Can We Talk? Racism and Domestic Violence

Can We Talk? Racism and Domestic Violence

A discussion with Tammy Bruce and Julianne Malveaux

TURN ON THE RADIO AND LISTEN TO women talk-show hosts. Most likely they’re talking therapy, cooking, or sex, or they’re laughing their heads off at some male host’s jokes. Only about two dozen women radio hosts in the United States talk politics and social issues. OTI brought together two of the most prominent and asked them to converse.

Both have fervent fans and critics. Julianne Malveaux, a distinguished progressive economist, was recently called “idiotic” by the conservative American Spectator. Far more excruciatingly, Tammy Bruce, the locally popular chapter president of Los Angeles NOW, was denounced last year by national NOW president Patricia Ireland for “racially insensitive statements.”

In Los Angeles, Bruce hosts The Tammy Bruce Show, a three-hour call-in program aired Saturday and Sunday afternoons over 50,000-watt radio station KFI-AM. From Washington, DC, Malveaux has hosted and executive-produced The Julianne Malveaux Show, an hour-long news-and-public-affairs
program heard daily in a dozen markets nationwide. Bruce and Malveaux (a contributing editor of OTI) met for the first time March 4 in a studio at KFI. Soon after the mikes were turned on, they hit their first disagreement…

TAMMY BRUCE: I go to women callers first. We make a point of hearing other women’s opinions – and we’ve drawn women to the medium, which is imperative, because women traditionally aren’t listening to talk radio and it really is shaping our lives.

JULIANNE MALVEAUX: I don’t think it’s enough to simply hear women’s voices. The reality of the ’90s is that you are going to find women who are not only right of center but anti-feminists.

TB: In the city of Los Angeles there are no women in drive time on talk radio – I’m on the weekends; I welcome whatever those voices are.

JM: Well, talk radio is about a dialogue, but we shouldn’t simply settle for saying, “I want a woman on the air.” We have to deal with issues of content, too, because with the policy debate right now, a whole bunch of issues have dropped off the screen. When you say, “We want a woman’s voice or we want a black voice” without talking about content, I don’t think you change the conversation.

TB: I think you do. At a very basic level a woman’s voice or an African American’s voice is going to bring something different to the debate.

JM: What does Clarence Thomas bring to the Supreme Court?

TB: Well, I was going to use Sandra Day O’Connor as my example. As a conservative woman, suddenly she was making choices and decisions and saying things that women say, on issues of sexual harassment, on issues of abortion. Wherever a woman is on the political spectrum, invariably we have things in common.

JM: I can’t tell you how much I resent that woman, and her hypocrisy and temerity. Sandra Day O’Connor, in affirmative-action cases, has asked for proof of past discrimination; yet she has talked in detail about the discrimination that she experienced. That white woman doesn’t get race. She doesn’t get gender all the way either.

TB: But I’m making a different point than you are. I agree with you. She is not, certainly, the only voice. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is bringing wonderful things to those decisions. My point is that if we want women to be heard – and may the best organizer win and may these debates continue so that we get it right on social issues – I’m not going to say that only certain kinds of women’s voices get heard. And I would trust that if Sandra Day O’Connor is wrong on an issue, then those debates are going to prove her wrong, and the social sentiment will prove her wrong, but I’m not going to shut it down to only certain kinds –

JM: Well, I’m not shutting it down either. But hey, ain’t I a woman?

TB: And ain’t she a woman?

JM: She is an upper-class, Republican, white woman whose interests do not come from anywhere else. So call her woman if you will –

TB: I will.

JM: – but she does not speak to a whole range of women.

TB: We can disagree with ideas of those upper-middleclass Republican women who are wrong on the social issues. But if we are going to decide who is a woman and who is not, we are participating in the division; we are classifying and judging.

JM: The real question is “Are they feminist?” I think a lot of women come to women and say, “I’m a woman, vote for me” – then they put the screws to a women’s agenda. You can’t have it both ways –

TB: Julianne, I know plenty of women’s agendas –

JM: Don’t be so disingenuous as to come to women and say you want the women’s vote but you don’t want to raise the minimum wage, you don’t like welfare reform, you don’t have any room for child care. It’s hypocrisy.

