Domestic Violence Awareness Month (4)

“Sister, you’ve been on my mind Sister, we’re two of a kind So, sister, I’m keepin’ my eye on you.”–Miss Celie’s Blues

I was shocked recently when a black girlfriend told me she has never watched  “The Color Purple” in its entirety.

Now how has that happened?

I’ve seen practically every Tyler Perry film and I loathe Tyler Perry films, but my black female friends make sure I watch them. I’m surprised she has been able to get away without being made to watch it at the beauty shop or something :)

When “The Color Purple” originally came out in 1985, there was controversy that it depicted black men in a negative light.

The outrage over the film is said to have prevented it from receiving any Oscar wins, thus helping to stall the careers of some amazing black actresses in the film.

“The Color Purple” movie is based on the book of the same name. The author is black woman writer/feminist/womanist icon, Alice Walker.

 While the movie didn’t capture the  complexities of the book, Walker has been unfairly bashed for her work.

“She was accused of betraying her race, of hating black men, of damaging black male and female relationships, of being a lesbian.” http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/jun/23/featuresreviews.guardianreview23

I thought “The Color Purple” (book/movie) was simply trying to show that black women are not only black, but also women and how the intersectionality of these identities contribute to the oppression (and violence) we tend to face in our daily lives.

The fact that many people feel overly comfortable being abusive towards us outside and in the black community.

The book/film is also about hope, and more importantly black sisterhood. Celie survives because of her own perseverance, but also because her friends Shug and Sophia had her back. This helped her to overcome the violence in her life.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (3)

When the first horrifying video of Janay Rice being hit was released, initially people faulted her for the incident. Since the video was not shown in its entirety it was assumed Rice had attacked first and thus “deserve what she got.”

The rhetoric tends to be if you step to a man then expect to be treated like one.

Many domestic survivors have talked about “walking on eggshells” when they were with their abuser.  Yet, in the end, it didn’t matter what they did or didn’t do. Abusers abuse because they want to.

Over time, domestic violence victims take on a “flight or fight” response. Living in constant violence, intimidation, and fear takes a toll on these women. Some victims flee to protect themselves, while others notice the red flags when the abuser is about to “go off,” and prepare to try to fight back.

That was the case of Rice and for Marissa Alexander. Alexander fired a warning shot when she felt threatened by her husband.

“She claimed that he broke through a bathroom door that she had locked and grabbed her by the neck. She said she tried to push past him but he shoved her into the door, sparking a struggle that felt like an “eternity.” Afterwards, she claimed that she ran to the garage and tried to leave but was unable to open the garage door, so she retrieved a gun, which she legally owned. Once inside, she claimed, her husband saw the gun and charged at her “in a rage” saying, “Bitch, I’ll kill you.” She said she raised the gun and fired a warning shot into the air because it was the “lesser of two evils.”  http://www.blackmediascoop.com/court-overturns-marissa-alexanders-20-year-sentence/

Alexander was sentenced to over 20 years in prison for firing this shot in the air. The incident took place in Florida, the same place where a defenseless black teenager was shot and killed. The killer was let off because he used the “Stand Your Ground” defense.

This same strategy didn’t work for Alexander, despite the fact she didn’t even kill anyone. The killer was non black, Alexander is black.

The harsh sentence spoke to the over criminalization of black people. This outraged people and there has been a campaign to free Alexander. The sentence has been overturned, for now. Alexander’s retrial is later this December. If found guilty, she could face a mandatory 60 years in prison.

A lot of people don’t know that October is not only Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but is also the Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration.

There is a huge connection between domestic violence and the Prison Industrial Complex. The majority of black women serving ridiculously long sentences, is due to defending themselves against abusers.

“When women, particularly women of color, defend themselves, they often find themselves assaulted twice – first by their attacker, then by the legal system. The zealous prosecution, as well as the lack of charges against their attackers, reflects the pervasive and socially sanctioned violence against women, particularly women of color and the prevailing notion that women should not fight back.” http://truth-out.org/news/item/11196-no-justice-when-women-fight-back

The rates of black women in prison has skyrocketed.  “In 2010, black women were incarcerated at nearly three times the rate of white women” (Violence Policy Center, 2011; The Sentencing Project, 2012).

When looking at the issue of domestic violence we need to understand the reasons why women fight back, that they have a right to fight back, and they should not be locked up for the rest of their lives for doing so.

