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ABWW Signal Boost: Tennessee’s Pregnancy Criminalization Law Will Hit Black Women the Hardest

I have been following Imani Gandy’s tireless work for reproductive rights for a few years. She is passionate, knowledgeable & incredibly funny as the co-host of the This Week in Blackness podcast. Read more of her work of her work  at  RH| Reality Check, The Grio.com, AlterNet,

In Tennessee, pregnant Black women have much to fear as a bill that would subject them to disproportionately higher rates of incarceration and detention sits on Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk, awaiting his signature. The bill, SB 1391, would impose criminal penalties on mothers of newborns who have been exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs in utero. While the bill appears race-neutral, prosecutors and judges will wield the law against Black women more so than white women, based on a long tradition of deeply embedded racial stereotypes about Black motherhood. Should Gov. Haslam ignore the growing outcry against SB 1391 from pro-choice and anti-choice advocates alike, the law would likely lead to Black women being thrown in jail for up to 15 years for aggravated assault should they choose to carry a pregnancy to term while struggling with an addiction to illegal narcotics

Read More at Tennessee’s Pregnancy Criminalization Law Will Hit Black Women the Hardest.

Tales of White Feminist Fainting Couch: An Opinionated History of the Racial Conflagrations in American Feminisms Part 1

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In past Black History Months, I have posted profiles of black women heroes, and figured my obligation to Carter G. Woodson was done. But the recent white feminist attacks on the growing online activism of Women of Color, has made me feisty. During this month I will demonstrate that recent white feminist claims that disruptive black women are destroying the delicate fabric of feminism with our recalcitrant demands and are also really, really hurting their feelings is a deeply, historically embedded trope in the history of white feminism.

This January has been a banner month for white feminist #FAIL. It began with Ani Di Franco’s painfully slow realization that as a feminist, having a retreat in a place where black women were systematically raped, tortured & worked to death for centuries probably wasn’t a good move. Di Franco accused black women critics & their allies of “high velocity bitterness.” After three apologies she was still whining “that it was an upside down world when your sisters cut you down and Fox News defends you.” Note to Ms. DiFranco: I am not your “sister.”

DiFranco’s caterwauling is really par for the course, but it was her defense of having her retreat at a plantation that really made me stabby. She declared that she:

know (s) that pain is stored in places where great social ills have occurred. i believe that people must go to those places with awareness and with compassionate energy and meditate on what has happened and absorb some of the reverberating pain with their attention and their awareness. i believe that compassionate energy is transformative and necessary for healing the wounds of history.

This statement is deeply problematic. The Nottingway Plantation is not a memorial to inhumanity of slavery, it is a resort hotel that white washes the brutality of slavery, so that whites can relive the romance of the antebellum South.  No one goes to this plantation with a desire to meditate on the pain of the men & women who were enslaved there and who the hell told this woman that my ancestors should be used for her pseudo enlightenment? Di Franco’s new age platitudes would have not changed a damn thing and she was deeply self-centered to think that strumming a guitar and composing a few ditties would do anything to diminish the vicissitudes of slavery.

To and insult to injury her white male defender Buddy Wakefield declared that we “venomously” insulted Ani in an effort “to eternally ‘shackle’ her to this oversight.” Shackle, yeah, I see what you did there. Not funny. He labeled our concerns as hateful approaches/vitriolic statements/narrow understanding even before Di Franco issued her first petulant apology.

In order to understand why this oft repeated of claim that white feminists suffer at the hands of bitter Women on Color, one must look at the deeply conflicted history of white women and black women in the United States. When black women were first imported to these shores they were chattel. When white women migrated to America, the nascent cult of white womanhood protected them from the rigors of the “new world.” White women were seen as delicate fonts of civility & domesticity that needed protection from the harsh world outside their doorsteps. Although white women had diminished legal and ownership rights, the one item they could possess was slaves. Enslaved black women were not only a source of income but also their reproductive capabilities offered the potential for even greater wealth. The myths concocted by the earliest European traders around the hypersexuality of African women became the rationalization utilized by western powers to create a system that depended on the rape, forced breeding and involuntary concubinage of black women.

