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The rape of a White female by a slave was a capital crime in Virginia as well as the rest of the slave-holding South during the 19th century.

Attempted rape by a slave, however, was not yet punishable by death in Virginia.

Instead, slaves convicted of the attempted rape of a White female were castrated. The treatment of Black males in this regard reflected not White anxiety about Black rape, but rather the codified belief that Blacks, specifically slaves, had to abide by a different, stricter set of legal standards to ensure greater control of the region’s bonded labor force.

Slave castration

Removing a slave’s appendage was certainly among the most barbarous of consequences for insubordinate behavior, but the joy it provided slave-owners underwrites a deep-seated jealously they felt toward the enslaved.

And quite often, allegations of rape were cover ups for unlawful trysts between slaves and their master’s cheating wives and lustful daughters.

Black masculinity has served as a thorn in the side of White supremacy for several centuries.

Fear of its power has resulted in the deaths of numerous cage rattlers such as Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others throughout history.

Fear is unquestionably the driving force behind the NFL’s spurning of national anthem protester and civil rights advocate Colin Kaepernick.

It’s the invisible jolt of nefarious energy that surges through the fingertips of White police when they shoot and kill unarmed Black men.

It was the spark that compelled hundreds of White boys to orchestrate a “White power” rally in Charlottesville, Va.

The same fear motivated a posse of White men to abduct and massacre a 14-year-old boy in Mississippi due to allegations that he whistled at a grocery store clerk.

Emmett Till murder

Emmett Till’s murder in 1955 punctuated a simmering White rage caused by the Supreme Court’s eradication of segregation in public schools.

This landmark decision fueled the imaginations of racist White men across the country who envisioned their little girls canoodling with “sexually deviant” Black boys. Paranoia pushed them to madness and escalated their thirst for social control.

In 1954, four days after the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Mississippi Court Judge Thomas Brady delivered an address entitled ‘Black Monday’, which he later published in an eponymously-titled book.

In his speech, Brady opines the sanctity of Southern White women, calling them “the loveliest and the purest of God’s creatures, the nearest thing to an angelic being that treads this terrestrial ball is a well-bred, cultured Southern White woman or her blue-eyed, golden-haired little girl.”

In his best-selling book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” Timothy B. Tyson analyzes Judge Brady’s chilling diatribe. He writes: “The imagined beastly lust of Black men for White women seized Brady’s pornographic political imagination, and the unsullied Southern White woman became the most important symbol of White male superiority.”

In America, Black men have historically been depicted as aggressive, hypersexual and violent—to be controlled, to be exploited, to be tamed. The result of that construct and the accompanying racist fear and forced subjugation it justifies has been counterintuitive: Black men in America are in fact deeply fragile and constantly at risk.

The mystique and intrigue associated with the sexual organs of Black men continue to invade numerous facets of pop culture.

Mystique of the Black man

But apart from its reproductive functions, this region of the anatomy instills a profound sense of pride among African American males, serving as a beacon of unabashed confidence and masculinity.

This combination often entices female observers, while spurring envy and paranoia among the less endowed (hence comedian Richard Pryor’s wisecrack about Black men safeguarding their genitals from theft by a White adversary).

In Nigeria, the Congo, and other portions of Africa, studies have been repeatedly conducted to determine the penis size of native Africans compared to other ethnic groups.

These assessments were inspired by the common belief that Black genitals are inherently exceptional in size.

The Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital (Nnewi, Nigeria) recorded the measurements of 115 test subjects.

The results were compared with similar studies of other races.

These studies were done in Italy, Greece, Korea, Britain, and the United States of America.

In summary, the mean full-stretch penile length of the Nigerian Blacks was 13.37cm and the mean flaccid length was 9.36cm. Similar studies reported full-stretch penile lengths of 12.50cm in Italians, 12.18cm in Greeks, 9.6cm in Koreans, 13cm in British Caucasians, and 12.45cm in the American Caucasians.

Myths vs reality

In spite of these findings, there is no convincing scientific research to support the ascription of bigger penile dimensions to African American men.

Nevertheless, it appears that no matter what part of the world you step foot in, there’s a common tendency to associate masculinity with the size of a man’s private parts.

In the Congo (Africa), it seems the males are obsessed with their nether region.

For several weeks there’s been a conspiracy brewing.

Local police have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men’s penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.

