This spousal abuse conversation is getting awkward for me. In theory, I always say that anyone should participate an any conversation, as long as they're bringing a basic level of respect. In practice, I'm starting to feel like I'm discussing other people's business. I also think I'm applying a rather rough ideological prism. Norman Mailer (probably not the best name to invoke in this discussion, but I've already stepped in it, so what the hell) used to call himself a "left-wing conservative." I've always felt much the same way.
Again, it comes from my background as a nationalist. One of the seldom acknowledged facets of black nationalism is its emphasis on personal agency and responsibility. It is, at its core, a rather conservative (small "c") belief system. It proffers a world of competing powers and interests, and is deeply skeptical of cooperation between those powers based on anything other than clear, mutual interests. Hence the critique of integration. Black nationalism shares the problems of all other forms of nationalism--it easily slips into prejudice, it can blind its believers to other world-views, and it's subject to shaping history narrative in a manner that suits its own interest.
But one thing that it understands and appreciates, which I've always found wanting in the cold machinery of liberalism, is the power of individual agency. Those of us who preferred Malcolm to Martin did so, not so much out of animus towards whites, but because implicit in Martin's message was, "your doomed if these people who hate you don't see the light." Malcolm, on the other hand, seemed to say, "Let white folks be white folks. You be you. You have the power to be you, and you have a responsibility to be you."
Perhaps that's Pollyanna-ish. It may be true that our greatest barriers are institutional. It's also probably true that integration was the only moral and practical option. But I think what a lot of us responded to when we heard Malcolm, was the idea of personal agency. The thought that we could "do for self," as my Dad used to say to me. Most of us heard Martin and were enthralled. But still others of us heard him and were terrified. The implicit notion of integration--that your welfare is fundamentally tied to the children of your overlords, that you exist at their tolerance, at their sufferance--will do that to you.
I think some, not all and maybe not most, of that translates to gender issues. Women aren't a minority, so that changes things. But having been around some skuzzy dudes in my time, I always wanted a daughter so that me and Kenyatta could teach her how to go out and kick some ass. OK, so those aren't the purest of motivations, but to the topic at hand, I bring that old sense of not wanting to lean to hard on a society that continually screws this issue up.
And yet, ultimately we can't escape each other, can we? My brother John and my sister Kelly both have acquaintances who were killed in the past two years by ex-boyfriends. These were not women who did not leave. These were women who'd taken out protection orders, but the dudes just violated them and killed the women anyway.
I mention that because I think it's gone unacknowledged in this discussion. I don't know how the numbers break down, but I bet there are significant numbers of women who, in fact, don't stay but are attacked nonetheless. I believe in personal agency and societal agency--but one doesn't cancel out the other.