chapter  5
14 Pages

Africana Perspectives in Criminal Justice: Are Black Women the New Mules of the Prison Industrial Complex?

WithNishaun T. Battle

Roughly a year later, the country and the world would learn of the GHDWKVRI0LFKDHO%URZQLQ)HUJXVRQ02(ULF*DUQHULQ1HZ<RUN and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, who died senselessly at the hands of law enforcement. It appeared that communities across the country had reached

a tipping point, and nationwide protests ensued to demand that law HQIRUFHPHQWRI¿FLDOVEHKHOGDFFRXQWDEOHIRUWKHVHGHDWKV$OPRVWHYHU\ week, there was a new story in the media about a young, Black male who died at the hands of law enforcement. The national protest, which came WRJHWKHUDURXQGWKHSKUDVH³%ODFN/LYHV0DWWHU´FRQVLVWHGRILQGLYLGuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. However, while there were news reports of Black women as victims of police violence, these reports were primarily from social media blogs, and there was no formal or informal social movement centered on the pervasive punishment of Black women by the hands of law enforcement. :KLOHLQGLYLGXDOVDFURVVWKHFRXQWU\ZDWFKHGDV=LPPHUPDQZDVVHW

free for killing an unarmed young, Black male, Marissa Alexander was sitting in a prison, separated from her children, for acting in self-defense against a husband she asserted was abusive. Why was there no public outcry for Alexander? Marissa Alexander did not have a national movement with t-shirts demanding justice. While her case garnered more attention than that of any other Black woman at the center of a court case for self-defense over the past few years, she did not receive the same level of social support from communities across the country that young, Black males have. In situations like this, society’s nonvalidation of Black women, combined with the treatment Black women have received from the criminal justice system, has resulted in the mistrust of the criminal MXVWLFH V\VWHPDV DZKROH VSHFL¿FDOO\ WKH QRWLRQRI HTXDO SURWHFWLRQ under the law. This kind of treatment suggests that Black women are not worthy of social or legal protection, and it sends a societal message that it is normal for Black women to be punished and physically harmed by law enforcement.