I saw a Twitter thread a awhile back about black people laughing at things that shouldn’t be funny. Someone in the thread mentioned one of my all time favorite movies; The Color Purple. I could probably quote this movie word for word, ad-lib for ad-lib & I swear I notice something new every time. But seeing it mentioned in that thread made me think not only about the comedians and music artists who’ve referenced it over time, but also all the inside jokes between me and my family that derived from the movie.
I watched a show called American Masters on PBS that featured Alice Walker, the author of the book the movie brought to life. She talked about how much pushback she received when the book was released. How it was called perverted and how black southerners and church leaders found fault with it, but Alice saw truth. She sought to tell the story of the black experience from the voiceless. If you think about it, much of the movie we hear Celie’s THOUGHTS more than she ever really uses her voice.
Of all the things to protest or laugh at about this Alice Walker book turned Steven Spielberg film, I never found anything funny about Celie’s sexual trauma. From the time she was touched until the time of his death, she spent her life thinking her FATHER violated her. Which caused her to have unhealthy and unsatisfying ideas around sex. She described sex with her “husband” Albert to Shug as follows “I just let him get on top of me and do his business.” Sex was an act she had no say in. No RIGHT to the use of her own body. She was conditioned to believe that her body was for the use of men’s pleasure, and labor.
Statistics show that 66% of victims of sexual assault and rape under the age of 18 were between the ages of 12 and 17. Between 2009 and 2013 80% of perpetrators of child sexual abuse were a parent. 4% were an unmarried partner of a parent. That means 84% of the 63,000 children a YEAR that evidence supports were sexually abused between 2009 and 2013 lived a life like Celie. Where they may have kept sexual trauma by a parent a secret from the other parent. Where they bare children for a parental figure, where they don’t understand the autonomy of their bodies, even if they DO know what’s happening to them is wrong.
RAINN Day may have come and gone, but Domestic Violence Awareness Month is right around the corner. The color Purple is the color chosen to call attention to Intimate Partner Violence each October. The US Department of Justice includes victims as young as 12 years old in their reportings on Intimate Partner Violence. As September comes to an end, and Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, don’t just remember The Color Purple as a classic curated by Steven Spielberg; remember it as the documentary Alice Walker intended it to be, and recognize that sexual assault at the hands of a parent or parental figure is very real. It’s not a scene to be laughed at or ignored, rather a punishable offense, and only 6 in 1,000 perpetrators end up in prison. #DaaamnDaddy