White women also believed in the ‘hot constitution’d” African women, and voiced their concerns about the power of Negress to lead white men down the path of immorality.  While the narratives of enslaved women were replete with the stories of the sexual demands made by white men and the murder trial Celia, illustrated what happened to slaves who defended themselves against rape, the diaries of slave mistresses put the blame of their husband’s and sons blatant sexual exploitation squarely on the shoulders of black women.

Mary Boykin Chestnut, the wife of a wealthy South Carolina planter who kept a diary during the Civil War declared:

Under slavery, we live surrounded by prostitutes, yet an abandoned woman is sent out of any decent house. Who thinks any worse of a Negro or mulatto woman for being a thing we can’t name?…… Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all mulatto children in everybody’s household but her own. Those, she seems to think, drop from the clouds. My disgust sometimes is boiling over.

Harriet Jacobs detailed how her slave mistress ignored her pleas for protection from her husband.

Mrs. Flint possessed the key to her husband’s character before I was born. She might have used this knowledge to counsel and to screen the young and the innocent among her slaves; but for them she had no sympathy. They were the objects of her constant suspicion and malevolence.

Widowed plantation mistress Kesiah Goodwyn Hopkins Brevard wrote at the beginning of the Civil War that “I own many slaves & many of the females are of the lowest caste – making miserable their own fellow servants by meddling with the husbands of others. I am not excusing the males, but in the world they are not so degraded by such conduct as the females.”

After reading a sample of the denial & contempt slave mistresses had for enslaved black women, I find it especially ironic that a so-called activist who lives in what was once one of the nation’s major slave trading hubs can state that she is “..not unaware of the mechanism of white privilege or the fact that i need to listen more than talk when it comes to issues of race.” She is part of a long tradition of white women who cannot see beyond her own self-interest and narcissism, a practice I will continue to explore this Black History Month. My next piece will compare how a certain Upper East Side New York yogalini’s racism harkens back to the fact that the American suffrage movement kicked black women to the curb so the Southern white women didn’t get the vapors. Be on the lookout for my next tale from the white feminist fainting couch.

Jailed for Life for Stealing a $159 Jacket? 3,200 Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Crimes

 Too many  Americans accept the racist ideology that blacks are inherently criminal. Study after study proves the biases in the criminal justice system but the national will to change this grotesque practice is lacking. Unless a collective movement like the Civil Rights Movement is set in motion this will continue. Check out Prison Reform Movement, US Prison Culture, The Dream DefendersThe Black Youth Project & The Innocence Project to an lend a hand in ending this injustice.

Jailed for Life for Stealing a 9 Jacket? 3,200 Serving Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Crimes | Democracy Now!

A  new study by the American Civil Liberties Union has found that more than 3,200 people nationwide are serving life terms without parole for nonviolent offenses. Of those prisoners, 80 percent are behind bars for drug-related convictions. Sixty-five percent are African-American, 18 percent are white, and 16 percent are Latino — evidence of what the ACLU calls “extreme racial disparities.” The crimes that led to life sentences include stealing gas from a truck, shoplifting, possessing a crack pipe, facilitating a $10 sale of marijuana, and attempting to cash a stolen check. We speak with Jennifer Turner, human rights researcher and author of the new ACLU report, “A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses. Read more at Democracy Now!.

Daily Kos: Black People Do Not Have the Luxury of Being Strangers: Renisha McBride was Killed by the White Gaze

by chaunceydevega

In the post civil rights era, the colorline is beset by many paradoxes.

The United States finally elected its first black president. There is a multicultural elite class. In this same moment, African Americans are harassed and racially profiled by \”stop and frisk laws\” and the experience known as “shopping while black”.

Black people are subjected to extrajudicial murder and violence by gun mad vigilantes, operating under onerous stand your ground laws, who shoot and murder young black people for the “crime” of walking down the street, in a neighborhood “where they don’t belong”, not being duly submissive, and carrying a bag of Skittles and iced-tea.

