Category Archives: News + Politics

Armed Targets

xavier martin block

We all enjoy feeling safe.  That peace of mind allows us to feel in-control and free of worry.  When we’re pulled out of that tranquil state and forced to face a grim reality, we want to refortify our walls of safety and control: build them stronger, higher, thicker.  In terms of gun-related deaths in America, that means all citizens being able to protect themselves from unforeseen gun-toting attackers, right?  But what if in that protection, more targets are created for a surprising (or unsurprising) force?

On November 22nd, 2014, 12 year-old Tamir Rice met his untimely death at the hands of two police officers, who claimed young Tamir brandished a gun at them.  The gun in question was a toy that had never been waved, pointed, or directed at them, as shown by surveillance recording.  In the recording, the officers arrive at the scene of a 9-1-1 call, exit their vehicle, and immediately open fire on the 6th grader.

tamir and john

Just four months before, on August  5th 2014, police officers arrived at the scene of a 9-1-1 call (an Ohio Wal-Mart) and unjustly escorted proud father John Crawford III to his death.  Video surveillance shows John on a cellphone simply holding a BB gun when he’s met with a terrible fate.

These are just two instances in a long series of chilling events, all similar in context: Law enforcement needlessly killing black people due to perceived threats.  In 2014 alone, more than 100 unarmed black men and women were killed by police officers, and almost all were due to perceived threats.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t just stop at law enforcement.  From the Dylan Roofs to the George Zimmermans, anti-black vigilantism is an equally terrifying threat to the entirety of America’s black populace.  
Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 8.12.38 PM

As of 2014, around 19% of black households owns firearms, while black citizens are still twice as likely than white citizens to be at the barrel end of gun homicide.  In an America where more than 50% of its citizens owns firearms, the rate of gun homicide against black people will undoubtedly rise.  And, by our current precedent, media coverage of these encounters will most likely be anti-black smear campaigns, justifying the public execution of citizens exercising their lawful rights, and praising the “heroes cleaning the streets.”

There’s no winning move for Black America when it comes to lenient gun restrictions.  They don’t just give me the power to protect myself, they also give people who hate me the power to kill me and anyone like me.  In an America where more people have guns, if I don’t have one I’m certainly defenseless; and yet, a gun in my hand makes me more of a target than I ever was before.


References

Max Ehrenfreund and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/06/18/11-essential-facts-about-guns-and-mass-shootings-in-the-united-states/

BBC News “Why do US police keep killing unarmed black men?”
Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-32740523

Mapping Police Violence
Retrieved from http://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed/

Jaeah Lee

Retrieved from http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/police-shootings-michael-brown-ferguson-black-men

Rich Morin
Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/15/the-demographics-and-politics-of-gun-owning-households/
Photo Credit
Tamir Rice (left) and John Crawford III (right) courtesy of their respective families


xavierbio

Campaign Zero

dj bart plange blockblacklives1

Since the killing of Michael Brown Jr. a little over a year in Ferguson, Missouri, the #blacklivesmatter movement has made huge gains in visibility and has sparked nationwide protests against police brutality.  In light of the protests and unrest in Ferguson and all over the country, the Department of Justice investigated the Ferguson police department, finding egregious racist practices of the department toward black residents and revealing a pattern of systemic racial discrimination.  Since then many changes have taken place in leadership positions in Ferguson, an attempt to eliminate the racist practices and and foster a more sanguine relationship between the police force and the population.  A new police chief, city manager, and municipal judge have replaced the old– black leadership is on the rise.  Though there have been notable changes made in Ferguson to rectify decades of systematic oppression, the question of “How much has really changed?” still hangs in the balance.  Changes in leadership may show a better reflection of the city’s demographics, but identity politics do not necessarily lead to the extreme changes in policy that are imperative to ensuring equality.  After the recent shooting death of Mansur Ball-Bey– who reportedly pointed a gun at police officers while fleeing a residence– on the one-year anniversary of Kaijeme Powell’s killing, protests have surged again.  Police accounts of the shooting are currently being challenged by some eyewitnesses, who claimed that Ball-Bey was unarmed and was shot while running away. A recent autopsy showed that Ball-Bey died from a single gunshot wound to the back.

blacklives2

Despite such wide recognition and demands for systematic change by the #blacklivesmatter movement to curb the violence inflicted upon communities of color, the frequency of shootings by police have not been on the decrease in 2015.  So far, 746 people have been killed by the police in 2015. Of those killings, 41% of the victims were black or brown.  Some criticisms of the movement in the past year include unclear leadership and demands.  Many say, “what good are protests if there is no concrete plan that leads to change?”  Contrary to those beliefs, leaders of the movement have begun to emerge during this past year– leaders with a plan.

