I think I have already established many times over how much race plays a part in the way people are treated. Race is a social construct that we have allowed to be a crucial part of our lives. It determines how you are going to be treated, what type of education you will receive, and so much more. What people don’t usually address is the intersection of that with another social construct: gender. Though scientists have recognized that there are more than just two genders, that is what we as a people have come to determine as socially acceptable. And even more so, we have given more respect and privilege to those who fit into the construct of being men. As a result, those who are women face struggles because not only do they lack those privileges granted to men, they are seen as less than, an inferior type. So, as a result, women are at the lower end of the sociology. What I aim to talk about today is the combination of these lower hierarchies, being black and being a women, specifically as it pertains to their well being and their sexuality.
We live in a society where police brutality has become our mainstream form of torture porn. We all hate to watch it, yet watching it is so addicting. We do this because we are have reached a level of desensitization, where we can sit and watch something that is going on in the world and detach it, mainly because we believe that it does not affect us on the most personal of levels. While that may be true in the personal sense, what many fail to believe and then accept is that although this does not affect you personally, it still has an impact on the way you live your life, and what type of interactions we have with others.
What happened with that young girl should have unanimously been met with outrage and disgust that an event like this could continue to happen in the 21st century. Instead, we have groups of people almost literally foaming at the mouth to explain why the girl should have listened.I know that people have said, “Perhaps she shouldn’t have disrupted class.” Let’s just go ahead and clear up the context for anyone who claimed to actually need it so that they could make a decision about whether this was justified or not: the girl was responsible for not giving up her cell phone. That’s hardly something that would merit being put into a chokehold, dragged out of a chair, across a classroom, and then practically squashed by a man who’s probably at least twice one’s weight. This is behavior that would get anyone of a different profession fired immediately, yet because he is a cop, we allow for a sick amount of room to consider both “sides” of the story. There is only one story. He shouldn’t have done it, and that girl, that child, is a victim of police brutality. Yet throughout this past week, I have seen not only white people defend the cop, but black people as well. And while there certainly has been a few women who have defended this officer (we see you, Ms. Raven-Symone Pearman), the overwhelming amount of defense has come from black men. “If it was my daughter I would have destroyed her.” This lack of care is not unique, and we continue to believe that these are isolated incidents, and that we aren’t spreading enough responsibility on both parties. But that isn’t the case when we come into certain professions, and law enforcement is a big profession that lies in the exception. Law enforcement is one of the professions where we give our tax money in order to pay their salaries. They work for the people, and by that train of logic, we are their bosses. What many people don’t realize is that, although they are trained and held to certain standards by their supervisors, we also reserve the right to critique these officers on how they do their jobs. After all the complaining that right-wing conservatives have about tax money and where it goes, we can at least understand that a lot of that money is going to the officers that we continue to see go to the police. But the problem doesn’t necessarily lie in that. It lies in the foundation of the police system, and in this specific case, the historical treatment of black women.
While those topics sound completely unrelated, they actually are rather tied in due to the amount of hate and violence that stems from the root of these issue: white supremacy. I have already gone a little into depth in my previous posts about the police, but I would like to readdress and elaborate on the history of the police system. The police system, and furthermore the prison system, are very deeply connected to slavery. The police system we see utilized in America today come from a system that was used earlier and throughout the duration of slavery: slave patrols. Slave patrols were designed to protect the property of the white men as well as protect the white masses from the “dangerous, hulking Black people” that were on the loose, no doubt out to kill the white people (sarcasm, btw). This was modified at the end of slavery, and these slave patrols turned into the early police system that has simply evolved into a more powerful form throughout the past century and decades following. This system was designed to make sure that white people were safe from those who were Othered, and especially Black people. What we see today are these instances that may seem isolated, but actually have a very long preceding history. Part of why we as an overall group have been reluctant to admit it is because we are now being fed the concept of colorblindness, which is actually a form of microinvalidation, which I will address at a later point.
Now let’s look at the black men who have been supporting the treatment of the black girl.I do not offer this interpretation as an assault on all black men (I shouldn’t have to preface this conversation with that statement, but often so many become defensive when I say Black men. My goal is not to hate on Black men, but to provide a better understanding for why some of them disregard the wellbeing of their women counterparts, and how that divides us in the movements for our rights and safety). Many have turned to the concept of being obedient, and reinforcing on the girl as a way in victim blame. While that could certainly be used and will continue to be, the fact of the matter is that she is a child and should not have to face that type of trauma. This pertains to black men because they, along with those who are higher up in the hierarchy, do not provide innocence to black women. Black women, from the time they are born, are already seen as dirty, and little women, completely forgoing their childhood. While the same could be said for young black boys, what is different is the fact that these girls are also judged for their gender, and even more so as we look from those who are cis-gender to those who are trans-gender. Black women have been sexualized and demonized as a group from the time of slavery. This was used as an excuse or explanation for their rape and sexual assault by white men in power. Black men have been conditioned, like all others, to come to believe that black women are responsible for these acts of violence and power, and that they have brought it onto themselves. While the incident in Spring Valley was not a sex act, it was an act of violence and power, and so Black men automatically go to the narrative that white supremacy has provided them with, which scapegoats the girls and women for the issue.
The general rule is to accept that there lies two sides to every story. Yet in mainstream television, the only story that is told is the response given by the officer and his police force. Of course they are going to come to his defense, because while their duty to the people is to serve and protect, they are going to serve and protect themselves above all, as a priority. We allow whiteness to rule the conversation, which gives us, “well, she should not have protested,” and “we don’t know the whole context of it, yet.” What we are given is a video, which is much more than we received twenty years ago. It was there then, and still prominent, so why would it not be now? We live in a time where we expect things to happen immediately, which is why some have dubbed this as the “Now” era. We rely on instant gratification, and don’t expect for things to take much longer than that moment. But these social constructs have been used for so long that we cannot expect the problems to go away now or anytime soon, especially since we haven’t even gotten rid of the problem yet. We want people to get over things, yet we can’t even properly have a conversation about why these things have been happening. What we don’t understand is that this country is young; meaning that something that has been happening since before 1865 is a recent issue in history. There is no way around that. And something that happened a little over a 100 years is going to have a major impact on us today. Why do you think we still provide recognition for the Holocaust and Pearl Harbor? As gruesome as these topics and points in history are, they still need to be learned about and discussed in full. And when we take into consideration that the social constructs that we address now were around at the time of these events, we need to also understand that those points of history left a mark on the constructs. No matter how you try to evade the situation, it’s still going to remain a part of it.
So next time you attempt to tell someone that this was a single event, think about the history that we are so eager to forget, and have some sympathy, because honestly, though police brutality disproportionately affects people of color, it has, and will continue to affect all of us, no matter your race or class.