TB: As a feminist I certainly think a feminist agenda is what’s going to improve everyone’s lives. And there are plenty of women out there who don’t identify with that feminist agenda. Even though I know it’s the better one, I am not going to think that those women should not at least come to the table. Our success doesn’t discriminate. If we’re successful in changing the quality of women’s lives, it’s going to affect those other women who might not identify, and don’t, virulently, with feminism.

JM: I stand by what I said. These women who come to women asking for a woman’s vote on the basis of gender but are not prepared to put out a gender agenda are hypocrites. I mean, don’t come together as women to bash other women.

TB: All the women senators, Republican and Democrat, stood together asking for the resignation of Admiral Kelso of the navy after the Tailhook scandal. They were together on that issue of sexual harassment. Do they need to get better politics on occasion? Absolutely.

JM: On occasion?

TB: When they stand together on sexual harassment, they’re right.

JM: Tammy, sexual harassment is not my number one issue.

TB: Eighty-five percent of Americans identify as feminist when asked by the dictionary’s definition. Women are now at a point where they’re going to participate in different ways, with different political views, and I’m not about to shut certain kinds of women out or not take them as potential allies on occasion because they are wrong on certain issues.

JM: I’m not prepared to shut women out, but I will look askance at those women who have spoken against those issues that I find important.

TB: We can talk about individual problems with Republican and Democratic senators who aren’t getting it with welfare or affirmative action or a whole host of issues – but on the larger perspective of women in general making progress in politics and in business, is there going to be a criterion that only certain kinds of women should make progress in those areas?

JM: But you keep going back to that and that’s not where I’m coming from.

TB: Julianne, but that’s where I’m coming from. I’m not going to not care that they’re wrong on a certain issue. But I think when you’ve only got six or seven U.S. senators and the rest are those guys, I’m not going to suddenly get real nervous if you’ve got a Kay Bailey Hutchinson who’s in there who’s going to be wrong on some issues.

JM: You know, some of those guys, quite frankly, are better than some of the women. That’s just how it is. Many times, if I’m faced with a white woman candidate and an African American man, I go with the African American man because I really do not see many white women being as sensitive as they need to be about race issues, especially in politics.

TB: Women have a different life experience. No matter how progressive or liberal a man, there are some things he will never know and never understand, and that includes issues of violence, issues of economics. No matter where he comes from, he does not know what your life has been like or what my life has been like. And women take that with them. And that is why when I look at women candidates or women in business, it is incredibly important to vote for that woman.

JM: Well, perhaps that’s the difference between you and me. Clearly a man cannot bring a woman’s experience, but neither can a white woman bring an experience of people of color. The question then becomes: Which experience is more valued? Which experience does the person, the woman who’s evaluating the experience, look at? And in the case of someone like a Kay Bailey Hutchinson, please – there are white men in the Senate that I’d rather see in there.

TB: When I’m talking about women’s issues, what I expect as an advocate for women, from women candidates, is that common thread I know that’s in her. Now for you the issue may be different, and you’re going to vote for that black man before you vote for that white woman, because you’re more unsure of her than of him.

JM: Well, it depends on the white woman and the black man, but I would more than likely vote for a black man over a white woman.

TB: If they’re both liberal, and both kind of equal on the issues?

JM: Yeah, because African Americans are also underrepresented in politics. When some women are in the room making decisions, they’re not making feminist decisions; and when some women are in the room making decisions, they’re not making decisions that speak to me. That’s where I’ve got to draw the line. African American women who identify themselves as feminists often have to walk a tightrope between our feminist interest and our racial interest because although the organized women’s movement is doing much better on race matters, lots of white women simply don’t get it. And to talk this “life experience” stuff – of course everybody’s life experience is valid, but if you can make the parallel that no man has had a woman’s life experience, no white person has had an African American life experience. And most women refuse to stretch their brains past the discrimination experienced as women to understand the other –

TB: Can I ask you, if you vote for that black man who is on the same par politically with the white woman who’s running, you are more sure that he is going to understand and deal more with the woman’s experience than, let’s say, a politically OK white woman – you’re that cynical about a woman candidate who is not black?

JM: It would depend, but in general yes. I am more confident that a black man will deal with a black woman’s experience than that a white woman will deal with a black woman’s experience. And I don’t mean to state that as harshly as it sounds, because I don’t think that we very often get a case where you really have that.