Campaign Zero is a recently launched website documenting the problem (police brutality and excessive shootings in the United States, especially in communities of color) and providing a myriad of detailed policy solutions to combat every aspect of the US criminal justice system that sanctions this violence against its citizens.  Based on extensive “research, data, and human rights principles,” Campaign Zero lists in detail each necessary policy change in ten categories that will achieve the goal.  Some of these policy changes include ending police department quotas for tickets and arrests, ending stop-and-frisk and broken-windows policing, and revising and strengthening the local police department’s use of force policies.  Closely following the upcoming 2016 presidential elections, Campaign Zero also charts each presidential candidate and whether or not they have addressed any aspect of the Campaign Zero’s policy solutions and/or provided their own, and stated whether they were harmful or helpful to the end goal of eliminating police brutality.
One year after Ferguson, Missouri sparked months of passionate protests and calls for dismantling the system, many things have changed, and many more still need to. Campaign Zero’s calls for action with the policy solutions to support it bring us one step closer to the equality we seek.


dianejobio

Respect, Identities, and Expressions — Oh My!

xavier martin block

When a baby is born, there’s usually a doctor present to assign it as a boy or a girl.  Often times, that assignment is made even before the baby’s birth using an ultrasound.  From that point on, the baby’s life is curated and tailored to the male/female dichotomy.  An infinite amount of potential reduced to gender roles and stereotypes.

Monty Python Baby Gif

We have really limited our thinking when it comes to gender and sex.  We’ve restricted ourselves to a binary and relied on it to give us a foundation for how we expect others to act: you’re either a he or a she; ergo, you only like this or that.  In relying on this binary — these limitations — we completely disregard an entire spectrum of genders and sexes, and subsequently disrespect and threaten anyone who doesn’t meet these expectations.  For gender-normative people this rigid binary makes sense as we are privileged, and these concepts go unexamined when we express ourselves, shop for clothes, or even enter a restroom.  But for gender-expansive people, this poses many social and personal problems, such as anxiety and risk of verbal and physical harassment.

Bathroom Img

The dangerous and hostile environments gender-expansive people live in are not a by-product of their status, it’s a product of gender-normative cultural behavior.  Fortunately, new behavior can be taught and culture can change. Here are a few ways to destroy the binary and embrace the spectrum, creating a welcoming, respectful, and most of all, safe environment.

Language

Pronouns are used in every single interaction.  Most people usually decide on which to use based on the looks of a person, however, assuming pronouns affect gender-expansive people in a very damaging way.  This is called misgendering.  It’s always a good idea to ask people what their preferred pronouns are if you don’t already know them.  It can be difficult to grasp at first, but it makes the encounter far more positive for both parties.

Another good idea is to adopt a gender neutral lexicon; instead of using the binary pronouns he/him and she/her, use the neutral and inclusive pronouns they/them when referring to strangers.  Gender neutral language even applies to objects like toys, clothing and drinks.  Refer to them as what they are — nerf gun, dress, martini on the rocks — instead of generalized gendered items such as “boy toys,” “girl clothes,”  “a woman’s drink.”

Introspection

Our mental process mostly goes unnoticed in day-to-day life.  Experiences, like social interaction, flow so naturally we almost never really question the related thoughts and emotions we’re having.  Unfortunately, because we’re not often critical of our thoughts, they are plagued with stereotypes and bias, and that has a strong effect on our behavior.  Be aware and conscious of your actions and thoughts.  Ask yourself: “Would I want to be asked this or that?” or “Is this a joke, or is this a stereotype reinforced by my comment?”

