a “rant” to a Cardiff Facebook messageboard, “Spotted Cardiff”. In it, he complained that as he walked home at half midnight, a girl that had spotted him walking quickly behind her begun to run away from him.

“Much to my amazement you took it upon yourself to run home which I found deeply offensive given I had no interest in you at all,” he said, furthering the dangerous notion that rape occurs based primarily on sexual attraction. Despite his acknowledgement that “it is daunting seeing someone of my size walking fast behind you”, he still firmly placed his own feelings before the valid fears of women worldwide, claiming he found it “disheartening and ever so slightly offensive that you deemed me to be any sort of threat to you at all.

“I feel as a 24-year-old male that I am as much a victim of the current crime way as the girls who were attacked,” the post continued. “It has left us being singled out simply because of the hours we keep and the need to get home.

“To be most of the way home and then feel like I was somehow causing someone distress was distressing for me myself as I am not a violent person and am in fact a considerate individual who would more likely help you if you were in trouble than cause you any trouble.”

His post, like the @realest_lk video, entirely lacking self-awareness and awareness of the world in which we live, sees his own feelings posited above sexual-assault statistics. While it may well be #NotAllMen, what these men fail to realise is that women simply don’t have the luxury of finding out.

@yomiadegoke

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A Twitter user posted a video of him chasing a woman in a dark alleyway, because he thought she was racist (Photo: Getty Images)
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