Rumors of penis theft began circulating in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo’s sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants.

They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.

The hysteria surrounding these alleged incidents of penis theft reflects a much broader obsession with the male appendage, spanning from the enclaves of African jungles to the blighted streets of urban American neighborhoods.

In 2000, Canadian psychologist J.P Rushton claimed to have found scientific evidence that there are substantial differences in the average penis length of men from different races.

These claims are in line with vulgar racial stereotypes and are part of a larger research agenda based on a belief in ‘race realism.’

Advocates of race realism argue that there are real and pervasive differences between racial groups in personality, intelligence and social behavior, that these differences have a genetic and evolutionary origin and that they can explain disparities in important social and economic outcomes between races.

Rushton, a notorious advocate of race realism, proposed that the major races can be sorted into a human hierarchy based on their supposed reproductive strategies.

According to Rushton’s r-K life history theory, there are two main reproductive strategies forming ends of a continuum. The r-strategy involves large numbers of offspring with minimal investment, whereas the K-strategy involves fewer offspring and greater investment.

According to Rushton, Africans are the most r-selected whereas Asians are the most K-selected, and Europeans are somewhere in between, although closer to Asians than Africans.

Rushton claimed that these two reproductive strategies were associated with a whole suite of mental and physical characteristics including brain size, intelligence, criminality, and of course penis length.

According to this theory, African men have the smallest brains and the largest penises, whereas Asian men are the opposite. This has been described as a ‘Goldilocks’ theory of race, in which European men are ‘just right’ having a combination of high intelligence and a reasonable genital endowment.

Sexual insecurity

For centuries, insecure White males have belittled the status of their Black counterparts to promote a false sense of genetic superiority.

Slavery was the first tactic, followed by the creation and implementation of racially biased laws, mass incarceration, and most recently, police brutality.

In an interview, civil rights attorney Constance Rice—founder of the Washington-based Advancement Project who successfully challenged the Los Angeles police over abuse in Black neighborhoods—linked the fates of Eric Garner, Michael Brown (and others) to society’s not-so-latent fear of Black men:

“Cops can get into a state of mind where they’re scared to death,” she explained. “When they’re in that really, really frightened place they panic and they act out on that panic. I have known cops who haven’t had a racist bone in their bodies and in fact had adopted Black children, they went to Black churches on the weekend, and these are the White cops. But you know what they had in their minds that made them act out and beat a Black suspect unwarrantedly? They had fear. They were afraid of Black men. I interviewed more than 900 police officers in 18 months and they started talking to me. It was almost like a therapy session for them. I mean these [are] cops who are 6’4”. You know, the cop in Ferguson was 6’4” talking about he was terrified. But when cops are scared, they kill and they do things that don’t make sense to you and me.”

This fear is built into White America’s DNA, deeply rooted in destructive stereotypes of the Black men as perpetual predators that hearken back to slavery-era revolts.

The 1831 rebellion led by the slave Nat Turner in Southampton County, Va., is the bloodiest example: Turner led a group of slaves and freed Blacks to plantations around the county, freeing slaves and killing more than 50 White people. In the rebellion’s aftermath, the state executed 56 Black people, while White militias killed at least 100 more. The uprising also inspired legislation that made the education of slaves and free Blacks illegal.

Historic stereotype

Today, this fear is still seeded by a media that overreports incidents of crime committed by Black offenders.

The stereotype of the Black man as the aggressor, a physically powerful, unpredictable product of poverty, has held sway since the Great Migration saw southern African American communities relocate to northern cities, triggering “White flight.”

In 2015, Colin Holbrook, who researches behavior, evolution, and culture at UCLA, published a study showing that people imagine Black men to be larger than they really are.

“If you look at the data, [Whites and Blacks] are about the same height and weight,” Holbrook tells Inverse, pointing to figures that suggest the average American Black man is just over five feet, nine inches tall and weighs roughly 196 pounds. The average American White man? Just over five feet, nine inches tall and roughly 196 pounds. No difference.”

Holbrook and his team found that when participants in his study were asked to imagine a large White man, they envisioned him being prestigious and respectable.

However, when they were given a description of a large Black man with a culturally stereotypical name, participants imagined someone potentially dangerous, probably poor, and criminal.

“These are deeply entrenched concepts in the mind,” Holbrook says. “There’s no simple educational moment that’s going to flip these ideas.”