Restrooms

Always assume that a person knows which restroom they’re in.  It may seem silly, but, in this situation simply not saying anything could remove their concern for their safety and alleviate that stress.  We all go in to do the same things, but restrooms can be a dangerous place for gender-expansive people.  They could be subject to verbal and physical assault or even arrested for trying to go pee.

Segways in Dresden

Stand Up

We, as gender-normative people, don’t live with the daily risks of violence by simply being ourselves, but our gender-expansive friends and family do.  Stand up against gender-expansive harassment.  Correct people if they’ve misgendered someone else.  Say something if someone is being hassled in a restroom, or on the street, or wherever.  It’s important to show those who don’t care that you do care, because as more and more people ally themselves with those who are gender-expansive, the world becomes less and less dangerous.


References
Rikki Arundel

Arundel, R. (2015, Feb 25) “Why is Gender Identity so Important?”

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFBU7h7fqLc&spfreload=10

Yee Won Chong

Chong, Y. W. (2012, Dec 13) “Beyond the Gender Binary”

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Lm4vxZrAig&spfreload=10&spfreload=10

Ramsey, F. (2014, Nov 22) “5 Tips For Being An Ally”

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dg86g-QlM0&spfreload=10

Trans Awareness Project

Marciano, O. “What’s the difference between transgender and transexual?”

Retrieved from http://www.transawareness.org/what-is-the-difference-between-transgender-and-transsexual.html

“Understanding Gender”

Retrieved from https://www.genderspectrum.org/quick-links/understanding-gender/

Williams, C. “Insidious: Extreme Pressures Faced by Trans People” (2013, Jan 27)

Retrieved from http://www.transadvocate.com/extreme-pressures-faced-by-trans-people_n_8452.htm

Kat Blaque “Why Pronouns are important” (2015, Mar 28)

Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXWmv1-4xFg&spfreload=10

Photo Credit (Top to Bottom)

“Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life” – 1983 by Monty Python

Person and restrooms, n.d. digital medium, viewed on 17 Mar 2015
<http://www.advocate.com/sites/advocate.com/files/imagecache/stories/transquatx400.jpg&gt;
Man on segway, n.d. photography, viewed on 17 Mar 2015
<http://mediaserver.dwpub.com/press-release/32776/segway+new+sports+car.jpg&gt;


xavierbio

One Small Step, One Giant Leap, And We’re On Our Way

xavier martin block

We all know what blackface is; the theatrical practice that typically depicted white actors as “black” characters who were stupid, lazy, malevolent, and superstitious.  This was extremely prominent in mid 19th century minstrelsy in America and continued up till the 1930s, where it made its way into film.  In that time, coupled with slavery, the black codes and the Jim Crow laws, African-Americans found themselves surrounded by their harsh, lampooned representations.  After the early 1930s, blackface found its way into animation, which, by the 1940s, morphed into the darkie icon.

“Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat” (1941, March 28) Cartune
“Scrub Me Mama With a Boogie Beat” (1941, March 28) Cartune

The darkie icon was a gag used in various cartoons by many characters we recognize today such as Mickey Mouse, Tom & Jerry, and even Bugs Bunny.

“Mickey’s Mellerdrammer” (1933, March 18) Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse “The Truce Hurts” (1948, July 17) Tom and Jerry “Fresh Hare” (1942, August 27) Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies
“Mickey’s Mellerdrammer” (1933, March 18) Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse
“The Truce Hurts” (1948, July 17) Tom and Jerry
“Fresh Hare” (1942, August 27) Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies

At this point in history, almost all media and entertainment portraying African-Americans cast them in a negative light.  These lampooned depictions consistently reinforced negative stereotypes ensuring skewed social perceptions.  To me, this leaves no wonder as to how those attributes in blackface shaped modern day stereotypes.

Even today, African-American actors auditioning for roles are often being told to “be more urban,” or “try to be blacker.”  And many of those roles are stereotypical tropes like “The Sassy Black Friend/Sidekick,” “The Gangster/Mugger/Criminal,” “The Prisoner,” or “The Rapist.”  These stereotyped characters are pumped through television networks and into the minds of the audience, who then begin to believe these radical caricatures exist in real life (according to the cultivation theory at least, which states that people who watch high contents of television will begin to believe that the world they live in is similar to the world that is depicted on screen).

