If there’s a takeaway from the revelation of and the reaction to Fabolous’ abuse of Emily Bustamante, his longtime girlfriend and the mother of his two children, it’s that there are no fresh takeaways from it.
We should know by now not to allow a man’s laid-back public persona to make us assume he’s not capable of violence against women. We should know by now how pervasive domestic abuse is. We should know by now that terms such as “rape culture” and “patriarchy” and “toxic masculinity” cannot be dismissed as academic jargon with no basis in reality.
We should know by now that these things don’t just affect ____ women. We should know by now that any adjective you’d fill in that blank with—black, white, poor, wealthy, urban, rural, young, old, straight, gay, cisgender, trans, etc.—would work.
We should know by now that women of color are particularly vulnerable. We should know by now that this heightened level of vulnerability isn’t necessarily because men of color are particularly violent but because women of color are “women” and “of color” and that America is a more dangerous place for you when you happen to be both of those things.
And we should have known by now that there would be people (men and women) stretching themselves like Thanksgiving leftovers to defend Fabolous. We should know by now that the rubric for deciding whether someone is worthy of this type of support is mostly based on one question: Is he a man?
We should know by now that who Fabolous is doesn’t matter—just as it didn’t and doesn’t matter who Bill Cosby is, or who R. Kelly is. I mean, it matters, sure. But not as much as some of us wish to convince others that it does. Because the defense and support they continue to receive isn’t about a love for them and their work. Rather, what fuels it is a hate for women.
The people who are in Facebook threads defending Fab or on StubHub buying tickets for R. Kelly shows are invested in a system that requires women to be devalued. We should know by now that this system exists in symbiosis with a system that requires black people to be devalued. And we should know by now that “Let’s wait for the facts” and “We need to hear both sides” and “If she’s in danger, why doesn’t she just leave?” are euphemistic ways of saying, “That bitch deserved it.”
We should know by now the danger of believing that the only ones affected by this are the people who we believe are the abused, the people who we believe are the abusers and the people who we believe are the defenders of the abusers. We should know by now that if something is so toxic and so virulent and so rampant, the question isn’t, “Have you been affected by it?” but “How badly have you been affected by it?”
We should know by now that none of us are safe from it. We should know by now that it infects us all. It brittles us all. It brutalizes us all. And it will—if we allow it to—kill us all.
And then, when that happens, maybe we’ll have a fresh takeaway.