The Criminalization of Black Women

The shooting of Justine Diamond by a Black officer, has riled up white folks. Diamond’s death has caused white folks to bemoan the overuse of force on the most “innocent of victims.”  Besides the curiosity of this outrage, has been the amusing scolding of the Black community to come together as “humans” and fight against police brutality.  Huh? These are the same people who cursed Black Lives Matter activism. They tend to see Black victims as having “done something wrong” to warrant their killing. Even when the victim is a child. The lack of support from many Black folks has confused white folks, but what did they expect? You can’t treat a group of folks sh*t, then turn around and expect them to be a shoulder to cry on.

While it’s a terrible thing that happened to Diamond, in the end she will get justice. Already the police chief has resigned, and the black officer that shot her is getting vilified (no Blue Lives Matter love for him!) The same can not be said for Black victims. I’m not going to get too emotionally involved in this particular case.

What did pique my interest, this past week, were two articles I came across on the ‘net. Both deal with the criminalization of Black women, particularly poor Black women. In “A Warrant to Search Your Vagina” Andrea J. Ritchie discussed the abuse of Black women by police officers. Ritchie  has written extensively about the sanctioned violence by the criminal justice system against Black women. Ritchie detailed how Black women are often beaten, raped, and killed by police. It is the combination of race and gender, that makes Black women particularly vulnerable to police harassment.

Currently, there has been a call of compassion and health crisis by politicians for opioid/meth users (usually 90% white), this olive branch has not been extended to Black women. Black women are still being brutally attacked and exploited in “the war on drugs.” Black women bodies are routinely degraded.  It is reminiscent of the days of slavery, when Black women were made to strip naked and sexually assaulted.

“In 2015 Charneshia Corley was pulled out of her car at a gas station after a police officer claimed he smelled marijuana during a traffic stop. Two female officers then forced her legs apart and probed her vagina in full view of passers-by.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/21/opinion/sunday/black-women-police-brutality.html

Ritchie noted that police CAN issue a warrant to search one’s vagina. It may seem absurd, but it is true. This is alarming and sets the stage for abuse of power, as illustrated in the cases discussed in the article. Generally, the women did NOT have drugs on them, but will forever be humiliated by this invasive body search.

Continue reading “The Criminalization of Black Women”

The Fragility of White Women’s Allyship

About a month ago, there was controversy surrounding the release of “Beguiled.” Side eyes were given when director Sofia Coppola casually erased two Black women from her film. These characters were featured in the book and original 1971 film of the same name. Eyebrows were raised when Coppola tried to justify  why she left these women on the cutting room floor. To paraphrase Coppola she stated her film was “about gender dynamics, not race.”

In the article “The Beguiled’ Sanitizes Racism by Masking It with the Pretty Faces of Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning,” author Kendra James deconstructs the film and Coppola’s stance.

Of course, this left Black women to ask “but aren’t Black women, uh women?” Coppola’s dismissal of Black women, highlights the problem of so-called white feminists. These women keep reminding Black women/women of color, they aren’t really too worried about us.

A few weeks before Coppola showed us who she was, another white woman, Ann Thompson (editor at Indiewire), decided to kick Black women in the teeth. After another white woman, actress Elizabeth Banks bemoaned the lack of opportunities for women in Hollywood, particularly zeroing in on Steven Spielberg. While Black folks on social media agreed Spielberg could do better,they pointed out he did produce/direct one of the biggest female lead film in the ’80s…The Color Purple.

This is when Thompson decided to jump in and declare The Color Purple a flop. Well, Black folks got their laugh on that day.

This disparaging remark made by Thompson showed that white women know nothing about Black women’s lives, don’t care to know about Black women’s lives. Because if Thompson really cared about Black women as “women,” she would know The Color Purple is beloved by Black women. Black women know every line in the film. Black women know every song sang in the film. Black women know when they have been done wrong by someone, to stick a finger (or knife) in the offender’s face and say with confidence “until you do right by me, everything you think about is going to crumble!”