These portrayals hammer in the idea of African-Americans being dangerous, unintelligent, and even beast-like to all its viewers by demeaning a culture and an experience.  For individuals in the African-American community, this means a lot of self-hate, self-doubt, dissuasion, and a lack of confidence.  There are many who are trying to change this, but one Tumblr user, expect-the-greatest (real name T’von), did it somewhat by accident.

T’von was struck with proposing the idea of #BlackOutDay after feeling his Tumblr feed didn’t show enough black people.  “Of course I see a constant amount of Black celebrities but what about the regular people?  Where is their shine?”  T’von’s idea grabbed the attention of many, including Twitter user Nukirk who thought “…the idea was, like, just a fun thing […] But as I got into it, I sort of realised it also backs up the ideals I talk about: seeing more diversity in our media […] Because even though our culture is curated, they are not our narratives.  And this is our chance to use this media to take back the narrative and to diversify it.”

 Representation is important to us.  In media, representation validates and reaffirms our continued existence by depicting us accurately and decisively.  It helps us feel like we matter, and it gives us confidence in existing and progressing.  That confidence is just one characteristic of a person, but it could be the “can” or “can’t” of our decisions, the “be” or “don’t be” in our character; it could be the foundation to our entire being.  When an entire group isn’t allowed accurate representation in a society, the result is disheartening.  Current media relentlessly portrays African-Americans and our culture in a diminishing way that is damaging to everyone, but small steps that turn into big leaps like #BlackOutDay remind us and others that this exaggerated, stereotypical portrayal is not who we are, and we will not allow those pieces of media to represent us anymore.



References:
Ramsey, Franchesca. “The dumb questions actors of color get that white ones don’t deal with.” Upworthy, 2015
http://www.upworthy.com/the-dumb-questions-actors-of-color-get-that-white-ones-dont-put-up-with?c=tumblr_fr
Thompson, J., Carew, J. “From Blackface to Blaxploitation: Representations of African-Americans in Film.” Duke University Libraries

http://exhibits.library.duke.edu/exhibits/show/africanamericansinfilm/timeline

Punyanunt-Carter, Narissa M. (2008) “The Perceived Realism of African-Americans on Television.” The Howard Journal of Communications 19:241-257 https://library.uoregon.edu/sites/default/files/data/guides/english/howard_journal_communications.pdf

Barlow, Kimberly K. (2011, November 10) “How Media Portrays African-American Males.” University Times, p.8

http://www.utimes.pitt.edu/?p=18764

Demby, Gene (2013, October 09) “A Comedy Favorite: How The ‘Act Blacker’ Sketch Has Evolved.” NPR, Code Switch

http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/10/09/230546033/a-comedy-favorite-how-the-act-blacker-sketch-has-evolved

Isaacs, S. T., Horney, J. “Portrayals of African-Americans in Media: An Examination of Law and Order.” The Pennsylvania State University

http://forms.gradsch.psu.edu/diversity/mcnair/mcnair_jrnl2010/files/Isaacs.pdf

“T’von (expect-the-greatest), creator of BlackOutDay, speaks his piece.” (2015, March 2) Colorthefuture

http://colorthefuture.org/post/112564471328/tvon-expect-the-greatest-creator-of


xavierbio

DOJ Releases Ferguson PD Report

dj bart plange blockferguson1

It has been nine months since the killing of the unarmed and black Michael Brown, killed by a white police officer named Darren Wilson.  The shooting sparked protests all over the United States and throughout the world, under the mantra #blacklivesmatter.  Quite recently, the Department of Justice released the report from their investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.  What it revealed was shocking to many, mainly white Americans who are unaware to the rampant systemic racial discrimination that still affects black people.  To many African Americans however, having the Justice Department corroborate what black people have been fighting for over 400 years was not quite a surprise.