TB: When we talk about needing to begin a dialogue about what it is we’re all doing, there is an automatic assumption of white women’s hypocrisy – that we don’t get it. I have yet to say a block of individuals don’t understand something or do not care. When we’re talking about moving women forward, moving a feminist agenda or a progressive agenda forward, if we are going to continue to marginalize and speculate and demonize those who are different from us, we’ve got a very serious problem on our hands.

JM: Tammy, are you ignoring the reality of skin-color privilege? Are you saying that does not exist?

TB: No, not at all. But if we are going to address issues of racism through issues of feminism, there’s going to have to be at least some expectation that there isn’t an entire segment of that debate that is either wrong or has an agenda that is negative or is hypocritical or is not part of the sisterhood some of the time. Can I say that there is a real good reason sometimes to think that? Sure. But we can carry through the cynicism and the anger and not have a discussion – or we can at least begin to give women sometimes the benefit of the doubt.

JM: Why are African American women always asked to give the benefit of the doubt?

TB: If we are going to give benefits of the doubts, I’m not suggesting that it’s one side to the other. It’s got to be complete and universal.

JM: But I don’t see you giving much benefit of doubt. You’ve got your position. You’re not moving from it. You’re pretty firm in where you’re coming from, and so am I.

TB: I have the same expectation of black and white women and Asian women who are running for office, of conservative women and liberal women: I’m looking at a base of women collectively because of the differences that women bring and the strength that women bring. You’re talking about segments, about divisions, about what’s wrong, about who’s hypocritical.

JM: I didn’t say that all white women were hypocritical. I said some white women. I was talking about –

TB: All right, now the word some comes in –

JM: I do make an effort in a conversation, as I do on the radio, to make sure that someone can finish their sentence. I’m not clear that you do the same.

TB: That’s unfortunate. And you’re mistaken.

JM: No, I don’t think I am, because the whole issue of conversation is about who talks when, where, how, and the respect or the benefit of the doubt that we accord someone to finish a sentence really does speak to where we’re coming from.

TB: Is that why you’re angry?

JM: I’m not angry. I am attempting to get a few points
across, and I’m finding myself somewhat frustrated in your inability to listen. This isn’t worth being angry about. You’re not that important.

TB: Oh, that’s a wonderful way to continue this. We have a dynamic opportunity to explore the differences, and what you end with is how I am not important. There’s a reason why we’re both at this table. I don’t move forward or operate presuming that a certain kind of woman is not important, and obviously you do.

JM: I operate on the basis of mutuality. I give what I get. I have sat here and listened, and a couple of times swallowed as you interrupted. I’m not getting mutuality.

TB: I think this is a perfect example of what some of the inherent problems are, in how we’re communicating – and sometimes how we don’t. We can discuss how to continue – how to give someone more space perhaps – and we can do that without diminishing or demeaning the other woman we’re speaking with.

JM: No one was demeaned. If you feel demeaned, that seems to be your problem.

TB: [laughing] Keep going, Julianne, go for it –

JM: No, I’m not going to be patronized. I must say that I’m not surprised, Tammy, after the comment, which I would like you to explain, about not wanting to get into it with a bunch of black feminists. I did find that offensive.

TB: This is a very good example of hearing what we want to hear because we expect it to be that way – and that’s not always the way it is. I was approached by a television show in Philadelphia that I’ve known for a number of years, when L.A. NOW was doing work dealing with issues of domestic violence. Considering the racial tensions in this city after the Simpson verdict, we made very specific decisions to deal with the issue of domestic violence – and not do shows that were going to inflame racial tensions. I was told by a producer in Philadelphia that they wanted me to do their show because “there are a bunch of black women here in Philadelphia who want to argue with you because they think what you’re doing is racist.” My response to this individual was: “I don’t have time to do that. If you want to do a show on domestic violence, we’ll do that, that’s fine. I’m not going to argue with anyone. We’ve moved beyond it.” That became paraphrased, third person, on the air, by a reporter saying that Tammy Bruce doesn’t have time to argue with a bunch of black women. I said to the Associated Press, I’ve said to everyone ranging from Time magazine to The New York Times to The Advocate, and I’ll say it to you: I didn’t say that. I think that when you have something that sounds so wrong, you have to wonder if that was what was said. Interestingly, women who could dial my phone, who could ask, “Is that accurate? What’s going on?” – because that’s not my style – some did, some didn’t. And I think you would agree that that is a significantly different exchange than what was said over a tabloid television show in Philadelphia.

