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I have avoided posting about the horrific rape, by 18 or more boys and men, of an 11 year old girl in the small community of Cleveland, Texas.

As if the prolonged attack by–literally–a mob of males weren’t enough, the community’s response has been…Words fail me. Disgusting, repulsive, unbelievable? That and more. It’s a second and even more damaging violation of this child.

So when I read these beautiful, heartfelt words to her, in an open letter by journalist, black man and father, Nick Chiles, I cried. And I rejoiced.

Baby girl, let me describe to you what a real black man should look like, how he will feel.

He will not ever raise his hand to you—for he has been taught that an assault upon you is an assault upon his mother, his grandmother, his sisters, his aunts and all the nurturing souls who have unconditionally showered him with care.

He will not raise his voice to you—for he respects your mind as well as your body and he knows that bluster and intimidation are really just a camouflage for weakness.

He will listen to you and really hear you—for he will understand that your need to share your days and your thoughts are your way of connecting with him, bringing him into your mind space.

He will bring joy into your life—for he knows that your joy is the true key to his happiness, perhaps the most important thing he can achieve in his life.

He will tell you what you mean to him. To be able to peer into his own soul and reveal the contents is an unfailing sign of manly strength—and it also happens to be magic to a woman’s ears.

He will protect you but not disarm you. True protection is not smothering; it is providing you with the security to try and sometimes fail.

He will love you. And his love will feel like the most significant ingredient your spirit will ever encounter.

You may already know these things about a real black man; perhaps you have some around you or have come across them in your childhood. But I write this letter to you on the chance that this man I am describing, a real black man, has been a stranger to you. If he has yet to make his introduction, do not despair, baby girl. He is out here, watching over you, praying for you to emerge from these traumatic days with at least a small measure of dignity and self-assurance. He wants you to be able to work through your pain and confusion, then to look upon the community of black men that surrounds you and see his caring smile, his steadying hand, his strong shoulder. He is waiting to show you that he does exist, he does treasure you, he does want nothing but the best for you….

There are men out there who are working to help raise men, in the best possible meaning of the word.

Thank you, Mr Chiles.

* * *

And to you, sweet innocent little girl, my prayers, my thoughts and my deepest hope that some of these words will stay with you, a beacon of hope and healing in your life.


  • Thank you for posting this. What a supportive and beautiful letter. I felt compelled to write about this as well a couple days ago on my personal blog, brought on by a statement from a lawmaker in Florida about it.


  • BevQB
    March 19
    5:35 pm

    What a horrifying story! God, it just makes me physically angry (if that makes sense).

    I will be copying Chiles’ words because ALL parents should embrace and pass on either this message or similar words with a few changes:

    let me describe to you what a real black man should look like…

    Go ahead and take out “black”, in fact no real reason for gender either. The entire list could be based on

    let me describe to you what a real [LOVE] should look like…


  • amousie
    March 20
    2:23 pm

    The Chron article is at least slightly better than the Times article but the underlying tone is something I see all the time in US culture.

    I just picked up Our guys : the Glen Ridge rape and the secret life of the perfect suburb from the library. Still early in the book so not sure what I’ll end up taking from it but it was recommended in one of the comment threads.


  • Bonnie L.
    March 21
    3:19 pm

    I think everything about this case is about as repugnant as it gets. The sad thing is that this sort of crap isn’t just rampant in the US, it is the world wide standard for dealing with rape. A judge in Canada just recently gave a rapist a pat on the hand because the woman was obviously asking to be raped because she was dressed in an unseemly manner for her night on the town. The rapist was just not interpreting her signals correctly. What, NO isn’t a clear signal?


  • Thank you for post this. I was about to click away because – ugh– my chest just hollows out when I think about it. I hope she reads this letter and finds some hope, some peace, some comfort, at least a seed that will grow into something mighty.


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