The Department of Justice found that the city’s policing practices were based on revenue rather than public safety needs, and that a disproportionate amount of this revenue comes from the direct targeting of African Americans in Ferguson.  Despite making up 67% of the Ferguson population, African Americans made up 93% of arrests during the past two years.  They accounted for 90% of citations and 85% of vehicle stops, though they were found to be in possession of contraband items 26% less often than white drivers.  African Americans were also much more often cited or arrested when stopped by the police, regardless of the reason.  These stops on African Americans also generated more citations in a single incident than any non-white driver stopped.  The report found that race was a clear factor and motivation for stops, arrests, use of force, and citations, discriminating against African Americans heavily.  This also included offenses that were almost entirely exclusive to African Americans- “95% of Manner of Walking in Roadway charges, and 94% of all Failure to Comply charges

racial slurs

 

Regarding the use of force, black residents were much more likely to have force used against them, making up a stunning 90% of cases used by the FPD officers.  Every single time a department canine was released and bit a citizen, the citizen in question was black.  In one instance, a canine was released on and consequently bit a 14 year-old boy, unarmed, who was waiting for his friends in an abandoned house.  Black residents of Ferguson reported being routinely harassed, disrespected, and almost literally being used as an ATM for the city.  The traffic fines aimed at African Americans became an endless cycle of fees for many.  One woman reported paying $550 on a fine, and over seven years later she still owes $541.  The fine was originally $151.  Racist emails were found being sent and received by Ferguson police officers.  One depicted Barack Obama as a chimpanzee, the others were just as heinous.  A long list of abhorrent acts of injustice targeted toward the African American community in Ferguson can be found here, in an article by the Huffington Post highlighting tweets of the report.

ferguson2

Though African American residents of Ferguson have often shared their experiences of discrimination and inequality in Ferguson, many white residents of Ferguson have been completely shocked by the protests in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting, denying that there is a problem of racism in the city.  In an August 22nd report by NBC news, some white residents of Ferguson shared their beliefs of the city’s dynamic.  Ferguson’s mayor, James Knowles, reported that “There is not a racial divide in the city of Ferguson.  That is the perspective of all residents in our city.”  Some were quoted corroborating the statement, that there was no racial divide in Ferguson, and another commented that she, and most of the other people she associated with, were color-blind.  Reading the many conflicting statements made by residents of Ferguson, one could observe that black and white residents live in two completely different worlds.  One is fair, just, and color-blind, and the other is the complete opposite.  Many white residents of Ferguson have been completely blind to the quite blatant discrimination of black people residing in the same city.  This problem is hardly unique to Ferguson, as the divide is seen in polls all over the country.  Though 56% of blacks in America believe there is significant discrimination against black people, only 16% of whites agree, and a majority believe that whites are just as likely if not more likely than blacks to be discriminated against.

 

Throughout these past nine months as the #blacklivesmatter movement has continued produce protests, staged by not only African Americans, but a widely diverse racial makeup of allies and fellow activists, many American citizens- mostly white- have also taken to pro-police protests to express their dissent with the movement.  In the wake of the DOJ report, it may be possible for more people to see more clearly the intensity of the discrimination African Americans face daily from the justice system.  Michael Brown’s killing was not an isolated incident, but one of many.  Amadou Diallo, Kaijeme Powell, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith, Shantel Davis, Oscar Grant, Aiyanna Jones, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Vonderrit Myers- the list is inexhaustible.  After a long history of being treated with contempt and abuse by the Ferguson police department, Brown’s death was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  It unleashed centuries worth of the pain of injustice that gives undying vigor to these protests demanding human rights.  The Ferguson police department’s actions are not unique either, activists all over the country have been speaking out on police brutality for decades.  The report is a step toward accountability, demanding an answer from a corrupt police department, but it is not news.  To so many black people living in the United States who continuously experience rampant racial discrimination in this country, the grass is green and the sky is blue- and like these things, the struggle stays the same.

mlk

 


dianejobio

The Oscars 2015: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

dj bart plange block

February 22nd, 2015 marked the 87th Oscars Awards ceremony.  This year’s Oscars Awards were met with much controversy due to its glaring lack of diversity and almost all-white nominee list, prompting the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.  Every single person nominated in the acting categories was white, and this did not go unnoticed by critics.  Though it did pick up two nominations for Best Original Song and and Best Picture, Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, was one of the most talked about snubs on the list of grievances, as DuVernay was not nominated for Best Director for the film.  She would have been the first African-American woman to be nominated in the category, and one of only five women ever nominated. David Oyelowo, who gave a stirring performance as Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. also was passed over for a nomination.  Amidst the unrest, the Oscars went on.

