You may not know the name Nushawn Williams, but it's probably a name you should familiarize yourself with. You would especially want your daughter to know his name, as well as anyone else in the community who has reason to fear a more disturbing style of sexual predator for the new millennium.
Williams is in prison for knowingly infecting women with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. His victims were as young as 13 years old, and authorities believe he may have infected as many as 50 women prior to to being incarcerated in 1998. Police are working to keep Williams behind bars, because they fear what might happen if he is released.
"He is prone to further sexual contact with underage individuals because of deficits in his emotional capacity to understand why this is wrong and attitudes that support these types of exploitative encounters. His emotional callousness, lack of remorse and impulsivity undermine important internal mechanisms for managing his sexual behavior," said examiner Jacob E. Hadden from the New York State Office of Mental Health.
Authorities have determined that Williams suffers from a mental-health abnormality that makes him incapable of understanding why his actions are wrong or harmful.
The possible release of Williams reminds us of the urgency of managing the public-health alarm called HIV infection. African Americans are taking the lead in HIV-infection rates, and what is also true is that the experience in our community is nothing less than a precursor to what is eventually going to happen all throughout America. What is most frightening about the case of Nushawn Williams is that he is probably not the only person deliberately spreading the disease: There are likely women and other men doing the same thing. To make matters worse, there are many in our community (and others) who are being incredibly irresponsible with their sexual behavior and infecting scores of people in the process.
As I felt empathy for celebrities like Magic Johnson and Eazy-E for their battles with HIV/AIDS, I wondered how many people thought about the long list of partners they infected before finally getting their own positive test results. Did you ever think about the fact that many of those people are out in the community right now, quite a few of whom may have taken years to become aware of their HIV-positive status? This is scary indeed, so the truth is that to protect yourself from the silent community killer, a general strategy of protection must be put in to play.
I'm not a choir boy, Bible thumper or self-righteous finger-wagger, but most of you know that I've got to tell the truth when it comes to this kind of stuff. Sex is not the romantic, glamorous junk you see in the movies. It is the foundation of human life, "Mother Nature's crack pipe," and something that we all think about on some level on a regular basis (come on, tell the truth, you were probably thinking about sex over Corn flakes).
The worst trick in the world was for us to be confronted with a deadly disease that is transmitted by our doing the very thing we need in order to perpetuate the species. So in our efforts to avoid seeing that which is right in our faces, we over-romanticize the issue, don't ask the right questions, lie to one another or pretend that using a condom is going to protect us from our decision to have rampant sexual encounters with whomever we want.
Sorry, it doesn't work that way - life is not like the movies. While none of us can blame anyone else for wanting to engage in the act of having great sex, the truth is that when you get naked with another person, you are ALWAYS put at risk on some level. In a world full of deception and delusion, there is no way to get around the fact that STDs are everywhere, so the best thing we can do is encourage ourselves to tell it like it is and find a healthy way to deal with the fact that sex has become both exciting and downright scary for everyone, including married people.
Let's have an honest conversation about some things we might be able to agree on, shall we?
First off, we can agree that having unprotected sex is not a good idea, especially for single people. Married folks make this decision on a case-by-case basis, since many married people have been infected with STDs by their partners. We can also agree with the truth that we are never aware of what another person is doing behind closed doors. I'm sure that Tiger Woods' wife, Elin, had no idea that he was having unprotected sex with porn stars in his free time.
So, our goal of trying to extrapolate a person's full spectrum of desire, discipline and morality after knowing them for just a few days or weeks is not all that realistic. There's nothing wrong with taking the time to get to know someone before you engage in the act of possibly creating life with them. Finally, I am hopeful that we can agree that promiscuous and irresponsible sexual decisions are a generally risky idea, even when condoms are being used. Condoms don't protect you from everything, and some of us might argue that sleeping with someone you don't know very well is just not good business.
Again, this doesn't mean we can't enjoy sex. Instead, it means that we might have to open our eyes and take the blinders off when it comes to honestly analyzing that with which we are being confronted. Sex is powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility (didn't they say that in a Spiderman movie? Well, it's true regardless).
The case of Nushawn Williams is certainly a wake-up call. But the truth is that Nushawn should not scare you nearly as much as the other Nushawns of the world who have not yet been revealed. The government and police are not going to protect you from the horrors that lie right in front of you, so please be smart with what you do with your body.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the new book, 'Black American Money.' To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.