By Danielle Belton
The Black Snob
About two or three weeks ago when a friend first told me about the video of an angry Antoine Dodson on a local TV news report, voicing his concern about his sister Kelly’s near rape, I had a hard time wrapping my head around what could possibly be funny about that. I don’t find attempted rape or nearly strangling a woman to death funny. And if I’d stumbled upon one of my sisters being attacked I would have responded the same way Antoine did. Then I learned almost all the unintentional humor was derived from the fact that Antoine Dodson didn’t relay his anger with stereotypical, black male machismo, but with a certain Southern patois and flamboyance that many people deemed “feminine.” So then I was all, “Oh, great. So we’re not just making light of a family’s pain, but people are cracking gay jokes too? Priceless.”
Finally, I learned that from all the attention, subsequent YouTube remixes, iTunes downloads, merchandise and Dodson’s new Web site that the Dodsons had made enough money to move out of the projects.
This has to be the most amazing instance of taking the lemons of life and making lemon drop martinis ever.
“I want people to realize that this is funny. It is funny — I’m not going to lie, ’cause we’re laughing too. But this is a serious matter,” he said. “I really thought that when I went into Kelly’s room, he was choking her life out of her. I was terrified. … It was so crazy. But God allowed me to save her and that’s what I did.”
Now that three weeks have passed since the alleged assault, Kelly said she enjoys the video and her brother’s success. But when she first saw it, she said laughing about it was the last thing she wanted to do.
“When I first seen it, I was very upset about it because they were taking it as a joke and I was feeling like they were not looking at the part where I was the victim,” she said. “If Antoine wouldn’t came in, I probably would be dead.”
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, although the tears would be tears of joy. There’s something heartwarming about knowing a brother loves his sister so much that he would take a stand, defend her and keep on defending her no matter what anyone thought. So many times society, especially the media, makes it seem like you have no value if something bad happens to you unless you’re a young, preferably blonde, white woman who is also thin and attractive and preferably middle to upper class.
Meaning, if you are not those things and you get near-raped, raped, beaten, near-killed, killed or go missing, CNN will not devote hours of their newscast to finding you. Therefore, all of us who do not look like Blake Lively should probably have someone who really, really loves us, like Antoine loves his sister.
Even though the whole debacle can be seen by some through the lens of “poverty porn,” this can also be viewed in another light. A light that by instead of being stoic and polished, the Dodsons actually got more attention for their plight and the issue of crime in poor communities BECAUSE people found the clip unintentionally funny. Antoine’s message was received (“Obviously, we have a rapist in Lincoln Park…”) and the community took notice.
The police, as of this moment, haven’t found the man who attacked Kelly. I sincerely hope they do. Not just for the sake of justice, but because no one’s safe when there’s a guy running about trying to attack and sexually assault people.
Another aspect that people aren’t really talking about, is that Antoine Dodson has admitted that he has been the victim of sexual assault himself and that a lot of the people who are his fans were victims too. All drawn to the fact that Antoine and Kelly were standing up for themselves.
Another thing about this story that really struck home for me is that despite the joking name of this site, I don’t come from a long-line of well-to-do, uppity folk. My mother is the daughter of sharecroppers. My father is the son of parents who cleaned houses and shined shoes. My family, on both sides, is filled with working class people, most with Southern roots or who are still living in the South. I’m essentially one generation away from picking cotton. My parents were simply fortunate enough that they were able to go to college and get careers that afforded them the life where I was comfortably raised.
My grandmother, who I love fiercely, is not a refined woman. The last time I saw her in person was when I went home to St. Louis for Christmas and I was telling her about my adventures in Washington, D.C. She was proud and she expressed how she wanted to visit, but that she didn’t want to meet “Any of the high-falutin’ black folks” I was hanging out with. I told her to stop being silly, but she was genuinely afraid that she would unintentionally embarrass me.
“I could see them now,” she said in a mocking tone. “THAT woman says she’s Danielle’s grandmother.”
The reality is I’m very proud of my grandmother, of all of my family. They’re fighters and they’re survivors and they don’t take no for an answer. And if you tell them they can’t do something they laugh at you and do whatever they wanted to do in the first place. And if you mocked them for being unrefined or poor they just kept on keeping on, because, really? What do you know about them? Other than they sometimes mix up their verb conjugations? They got out of sharecropping the hard way — they worked their behinds’ off and got off that farm kicking and screaming and taking names. My grandmother is the toughest woman with the biggest heart. What she lacks in sophistication she more than makes up in love. My grandmother will fight for you. She fought for her family. She fought for husband. She fought for her kids. She fought for my mom. She fights for me.
I can’t laugh at Antoine Dodson because I am Antoine Dodson. People like Antoine Dodson made me. Told me to stay in my books. Told me to be good. Told me to go to college. Told me to be successful and they cheered me on. People like Antoine Dodson love me and would look for me if I ever went missing.
The only difference between him and me is my family could afford to move away to a nice neighborhood, put me in nice schools and put me through college. They could afford to help me make my dreams come true.
He had to wait for accidental fame on YouTube. Who am I to judge that?
So if you purchase and download a copy of the autotuned track “Bed Intruder” on iTunes, half of the money goes to the Dodsons. I really hope their dreams come true. It’s a good thing when that happens. Myself and my cousins were my grandparents’ dreams. And they always seemed pretty happy about that.
Who is ‘The Black Snob’?
With two million readers in less than two years, Danielle Belton is best known as the editor/writer of her pop culture-meets-politics blog The Black Snob. The site has a readership spanning political junkies, journalists, fellow bloggers, political pundits, authors, academics, legislators and political strategists. The Black Snob has earned both critical acclaim, appearing in Time Magazine, The New York Times, The Daily Beast and on ABC’s Nightline, as well garnering the attention of academia as a featured panelist discussing black media as part of Harvard University’s Black Policy Conference in 2009.