Unsurprisingly, more controversy came from it, but there were notable bright spots as well.

bingo card

John Legend and Common both took home an Oscar for the Best Original Song category, delivering poignant and heartfelt speeches about paralleling the struggles of the Civil Rights movement to the battle surrounding civil rights around the world today.  Legend went on to speak about discriminatory voting rights legislation and mass incarceration in the United States today, which disproportionately affects African-Americans.  Common and Legend’s performance of their winning song, “Glory,” was one of the most talked about musical performances of the night, receiving a standing ovation at its close.  Along with incredible musical performances, Lady Gaga’s 50th anniversary Sound of Music tribute was also praised as one of the best performances of her career.  Julie Andrews, the original Maria, thanked Gaga for her performance, saying it “really warmed her heart”.

One of the most side-eye inducing moments of the Oscars was Patricia Arquette’s speech after winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the film Boyhood.  On the stage, her speech about women’s rights for equal pay was cheered on by fans and celebrities alike, but her elaboration of the speech backstage in the press room was what turned many heads.

“It’s time for women.  Equal means equal.  The truth is the older women get, the less money they make.  The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households.  It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t.  One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America, and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women.  So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women.  It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for — to fight for us now!”

Arquette’s assertion that gay people and people of color owe white women their support, is in one word- ludicrous.  Her words completely erased queer women and women of color who have been instrumental in the construction of feminist theory and thought, separating them from the category of “woman” by demanding that they fight for white women.  White feminism has a long history of ignoring intersectionality and excluding any women of marginalized identities concerns from the conversation. Unfortunately, Arquette did not realize the incongruity of her demanding support from groups that are continuously kept out of the winner’s circle she stands in herself. Predictively, Twitter blew up when Arquette’s words circulated the web. A quote from a recent article of The Grio written by Blue Telusma summed up thoughts surrounding Arquette’s statements succinctly, “Who does she think nursed and looked after all of those white children during the slave era?  Did she somehow miss the last 400 years of race relations?  Does she not notice who the nannies are when she takes her kids to the park?  Society has made it all too clear that not all women are created equal.  So to ask the women who are below you on the food chain to once again lift you up is fifty shades of  ‘You got some nerve.’”

patricia arquette

Keeping up with the theme of head shaking moments of the Oscars, Sean Penn delivered a joke to Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu after handing him an Oscar for Best Picture, saying “Who gave this son-of-a-bitch a green card?”  The joke caught immediate ire from Twitter users and written articles alike.  Penn may have thought the joke benign due to his decade long friendship with Iñárritu, but many others saw it as “racist,” “out of line,” and “absolutely disgusting.”  Seeing what was likely one of the most memorable accomplishments of Iñárritu’s life reduced to an incredibly insensitive joke, trivializing the harsh realities many face while fighting for immigration justice was disheartening.

oscars so white

Though opinions surrounding this year’s Oscars awards certainly differ, there is one thing most parties can agree on.  The real winner of the night was Lupita Nyong’o in her pearl-lined Calvin Klein dress. She slayed the red carpet, along with our hearts.

lupita dress

yaaaaasssss


dianejobio

Marissa Alexander Freed From Jail

dj bart plange blockmarissa1

In May of 2012, Marissa Alexander, a mother of three, received a twenty year prison sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after firing a warning shot above the head of her abusive husband, who had previously attacked, strangled, and threatened to kill her.  In just twelve minutes of deliberation, a jury convicted Alexander and sentenced her to twenty years in prison, though Alexander had no previous criminal arrests or record.  The case picked up attention due to its comparisons to the George Zimmerman case, where Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.  Zimmerman was able to walk free for Martin’s murder using Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but Alexander, whose case was prosecuted by the same prosecutor, Angela Cory, injured no one and received the maximum sentence possible.  Both cases brought to the forefront conversations of racial discrimination and the inequality African-Americans often face under the law.  Though Alexander was attempting to escape safely from an abusive husband, who admitted in transcripts to beating not only Alexander, but previous girlfriends as well, she was not afforded the same amount of believability or leeway that Zimmerman was.  Alexander’s statement read that she ran to the garage, attempting to flee in her truck, but returned to the house when she realized her keys were inside, bringing the gun with her for protection.  Arguments against her claims of self-defense concluded that Alexander’s actions were inconsistent with a person truly fearing for her life, due to her decision to go back into her kitchen with the gun where her abuser was.