Sojourner Truth: “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Also, Thompson would be aware that The Color Purple earned over 11 Academy Award Nominations and ranked in over $100 million dollars. The film resulted in a popular play on Broadway and of course it all started with the best-selling book by Black feminist writer, Alice Walker. I mean really…

I wanted to revisit these “flops” of white women like Coppola, Banks, and Thompson because it speaks to the bigger issue of the fragility of white women’s allyship. Despite these women often calling on women to come together for “x,y, z…” they generally are not thinking of Black women/women of color. The truth is, majority of white women feel absolutely no connection to Black women. It’s why even motherhood, which one would think women could build community, makes no difference to white women.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve noticed white mothers tend to be indifferent to me if not worse. When I attend family events (library, park, etc.)  white mothers will chat it up with each other, while ignoring me.  Or they give me and my child exasperated looks. I remember once my sweet little guy, smiling and saying hi to a white woman at the store. The white woman gave him a dirty look. I made sure she saw my middle finger. White women can be hateful to Black children. They tend to teach their children not to play/engage with Black kids. I don’t know how many times I’ve witness white mothers whisk their kids away from the playground area when Black children/children of color show up.

I think this has to do with stereotypes around Black motherhood and that many white mothers think Black moms are incompetent. Never mind the fact we took care of their children for hundreds of years while they sat on their azz and ate bon bons.

These increasing incidents of white women crapping on the lives/voices of Black women, is why a lot of Black women feminists have given up. They have grown weary of white women’s “allyship.” It seems to create more headache than needed when you think about all the other nonsense Black women have to deal with in the world.

The Strange, Sad Case of Laci Green

Yes, yes there are some “decent” white women allies. But what’s the point of the “decent” ones if they are not calling out the obnoxious ones? Until this happens (on a consistent basis) feminists of color distrust of white women will continue to grow.

Southside with You

I kind of forgot about the film “Southside with You.” Maybe it’s because the movie had a limited theater release,  so it came and went rather quickly. The Obamas were still occupying the White House when it came out. Why go see a movie when you could witness their love in real life? Perhaps, the film would’ve done better if it were released now. Folks have already started to wax nostalgia for the Obamas after the ridiculousness of #45 and camp.

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I finally watched the film for the first time. It was interesting.  The film was directed by Richard Tanne, a white man. He did a decent job in capturing Black life, but it may explain why Mrs. Obama’s character was so harsh. Men directors (regardless of race) seem to rarely know what to do with Black female characters.  I know the story was trying to capture the precarious situation Mrs. Obama was in by starting a relationship with Obama. She was his boss. She was Black and a woman, fighting daily misogynoir in her office. She couldn’t afford to mess up. However, the film depicted her as overly cautious and rigid and even obnoxious.

When the Obamas ran for their first presidency, Michelle often displayed a humorous, tell it like it is persona. She was witty and smart and you rooted for her more than you did Obama (well, I did anyway 🙂 Then politics got a hold of her, and soon she was forced to play a subdued First Lady role.  We got to see the real Michelle again on January 19th, 2017. I would’ve liked to see more of a well-rounded image of her in the movie. Yet, Barack’s character was allowed to ooze charm. Interesting, as it’s Michelle who actually gives him his flavor (to me anyway 🙂 If you ever observed them on television, it was she who would get up and start grooving or singing or just having fun and he would follow along.

The movie wasn’t horrible, it opens the doors for other directors take on the loving relationship of the Obamas.  “Southside…” actually made me want to see a movie on Michelle’s life. The father she sweetly speaks about, her brother, the expectations placed upon her growing up…how she truly felt about it. The racism and sexism she had to endure during her college years.  The fact that she and Barack, actually planned to divorce at one time. I think it was due to her having to put her career on the back burner, so he could shine in politics.  I guess in the end, she made history. But most women never really forget their dreams.

It’s summer…

Man, I can’t believe it’s June already. It feels like we just started 2017. Yeah, I’ve been gone for a minute. But life happens (I think I said that in my last post :). I’ve been busy with a youngin, moved, and getting back into the swing of things in my city. Normally, I would be off to blogcation right now. But since I’ve been letting the blog lag a bit, I’ve decided to post throughout the summer. So, get ready.

Plus, with all the tomfoolery going on with the Trump administration, I doubt this will be a peaceful summer. Trump’s blatant support of all things racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., has brought out the evil in folks. I think the hot heat is going to rise hateful shenanigans.

The summer of 1919 has been dubbed the “Red Summer.” It was named this due to horrifying race riots that happened across the country. The killings of Black folks were at an all time high. The majority of these attacks were initiated by white folks. Brutal beatings, lynchings, and fires/property damaged that destroyed Black homes/communities.