JM: Well, let me say this, OK? If I give you benefit of the doubt and say, “She says she didn’t say it,” why do people believe it? Are people simply eager to believe bad things that Tammy Bruce says?

TB: I think that’s an important question.

]M: Or were some of the things that happened a function of some of the actions that you’ve taken? For example, what did you say, O.J. needed to leave the country or something like that? I’m probably paraphrasing you yet again –

TB: Sure.

JM: – but there were some things that a lot of people had a problem with. Let’s be very clear about the O.J. Simpson case. It has become a symbol for a lot of division – by race, by gender. Not having all the facts in front of me, I’m not prepared to characterize your actions as racist or not, but I got a certain impression of you from what the media depicted: marching against O.J. Simpson – an African American man who’s a batterer, who has admitted that he’s a batterer. And this notion he should be asked to leave the country when you have millions of white men who are batterers – I guess they can just hang out, huh?

TB: When you say that I said he should get out of the country, I can tell you where that came from. It was from a statement I made outside of NBC. I said, “This is your new message: You are not welcome here. You’re not welcome on our airwaves. You’re not welcome in our culture. This is America’s new message about domestic violence.”

JM: “You’re not welcome in our culture” – explain that tome.

TB: Our culture is a violent one, our media perpetuates violence. The way women are viewed through our media industry is negative. And I don’t think anyone would disagree that men who beat up women are not welcome here. What national NOW did, when they acted against me, is they lopped off that last line, about “This is America’s new message about domestic violence.” They edited that line off. And they then said that my message was promoting segregation. I have worked for close to 10 years in this city on feminist issues, on issues of violence against women, and without exception people who saw my work on O.J. Simpson knew that I was dealing with a batterer, using the symbology of O.J. Simpson; so when I said “culture” in front of NBC, dealing with the issue of domestic violence, that is what I meant. I’ve never suggested O.J. Simpson leave the country – although I hear he is considering it. I was referring to men who beat up women. In the context of L.A. NOW’s activity that was clear. Why my sentences and my statements would be edited, I can’t tell you. I’ve had to speculate, because national NOW and Patricia Ireland did not call me to clarify or to ask me about those statements. Patricia knows me. Prior to her [December 6,1995] press conference, Patricia said to the California NOW PAC, “I know Tammy Bruce would not say that. That is not something I take seriously.” Despite her saying she knew me, and has for close to 10 years now, she still put that into her complaint. This is about being taken out of context. My chin has been out there. I’ve been saying a lot of things that some very rich men do not like –

JM: But the rich man you’re going after is O.J. Simpson. He is not the only rich man who batters.

TB: You’re right.

JM: And this is problematic from the standpoint of the African American community. What I think people are saying is: Why could these women suddenly get so exercised about battery that they’re marching against this man? John Fedders was the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission; he beat his wife. At one point back in the ’80s, The Wall Street Journal opined that that behavior had nothing to do with his ability to regulate the monetary system. White feminists were just as quiet as they wanted to be. OK, that was the ’80s; these are the ’90s; consciousness is raised. But we hear about these cases all the time, and I think what black America is tired of is being the stage upon which white America acts out all its social pathologies. You can say to me, Tammy, that you’ve got a 10-year record on domestic violence, and I applaud that. I think many women have worked to make sure that domestic violence stops, to make sure that our court systems take it seriously. But don’t tell me that in your 10 years of activity, O.J. is the only example you’ve had, because he can’t be.

TB: In my capacity as the president of L.A. NOW, I send out a lot of releases and talk about a lot of issues. And not all of them make Time magazine or Nightline or anything else. We’ve done a lot of work; 95 percent of what I do, you don’t see in the news. And I’ll give you an example. Danny Sullivan was arrested in September of last year for allegedly strangling his common-law wife. She survived; he has yet to go to court. Danny Sullivan is a white man, a race-car driver, a commentator for ABC.