The criminality assumed in black and brown bodies have been documented and followed for years, as communities of color demand reform in the criminal justice system.  The Urban Institute recently conducted a study of stand-your-ground cases, finding that white women are twice as likely at 13.5% than black women (5.7%) to be found justified for use of lethal force against a black man.  The number drops to 2.6% for white women when the victim is a white man.  The question remains still, if Marissa Alexander was white, would she have been sentenced at all?

marissa2

After Alexander received a new trial in 2013, Angela Cory vowed to re-prosecute her, claiming that Alexander meant to harm her abuser and his children as well, asking for three consecutive 20-year sentences, totalling 60 years.  Several groups called for the removal of Cory over the case and/or the release of Alexander, such as the National Organization for Women and Color of Change, due to endangering of domestic abuse survivors and contributing to the institutional racism that imprisons African-Americans more harshly than any other group.

Now, in 2015, Marissa Alexander finally is out of prison, but she is not quite free.  Sentenced to spend two years on house arrest, Alexander must pay $105 a week for her own monitoring after already unjustly spending three years behind bars.  Women are more likely to be killed by their intimate partners and suffer higher rates of domestic abuse, and when a battered woman, such as Marissa Alexander, makes a move to defend herself against an abuser, we can see here what the consequences for such a defense can become.  Alexander is by no means truly free, and if she had not protected herself with the warning shot in 2010, she could have been another statistic of domestic violence against women.  Now, as a convicted felon, she has no right to vote, and future career options are incredibly limited.  The outcome of her case sends a message to domestic abuse survivors everywhere, particularly black women- who are more likely to experience domestic abuse or become assault and murder victims — that their lives do not matter under the law.


dianejobio

Feminism is Not a Dirty Word

brit twenter block

When you hear the word “feminist”, do images of bitchy, Amazonian-type women with tons of body hair and a vendetta against men pop into your brain?  Are you afraid to refer to yourself as a “feminist” even though you are in fact a woman (or a man that believes in equality)?  If so, you’re not alone.  However, you do have a pretty skewed idea of what a feminist actually is.  This is not meant in an accusatory way; it’s a popular opinion that the word “feminist” should actually be banned.  Why are people so afraid of this word?

not a feminist

The dictionary definition of feminism is this: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

Equality.  To be equal to.  Not to be above, not to be below, but equal.

lucille what

Your average feminist wants women to be paid the same as their male counterparts in the workplace.  The average feminist wants the same opportunities afforded to women that are given freely to men.  The average feminist wants girls and boys alike to be taught “rape is wrong; do not rape” as opposed to “ladies: here are ways to avoid the inevitable rape in your future.”

crazy

 The problem with how society today views feminists stems from extremists as well as ignorance.  There are extremists in every place where there is an opinion.  Christians, Muslims, pro-life advocates, pro-choice supporters, and members of literally every political party have at some point in their histories been looked down on by society as being “too this” or “too that”, “too violent”, “too radical”, asking for “too much.”

There are those who insist that women are better than men.  There are those who insist that men are unneeded. These women do not want equality, thus they are not feminists.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are women who ask for “equal” treatment, yet expect special privileges.  These women unfortunately just flip the double-standard around, insisting that they want equal pay, yet the man should still pick up the check on a date every time.  Or that they don’t need to hold the door open for men, but it’s rude when her chair isn’t pulled out for her.

jack no

It’s a fact that where there is an opinion, there will be differences.  It is also a fact that women are different from men, just as there is a difference between races, a difference between religions, and a difference between any group of people you could possibly compare.  Although there is a distinction between men and women (and that distinction should be acknowledged), that does not mean one gender should be allowed less freedom in the way of economics, politics, or society in general.

glass ceiling1

glass ceiling2

Once again, feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

Now that we have established what a feminist really is, I’m sure we can all take a step back and realize that it’s okay to call yourself a feminist without covering it up with “but not like those feminists.”  Rest-assured friends, being a feminist doesn’t mean what you thought it meant.

snl


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