Jeremy Pope examines masculinity as a gay Black Marine in ‘The Inspection’ (2007)
When James Baldwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the seminal work of criticism, said “All we have is the silence of men,” he was not being facetious, or, perhaps, even joking. But he was being deadly serious. And while the silence of men — the failure to speak out against men’s violence, and the silence of men’s silence — is the most powerful weapon against injustice, it is also the most frequently forgotten.
Silence at the hands of male violence has been the unspoken force of our resistance and liberation. It is not a new dynamic; in fact, it has been with us for thousands of years. But when patriarchy and racism combine to silence men in power — and to silence many men within — we are in very serious and life-threatening trouble.
In “The Inspection,” the new documentary created by The Advocate, the story takes many forms. There are the police, who are at the forefront of the surveillance of gay Black men. It is men who decide what will be shown on the street, for example. There are men who decide who will be the public “gadget” of the era. And in the background are men who see the injustices in the world, who feel the weight of the oppressive structures that make it impossible for Black people to be whole. But all of this is part and parcel of what Baldwin calls “the silence of men.”
There’s also the silence of women, who are sometimes the most vocal and the most powerless among men. When women are part of the action against an injustice, or when women’s voices are heard, women can become more fully aware of the injustices of society. When women speak out against injustice, they can sometimes be a catalyst for change.
And yet women — and more specifically women of color — continue to be silenced, to feel and acknowledge that they are in an unjust world. The only way to get them to speak out against male violence is to have