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Photo from: blackbirdpressnews.blogspot.com

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (2)

When I got together with fellow black women feminists, we talked about the ways people tend to think about domestic violence (DV). As one attendee stated, “Obviously if someone came at you with a bat on the first date, you would know right away they are someone to avoid.” The reality is, abusers are manipulative people. They tend to take their time (sometimes years) grooming their victims before they ever physically assault them. If it even goes that far.

The idea that all abuse is extreme, is what I call the “Lifetime Movie” syndrome. You know how in lifetime movies they tend to over dramatize everything. Not to say that it isn’t true for many women, but a lot of abuse tends to be more subtle/calculated.  Because of the “Lifetime Movie” syndrome, many people have bought into the idea that domestic violence is only “real” if a woman has visible scars.

In her article, “Domestic Violence is Not Just Physical,” Gloria Malone writes about the complexity of DV in women’s lives.  She argues that the conversations on DV has been limiting and harmful to women. “[However] these conversations are very narrow. They focus primarily on direct physical violence through a form of direct impact. Focusing the conversation on this very narrow impression of what DV/IPV is omits the different forms that DV/IPV can take which include but are not limited to emotional, economic, psychological, and sexual abuse. These forms of abuse are just as violent, hurtful, difficult to leave, and can be precursors to possible physical violence.” http://mommynoire.com/270415/domestic-violence-just-physical/

When you look at the range of abusive tactics, the majority of women have been in some type of controlling relationship. Even if the incident happened one time. There is the belief that domestic violence is a daily occurrence. If a woman has been harmed just one time, that is domestic violence.

Malone made this point with K. Michelle, a singer who has talked about abuse she has suffered.  “Recently Michelle took to her Instagram account to explain that although Memphitz did not directly punch her that she too is a survivor of domestic violence… Michelle states “I was not punched in the isolated assault and never claimed to be. But what I was, was drug across the room and smothered with a towel, loosing conscience to the point of a black out[…]and having to fight my way out the room screaming for help. I almost lost my life.” http://mommynoire.com/270415/domestic-violence-just-physical/

Michelle’s story is similar to many women who may not have been hit, but terrorized in other ways. Often times, it’s hard for women to talk about this type of abuse because people don’t take it seriously.  Michelle has been openly criticized about the incident.
The complicated matter of what constitutes abuse is something we all need to be more educated about. With over 90% of domestic violence victims women, we will have a woman in our lives (family, friend, etc.) dealing with this issue.
  • Physical abuse such as slapping, kicking, hitting, shoving, or other physical force.
  • Sexual abuse including rape, sexual assault, forced prostitution, or interfering with birth control.
  • Emotional abuse such as shouting, name-calling, humiliation, constant criticism, or harming the victim’s relationship with her or his children.
  • Psychological abuse including threats to harm the victims’ family, friends, children, co-workers, or pets, isolation, mind games, destruction of victims’ property, or stalking.
  • Economic abuse such as controlling the victim’s money, withholding money for basic needs, interfering with school or job, or damaging the victim’s credit.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (1)

Recently, a few black women activists and myself, decided to start a local black feminist group. It’s an opportunity to talk about issues affecting black women in our city, as well as nationally.

This month our discussion was in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

“Evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October, 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect battered women’s advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children.” http://www.ncadv.org/takeaction/DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth.php

We talked about an article I read in the newspaper, where the black male author did a lot of victim blaming. In “For Once, Let’s Have A Real Discussion About Domestic Violence” by Devin Robinson, Robinson wrote a convoluted article stating why it was okay for men to retaliate against women.

“Here’s the thing. Just like blacks spend so much time proving we are not racist that we make it easier for the racist to be racist, women spend a lot of time unconsciously proving they are not equal (with the wrong rhetoric) that it makes it easier for the chauvinists to be chauvinists. But I get it. In this country of “who has less are automatic victims” it also holds true in the world of domestic violence; who loses the battle is the victim, forgetting that we are in the middle of a bigger war of mankind.”

Wait…what?

One of the attendees at our meeting does work around domestic violence (DV) and black women. We talked about the implications of this article and about the accepted (and encouraged violence) against black women in/outside of the black community.  It’s alarming when people try to make the argument that it’s okay for men to hit women if they’ve been “emasculated,” as black women already have high rates of violence used against them.