With the alarming outpouring of white supremacists/terrorists (my city has seen a huge influx of them) it is not far-fetched we may live to see another “Red Summer.” Particularly, in the case of outright murders of Black folks by police.

Recently, a young black mother was killed in Seattle, WA when she called the police for HELP. If this isn’t a bad omen for the upcoming summer months, I don’t know what is. Rest in peace Charleena Lyles, and stay vigilant Black folks/folks of color.

To support Lyles children…https://www.gofundme.com/bdgbc8pg

New Year’s Giving #2

Sorry about that y’all. I’ve been a bit neglectful keeping the blog updated. Thank goodness the holidays are over. That was such a stressful time. HAPPY NEW YEAR!! (I hope you got your spoonful of black-eyed peas 🙂 Unfortunately, we are starting 2017 with the inauguration of a President who has made it clear he is anti-people of color/women (don’t be fooled by the celebrities of color who are kissing azz for their own benefit). I encompass both, so Trump will be no ally to me.

It’s more important than ever to support marginalize voices/communities, as these groups will not be able to look to the new administration to align with those who aren’t  white, male, and wealthy.

As someone who is a big lover of DIY (Do It Yourself) culture…I urge folks to financially/promote alternative forms of media/activism, as we will need these resources to keep ourselves safe and heard these next four years.

Here are a FEW to connect with:

Black Girl Dangerous: “Amplifying The Voices of Queer & Trans People of Color.”

Black Women’s Blue Print: “Black Women’s Blueprint envisions a world where women and girls of African descent are fully empowered and where gender, race and other disparities are erased.”

Feminist Wire: “The mission of The Feminist Wire is to provide socio-political and cultural critique of anti-feminist, racist, and imperialist politics pervasive in all forms and spaces of private and public lives of individuals globally.”

Brown Recluse Zine Distro:“Zine culture is not white culture. D.I.Y. culture is not white culture. Punk is not inherently white culture. So in the spirit of resistance, in the spirit of visibility and in the spirit of celebrating our cultures and intersectionality: Brown Recluse Zine Distro.”

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Holiday Giving #1

On Black Friday, instead of going shopping, I decided to make donations to groups whose work I support. It made me feel so good, that I’ve decided to continue giving in December in the honor of the holidays and all that jazz. It’s important, especially now, to help grassroots organizations as we prepare for battle next year when Trump takes office. It’s going to be a looong 2017.

This week I gave to SisterSong

“SisterSong is a Southern based, national membership organization; our purpose is to build an effective network of individuals and organizations to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the reproductive lives of marginalized communities.”

While mainstream/white feminism focuses on the issue of abortion, for women of color the struggle tends to be on the right to keep our children. From forced sterilization on reservations/lower-income communities of color to being able to indulge in alternative prenatal/post care (midwives, doulas, etc.)  Also, having equal access to birth control.

The organization asks for no more than $5 dollars in contributions. But more is always nice 🙂 Give if ya can!!

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Randomness: “Getting Ahead…”

Back in January, I signed up for the workshop “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World.” Next week, I will be “graduating” with fellow classmates. The graduation is really just an opportunity to celebrate the completion of the 16-week course.

The “Getting Ahead…” workshop looked at the underlining causes of poverty. Folks tend to tell those who are struggling to “get a job” or that “McDonald’s is always hiring,” but these comments don’t acknowledge the fact that many poor people are employed. They are called the working poor. These are people making low-wages and still need help from social service agencies or other community resources.

The class resonated with me on many levels. Despite being a person with a degree,  I have often found myself riding up and down the poverty line. It has become even more complicated after having my first baby, last year. Extra expenses I never had to worry about before haunt me on a daily basis (daycare costs).

The only thing I would change about the course is that I would have liked if we talked more institutional oppression. Racism, sexism, and other isms can affect who gets what jobs, access to educational opportunities, etc. For example, LGBTQI folks of color tend to have high rates of poverty due to blatant discrimination.

Overall, an insightful workshop.

GETTING BY
Recommended Reading

Black Women in the Military

A couple of days ago, I came across an interesting article in the newspaper.“Photo Controversy Highlights Black Women in Long Gray Line” looked at the uproar over 16 black women graduates of West Point, holding proud fists in the air. The article went on to discuss the overall presence of black women in the military, something very rarely talked about despite black women making up a large percentage of people of color serving our country.