In 1989 when O.J. Simpson was arrested, a lot of the complaints were: Where were you, NOW, then? Well, I wasn’t president of L.A. NOW then, and I would have been somewhere. And it reminded me that perhaps in this instance we should find out what ABC’s policy is on domestic violence. So I had a discussion with the president of the ABC television group. We discussed their internal domestic-violence policy, the fact that they didn’t have one. He said to me, the president of ABC, that domestic violence really doesn’t affect the workplace – when in fact if you have a man with a propensity for violence, of course he’s going to treat women differently in the workplace if he has no regard even for the woman he supposedly loves. That conversation was detailed and was very progressive. We sent out a release prior to the phone call, we sent out a release regarding Mr. Sullivan’s alleged activity, we sent out a release regarding the discussion with ABC. Did any of that move anywhere? No, it didn’t. It moved in the Aspen newspaper, which is where Mr. Sullivan lives and where the activity happened. [Five days after this conversation, Danny Sullivan was acquitted. – Ed.] But I can say the words “O.J. Simpson” and the world is at my door.

JM: And you have chosen to use that as a ticket to ride.

TB: Julianne, it’s not a ticket to ride. I am answerable to women at risk in this country. I want to educate and maintain a national dialogue on domestic violence. Can I do it using the alleged actions of Danny Sullivan or even the actor Mickey Rourke, who has never been convicted in a court for battery? In discussions on the behavior of the entertainment industry on sexual harassment, we’re there. In order to maintain a national dialogue on domestic violence, I would be a fool not to use a symbol that has gotten America’s attention, that will generate domestic-violence stories. If you want to point fingers about who picked O.J. Simpson, O.J. Simpson picked himself when he decided that beating up women was the solution to his problems.

It’s the same reason we will not let go of Mark Fuhrman – not that Mark Fuhrman is the only racist in the country, or that there aren’t other racists on the LAPD, but he is the one that American knows, and we will use him to change that entity just like we will use O.J. Simpson to change women’s lives for the better. We won’t let go of either one of them.

JM: Well, I would suggest that you might try a little racial sensitivity while you’re talking about women coming together. You turn me off with that stuff.

TB: Explain to me, what does? What are you talking about?

JM: “I will use O.J. Simpson, I will not let go of that.” Not only has this caused heightened racial tension, but also the comments about those jurors, mostly black women, were so ridiculous –

TB: Which comments are you talking about?

JM: “They were not bright, how could they make the decision?”

TB: I never said those things.

JM: No, I didn’t say you did. I said that they’re comments that are out there.

TB: Sure.

JM: I would suggest that some sensitivity in this matter is called for. Nobody cosigns O.J. Simpson’s admitted battery of Nicole Brown Simpson – certainly I don’t. Battery is absolutely wrong and ought to be punished. The 1989 question is relevant. The police let him go. This happens all the time with a wink and a nod, from the top of our society to the bottom. The Brown family I find fascinating: Why are you entertaining your daughter’s batterer, why are you still maintaining dialogue with him? If you want to do some action, you might want to educate that family. And why don’t you use them as an example, of what families can do?

TB: Julianne, I have suggested that when people ask families why they did nothing, or why they maintained dialogues or embraced someone: Talk to the Simpson family. There is a family of women there that also, when we talk about winks and nods, we’re dealing with a man and their family – yes, the primary breadwinner, a man who is famous. Celebrity and class is the issue here, my friend, as opposed to race. Because he’s famous and rich. It is that simple.

JM: I agree with you on that, but I think that race played a role in this as well. I think the rush to judgment had to do with race. I think you’re in denial if you think that race has nothing to do with this.

TB: Race has something very serious to do with this trial, and certainly LAPD gave Johnny Cochran someplace to hang his hat. But if O.J. Simpson was going to be arrested because of the color of his skin, it would have happened years ago. I’ve been the one person in the L.A. market who has not said that this jury made a racist decision. I believe this jury. And when they said domestic violence had nothing to do with this murder, they did not understand the cycle of violence. There are juries throughout this country – white juries, black juries, men and women – who let batterers walk everyday because they don’t understand the cycle of violence. That’s what that jury didn’t understand.

JM: You’ve got your head in the sand if you think that the use of this black man does not cause problems in the imagery of African American men, in the way that the African American community is demonized. O.J. Simpson is not a hero or a saint. But the fact is that African American images are constantly used to make our social points, and someone who claims to be conscious –

TB: Then complain to O.J. Simpson.