“Compared to a black male, a black female is far more likely to be killed by her spouse, an
intimate acquaintance, or a family member than by a stranger. Where the relationship could be determined, 94 percent of black females killed by males in single victim/single offender incidents knew their killers (415 out of 443). Nearly 15 times as many black females were murdered by a male they knew (415 victims) than were killed by male strangers (28 victims) in single victim/single offender incidents in 2011. Of black victims who knew their offenders, 52 percent (216 out of 415) were wives, common-law wives, ex-wives, or girlfriends of the offenders. Ninety-three percent (459 out of 492) of the homicides of black females were intra-racial.” When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2011 Homicide Data

We also discussed the stereotypes about black women and the limited lens people tend to view us through. This also becomes a justification to be abusive towards us. If black women weren’t “loud,” combative,” “smart-mouthed,” we wouldn’t find ourselves in these situations. Even if a black woman does have those traits, it is most likely due to having to navigate an Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy.  Majority of black women have caught on that they live in a society that doesn’t give a damn about them. They know they only have themselves to rely on.

Domestic violence is a heinous act that needs to be eliminated in the black community. While it’s good that we march for black men murdered by police, we also need to march for black women murdered in their own homes.

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Photo from: http://www.jetmag.com/

Laverne Cox and bell hooks Talk About Feminism and Pop Culture

Whoa! bell hooks has been KILLING it these last couple of days, as she does another week-long residency at The New School. She’s had some great discussions with white feminist icon Gloria Steinman and fellow black intellectual, Cornel West (the two of them had me rolling).  My favorite conversation was the one between her and Laverne Cox.

Cox stars on the television show “Orange is the New Black.” I have not watched the show. It hasn’t really interested me (and in their talk) hooks articulated some of my concerns about the show.  However, it’s been great to see Cox get mainstream shine. It’s rare you see contemporary black celebrities knowledgeable about politics/social injustices. Particularly, the work Cox does around transgender rights.

Enjoy their fun and thoughtful discussion by clicking the link :)

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Photo from: http://colorlines.com/

http://new.livestream.com/TheNewSchool/bell-hooks-Laverne-Cox/videos/64265837

 

Raven-Symoné and Anti-Blackness

The That’s So Raven star pissed everyone off with her interview on Oprah’s “Where Are They Now?” show.  Symoné passionately rejected the term ‘African-American.’

“I’m tired of being labeled,” Symoné said. “I’m an American. I’m not an African-American. I’m an American.” Symoné told Oprah she wasn’t sure “what country in Africa” she was from but that she did know her family’s roots are in “Louisiana.” “What I really mean by that is I’m an American,” Symoné said. “That’s what I really mean. I have darker skin. I have a nice, interesting grade of hair. I connect with Caucasian. I connect with Asian. I connect with Black. I connect with Indian. I connect with each culture.” http://thegrio.com/2014/10/06/raven-symone-not-african-american/

Eh…Symoné told on herself.

To a certain extent, I get what Symoné was trying to say. She just wants to be her.  However, her comments lacked a deeper consciousness about the ways white supremacy and anti-blackness operate in American culture. I mean. I guess she missed the whole Ferguson thing this summer?

We tend to think because celebrities are amazingly talented at singing/dancing/acting that they must be brilliant in other aspects of their lives. 9 times out of 10 (when you take them off stage) you realize they actually tend to be pretty clueless about the world around them.  I guess the fame monster does that to you. Particularity, black celebrities who now have the protection of wealth. It gives them the false illusion racism doesn’t matter anymore. I find it interesting even those who grew up in extreme poverty/oppression and who have sung/rapped/talked about it, still tend to sell out pretty quickly/become apologists for white racism/are now “colorblind.”

The new blacks are going to be the death of us yet.

In any case, Symoné basically believes her light skin and “good hair” exclude her from being a “plain old African-American.” Okay, well she’s going to start turning down African-American roles, right?

 

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete

The film “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete” popped up on my Netflix line up. I decided to watch it, since it’s rare to see films about black youth. I was a bit disappointed to see it was a cliché film of a low-income black kid with a drug addict for a mother, the absentee father, the scowling local drug dealer/pimp (Anthony Mackie wearing a laughable Rick Ross beard), and a tough azz nails police officer. *sigh.*

Despite my disappointment, there were some good moments in “The inevitable…” The young actors Skylan Brooks (Mister) and Ethan Dizon (Pete) are too adorable. They do a good job of carrying the film by themselves. Pete was the stereotypical silent Asian character, though.

Hopefully, one day we will get a fun black kid’s film (like The Goonies) were there isn’t so much despair. “The inevitable…” was depressing as hell to me.