I'm the guy that overanalyzes the misogynistic hip hop pouring from his car and wonders if he should cut it off out of principle. I'm the guy that derails the incessant conversations held behind closed doors where men rant about all allegations of sexual violence being the result of malicious, lying accusers. I'm the guy who spends his free time blogging about whether or not the language that we use for sex contributes to a rape culture that fosters violence against women.
Needless to say, my opinions sometimes generate conflict. Some long-time friends have written me off as as their overzealous friend with the strange politics; but I've prepared my entire life for this role. Common arguments as to how sexual violence needed to end, even those that placed the blame at the feet of men, always fit comfortably into my social justice perspective. I also happened to be trained by great folks that prepared me for conflict. They made it clear that sexual assault survivors are often met with scrutiny and chastisement so their allies shouldn't expect perfect comfort either.
Nonetheless, even my invaluable mentors didn't quite prepare me for the sterling exemplars of resilience that I would find as I went on to meet survivors. I remained unaware that those who were to disclose experiences with violence to me would become models of perseverance that I would lean on for motivation. I didn't quite get that the courage of women and men who I never even met would inspire me to find in myself. Simply put, I wasn't ready for folks like Jada.
Jada's story is that of a 16-year-old who passed out at a party and woke up to find her underwear on backwards and a growing collection of pictures on the internet mocking the position that she had assumed while unconscious on the floor (many of them accompanied by the now-infamous #jadapose hashtag).
However, Jada's decision to launch a counter-offensive in which she took to social and traditional media with her story of victims speaking out is where the inspiration comes in. Jada attracted massive support on social media and soon had her Internet detractors scrambling to deactivate Twitter accounts and to remove Facebook comments that belittled her story. Within weeks, the hashtags #jadacounterpose and #iamjada had overwhelmed their more negative source -- proof positive of resistance to the cyber-bullying and disassociated derision that has come to define communal behavior on the Internet.
This is the part where I brace for that conflict that always comes into play when I share a position in solidarity with an alleged sexual assault survivor. You weren't at the party that night so you have no business taking a side. It's true enough that my understanding of the events in question comes only through the accounts of others but there is enough here that is undisputed for us to applaud Jada for what she accomplished. At a minimum, we know that Jada's peers seized on a moment of vulnerability for a quick laugh. We know that the resultant sharing of this moment went viral as things that are salacious and founded on the humiliation of others often do. And we know that Jada and her supporters matched an effort built on mockery with a reciprocal effort built on community and strength. That's worth a few more hashtags in my book.
This post is part of the "28 Black Lives That Matter" series produced by The Huffington Post for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will shine a spotlight on one African-American individual who made headlines in 2014 -- mostly in circumstances we all wished had not taken place. This series will pay tribute to these individuals and address the underlying circumstances that led to their unfortunate outcomes. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #28BlackLives -- and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.