JM: No – someone who claims to be conscious, who says that she is progressive, that she cares about these issues, wants all these women to work together, might show some more sensitivity.

TB: With O.J. Simpson we’re dealing with one of the most-watched, most passionate issues in America’s court history, and you can get 5,000 people out in two days. That happened. It’s in my backyard. Can I get 5,000 people out in two days on, say, Danny Sullivan? No, it doesn’t happen. The passion isn’t there, because people did not have it in their living rooms five days a week. The passion isn’t there because these are people who they did not know as well or care as much about as they did O.J. Simpson. If I was in Aspen maybe I would see that the passion is there. I’m not in Aspen. For me this was my town. And it was something as a chapter activity, something local, that could happen. Clearly nothing has been like it before, and nothing will be like it again. The passion that people felt about this is not ever going to be repeated.

I understand that there is a reason why you think I am going after O.J. Simpson because he’s black, or because that is something short-sighted in me. I can’t dismiss the fact that there’s a reason why you think that. And that is something we absolutely have to deal with. And the only thing I can do is say to you, and know that for various and sundry reasons you may not even believe me, but I can say to you face to face like I would anyone else, why I do the things I do and what’s behind them.

JM: Well, you have said you want to be clear; let me be clear. I think you contribute to a climate of the demonization of African American men. The O.J. case is of course complicated, unique; you’re right, we probably will never see anything like it. It’s a kaleidoscope, and every time you switch it you can see something else – in terms of race, or gender, or domestic violence, or class, or celebrity, or mystery. There are lots of ramifications. But I think lots of people who call themselves conscious progressives – who care about black images – have fallen into this trap of let us beat African America with yet another black man in trouble that we’re going to use as a symbol. Domestic violence, Tammy, is compelling enough.

TB: It’s not. I have been working on that issue for years. I can tell you, it can be costing women their lives and people don’t care, it’s not sexy enough. Do I wish that it was someone other than O.J. Simpson? I sure as hell do. Because I am in a situation now where I have to diffuse the impression I am contributing to that.

Domestic violence does not discriminate. We know that white men do it, black men do it – and that black women and white women and Hispanic women and Asian women all die. They die the same. They hurt the same. A man’s fist is pretty much the same when it’s aiming at your face. Those are the messages when I talk about domestic violence. When I talk about it with O.J. Simpson, am I looking always for another image, another symbol, to maintain the dialogue? I sure am.

JM: Well, I wish that some of these conversations that you’re having included that paragraph about domestic violence not discriminating – and made it clear that it wasn’t just African American men. Because I think that we don’t hear enough of that.

TB: Julianne, I can give you so many interviews and articles – verbatim interviews, whether it be in the gay press or in the feminist press or Time or The New York Times – where that is exactly what that message was. I have said that repeatedly, because that is my message. I have an interest – it behooves me for people not to see this as a problem with just the rich and famous or with the black man, because then my points are lost and all women lose.

JM: But I think that if you thought about it there are some ways to generalize this message. I don’t think you need O.J. Simpson as a symbol. You had the march. You’ve ridden that horse. I think it’s time for you to get off that horse and get on another one. And I think that if you choose not to do that, if you choose not to do that, you’re saying that you don’t care.

At the beginning of our conversation you talked about the ways that we can work together, but what you’re saying to me now is, Well, we can work together but I’m still going to do this, and whether you like it or not, that’s where we’re going –

TB: What I care about –

JM: When you say that to me, you’re saying that all that other stuff you said about cooperation was crap.

TB: Julianne, I believe that we can have cooperation about issues that affect women’s lives without having a double standard, or treating certain men differently, and while still dealing, as I am on this issue, and why I will not stop, is because this is the kind of discussion that has to happen – and why we must deal with O.J. Simpson, as we would deal with any other batterer, as aggressively if it was any other man who was piped into our house for a year and half as we watched the most-watched thing in American history. This dialogue is important. For us to continue the work, for me there is nothing else right now that I can maintain this national dialogue with, and that’s why I will not stop, and while I won’t stop doing that, I will also have these discussions –

JM: This doesn’t mitigate what you’re doing. You cannot put your head in societal sand and say that you’re not aware of the way that the African American man and the African American community has been demonized –

TB: Julianne –

JM: No, just a minute, Tammy. You can’t do that. You can’t say that you don’t pick up these newspapers, you’re not conscious of here in L.A. the white women who cross the street when they see a group of young black men hanging out, or other women as well, you can’t say that you’re not aware of the way the African American community especially in this conservative time has been demonized by pundits, by politicians, by everyone else.