The article gave insight into the homogenized world of the military and the fact that black women often must navigate double oppressions in a white male dominated space (racism and sexism).

As we approach Memorial Day, I thought the article showed the importance of giving homage to black women in the military. It has been noted that the first Memorial Day was started by former slaves. These women are a reminder that black folks have always held respect for soldiers, although we tend to be portrayed as anti-America. Besides Native/Indigenous folks, Black people are America. Majority of black folks like America, we just hate the white supremacy, racism, and anti-blackness that comes along with it. We tend to be oppressed in a country that demands our loyalty, but offers none in return.

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The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls

In the wake of the death of Prince and Beyoncé releasing a new album, The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls made the news with little fanfare. The Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls is important as its creating space for the unique challenges faced by black women and girls. The caucus kicked off with a symposium last week.

The symposium, titled “Barriers and Pathways to Success for Black Women and Girls,” will explore the current condition and opportunities to improve the state of African American women via testimony from academics, advocacy leaders, business executives, and media personalities. The convening will provide Members of Congress an opportunity to address organizations focused on Black women, other civic leaders and individuals who are committed to advancing the quality of life of Black women in America. Both events are open to the public.” https://watsoncoleman.house.gov/about/events/caucus-symposium-barriers-and-pathways-success-black-women-and-girls

The caucus plans to look at the issues of safety (domestic violence), opportunities for black women and girls (recognizing economic hardships), the criminal justice system (overpopulation of black women in prisons) health concerns (reproductive justice), and outreaching to black women voters (resisting voter suppression).  https://watsoncoleman.house.gov/congressional-caucus-black-women-and-girls

As our society pushes the idea of the “global citizen” the contributions of black women and girls will be greatly needed. Because America has been heavily invested in the oppression of black women and girls, it has hurt our society as a whole. We are missing out on the wonderful resources/skills/knowledge black women and girls can offer. The lived experiences of black women and girls can give us better insight into the effects of racism, sexism, and other isms as black women and girls are often on the margins of mainstream.

While folks toot the horn of America being number one, the truth is we are falling behind “third world” countries. High rates of illiteracy, poverty, and environmental injustices are destroying this country. Centering black women and girls voices may bring in different ideas and solutions to combating these problems.

Sexual Violence and Black Women/Girls #2

The WGN show “Underground” has thankfully not had too many cringe moments. The show follows seven runaway slaves (the Macon 7) hoping to get to freedom via Harriet Tubman’s famous underground railroad.

The show is interesting and seems committed to telling the harsh realities of black folks under slavery/white supremacy. I only have a couple of beefs with the show. The insistence on incorporating modern music into the story line. I don’t like being emotionally swayed by a heartwarming slave spiritual, only to have it rudely interrupted with a song about popping bottles. John Legend please stop looking to Django for musical inspiration.

My other issue with the show is the relationship between plantation owner Tom Macon (Reed Diamond) and house slave Ernestine (Amirah Vann).

I can’t remember which episode, either two or three, Ernestine is naked in the wine cellar calling to “master” Macon. He enters the room, strips down, and watches as Ernestine pours wine all over herself. They kiss passionately. In a later episode, Ernestine refuses to have “relations” with Macon in the house. He demands that she does, but apologizes like a kid after she gives him the evil eye.

I hate when shows/movies depict “relationships” between a slave owner and his slave lover as if they are equals. While it may seem Ernestine has some kind of power over Macon, in the end she is still his slave. When you are a slave, it is never consensual sex. You have no true say over your life, no matter how many “rewards”are heaped upon you.

10 Horrifying Facts about the Sexual Exploitation of Enslaved Black Women http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/11/05/10-horrifying-facts-about-the-sexual-exploitation-of-enslaved-black-women-you-may-not-know/

Ernestine touches on this one night as she drunkenly laments her situation. She actually envies the field slaves. “They are worked from sun up to sun down, but they are able to go home to loved ones/be with their own kind.” She says. “Here, I can never be. And after a while you start becoming like them (white folks).”

What is not talked enough in mainstream feminism’s fight against rape culture, is that the foundation of rape culture came out of slavery. Well, it started with the initial exploitation of Native/Indigenous women. But it was heightened with the legally sanctioned sexual abuse of black women.  Black women’s bodies were considered property to be done with as one wanted.

Slave women never had any say in the matter. It’s important to remember this.

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Photo from: nerdreactor.com