The culture of rape, pharmacy violence and misogyny has a distinct and longstanding legacy worldwide. Historically, black and brown bodies have been disproportionally targets of said violence for centuries being bought and sold, traded and commodified as property, sexually assaulted, beaten and bred as chattel here in the United States. Violence against Black women and girls has been on the rise and continues to be ignored, under-reported, normalized and/or rationalized in contemporary critical discourse.
Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina drew national attention when the videotaped assault of a young Black girl victimized by a police officer in her high school classroom went viral. The horrific treatment of this Black teenage girl by a white male police officer in the presence of not one, but two adult Black males within feet of the assault was absolutely appalling. The fact that the first response by many on social media was to question what must this girl have done to warrant this “type of treatment” or “she must have done something” to illicit that type of response, and so on, is testament to just how insidious the denigration and utter dehumanization of the Black female body has become. The knee-jerk response always seems to immediately gravitate to “blame the victim” and justify the violence with a type of respectability politics response. In other words, if “she” had behaved differently then this or that would not have happened to “her.” Hence, the assault and victimization was her fault. In effect, she made him do it! Sound familiar? It should.
Black women and girls suffer disproportionately higher levels of sexual violence and assault than white women and girls. They make up 13% of the U.S. population, yet are 35% to 40% more likely than white women and girls to be victims of violence. In that classroom in South Carolina last week, we all watched a violent assault on a teenager who statistically falls into the category above. Had a white teenage girl in that classroom exhibited the same type of non-compliant behavior, evidence shows that she would NOT have been so brutally victimized. The fact that 2 adult Black males, along with a classroom full of black and brown children, were paralyzed into inaction (with the exception of a lone Black girl who called the assault what it was – WRONG); all in that room, stood by in silent compliance. That singular resounding fact speaks volumes about the undeniable state of jeopardy in which Black women and girls live daily and the lack of safe spaces, systems or individuals that exist to protect our physical bodies and our humanity.
The ugly truth is that black and brown women and girls are just as likely, if not more so, to be assaulted and victimized by black and brown men and boys than by white ones. Those 2 Black men, as teacher and school administrator, stood by like slaves on the plantation and watched as that young girl’s black body was choked and violently pried from her chair, then flung across the classroom with no more regard for her humanity than the enslaved African bodies of generations ago. To the young Black boys and girls who were traumatized by this assault, those 2 Black adult males validated and signified by their silent compliance and stunned inaction that the officer’s behavior was not only the correct response, but a legal and necessary one. What kind of example is that? What kind of psychological damage did they just sear into the minds and psyche of these Black children? What Mr. House Teacher and Mr. Over-Administrator did to our young people in that moment did as much damage, collectively, as the horrendous violence captured by cellphone cameras throughout the classroom space. Shameful. They should be ashamed and, yet, they are not. All we hear is disrespect, denigration and assault on the Black female body through Blame, Compliance and Absolute SILENCE.
Up Next Week: National Native American Heritage Month