TB: I do talk about the importance and symbology of men who beat up women, and they do come in all colors. And I will continue to do that. I am not going to not talk about certain men or focus on other ones. That would be exactly what you’re accusing me of doing now. And because I refuse to do that is why I will continue to talk about O.J. Simpson, and whether we want to move on from this now or not, this is I think one of the important issues.

When you talk about the demonization of the black man – I wake up and I worry about the three women who die every day at the hands of a male intimate; I worry about the nature of the relationship between men and women; as a lesbian, as an out lesbian in this city, I worry about the way people are treated through discrimination and through hate crimes and everything else. That is an everyday part of my life.

I am not, as an advocate for women, going to think that I can’t touch that issue because I’m going to contribute to something like the demonization of black men. To be honest with you, I do have an agenda, and that is to save women’s lives. And as a matter of fact, despite the finger-pointing, being able to include in the agenda how this is colorblind is key to that.

JM: We disagree. Clearly we’re at an impasse here. We are at a point where, quite frankly, nothing that can be said can change my mind and I don’t think anything that can be said can change yours.

TB: You’re suggesting that I am wrong and I am doing something negative to hurt people. I can say that we do have a difference of opinion and it is just that. Because you disagree perhaps with my style or strategy, you’re presuming that I’m careless and I don’t care and I want to contribute to this other problem.

JM: You want to save women’s lives – I want to save women’s lives too. I don’t want a single woman to die at the hands of any batterer. But in contributing to the demonization of black men, you put black men’s lives at risk.

TB: Talk about demonization! There I am putting black men in danger.

JM: Again, you want to brush off what I have to say –

TB: You haven’t seen any of the background of what it is we’re doing, have you?

JM: I find it offensive when I’m trying to be serious for someone to laugh in my face –

TB: When I’m accused of putting black men in danger – ?

JM: I’m glad you’re so amused.

TB: It’s – there’s just no response to that. I’m quite taken aback.

JM: Well – good.

TB: I will dismiss accusations against me that are that serious. I sure as hell will dismiss them, my friend. And I’ll dismiss the one making them –

JM: Let’s be clear: We’re not friends.

TB: Unfortunately, I think that’s apparent. I think that I could have dialogue, and possibly be different with you, on a whole host of things, and think that together, even if it’s defining our own positions, we could do remarkable things. It’s that kind of approach and process that – when we talk about what’s wrong perhaps even in the feminist movement – that this could be an example of. And I’m not going to leave here with that frame of mind. I do think we can have differences. Talk radio, for me at least, has shown me that, that you can have differences and not –

JM: I think you can have differences. I still feel real strongly about what you did cutting off my point. You find it ridiculous but you didn’t want to even listen.

TB: I’m not going to listen to insults and accusations.

JM: It was not an insult, Tammy. Why don’t you listen?

TB: I’m “putting black men in danger” – what is that?

JM: Let me say what I have to say about this.

TB: Go ahead.

JM: Thank you – so much. When you look at some of these young brothers who are picked up by police officers because of the images they have of black men – the number of people who the O.J. trial, and the use of O.J., put in danger – I’m not saying you personally – but when you use O.J. as a symbol – when anyone uses O.J. as a symbol of domestic violence – by using that black man as a symbol, you imperil other black men. And you have to be very clear about that.

I understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. I understand where you’re coming from on that. You think that this is an opportunity to raise awareness about domestic violence. What I’m saying is that none of these issues happens in a vacuum. Domestic violence is an important issue. Economic violence is an important issue. The demonization of African American men is an important issue. They’re connected. And when you choose to say, “I don’t care how they’re connected, I’m just going to do this,” you’re ignoring a lot of other people.

TB: That’s also not something I said.

Editor-at-large PHYLLIS CHESLER is the author of eight books, including Women and Madness (Harcourt Brace).