Full citizenship involves the presumption that one belongs to a political community. By virtue of that fact, citizenship also means that a person is entitled to safety and security in their person without qualification, exception, or justification. Full citizenship is not contingent or precarious.

African-Americans are not allowed such protections by the White Gaze. They are viewed as guilty until proven innocent, a criminal Other who is a priori categorized as “suspicious” and “dangerous”. While formal racism and Jim and Jane Crow were shattered and defeated by the Black Freedom Struggle, this ugly cloud continues to hover over the United States, some 400 years after the first black slaves were brought to the country.

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Daily Kos: Black People Do Not Have the Luxury of Being Strangers: Renisha McBride was Killed by the White Gaze.

The British Slavery Bailout

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Since I have ancestry from Jamaica and Grenada, was born in England  and lived in Canada and America, I have a tendency to think of the black experience as global. The English are known for their obsessive record keeping and lately they have been using these resources to examine the scope of the empires involvement in the institution of chattel slavery. A database will be available this Wednesday that details how much British slave owners were paid to compensate them for their loss of property. Slaves did not get a farthing and were compelled into indentured slavery scheme that was one step up from slavery. The documents indicate that at least 1/5 one-fifth of wealthy Victorian Britons derived all or part of their fortunes from the slave economy.

Current descendants of slave compensation include Prime Minister, David Cameron, former minister Douglas Hogg, authors Graham Greene and George Orwell, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and the new chairman of the Arts Council, Peter Bazalgette. Other prominent names which feature in the records include scions of one of the nation’s oldest banking families, the Barings, and the second Earl of Harewood, Henry Lascelles, an ancestor of the Queen’s cousin. Some families used the money to invest in the railways and other aspects of the industrial revolution; others bought or maintained their country houses, and some used the money for philanthropy. George Orwell’s great-grandfather, Charles Blair, received £4,442, equal to £3m today, for the 218 slaves he owned.

I for one cannot wait to see, how much my ancestors were worth. My mother”s maiden name is Dawkins. Her father’s family was owned by the family that produced world famous atheist and pompous ass, Richard Dawkins. In it’s hayday the Dawkins’ owned over 1,000 slaves. Dawkins’ MP ancestor James Dawkins voted against Wilberforce’s proposal to abolish the slave trade, helping to defeat it by just four votes. George Hay Dawkins Pennant was another defiant slavery supporter. In 1831, two years before the act abolishing slave ownership in the Empire, he signed a circular which insisted: “the speedy annihilation of slavery would be attended with the devastation of the West India Colonies … with inevitable distress and misery to the black population.'” What an arrogant sod!

“Cousin” Richard claims he doesn’t benefit from slavery since he only has “400 acre country estate which barely makes a profit.” I can’t wait for more arrogant excuses from those who still benefit from the ill gotten gains of slavery and indentured servitude. You may ask why do I call this man “cousin.” The Consolidated Slave Act 1792 rewarded slave owners and overseers who increased their slave stock. The easiest way to do this was to was to supply your own seed. Rape and concubinage was rampant in the Caribbean, the diary of Thomas Thistlewood’s sexual escapades detail the sexual brutality that black female slaves lived under. How does one amass such a large amount of slave without doing your duty for King and Country? The database will be available at the  Legacies of British Slave-ownership website on 27 February 2013.

 

After Two Court Orders, Louisiana May Finally Get Its First Black Chief Justice

A federal district judge rejected this weekend a racially charged challenge to a Louisiana Supreme Court justice’s seniority that has threatened Justice Bernette Johnson’s path to becoming the court’s first black chief justice.

Johnson, who was appointed to the court as part of a settlement over civil rights violations under the Voting Rights Act, has been serving on the court longer than any other judge, and was prepared under the state’s seniority system to take on the court’s top spot when Chief Justice Catherine Kimball retires. An eighth seat was initially added to the court to address racial disparities. Even today, Johnson is the only black Supreme Court justice in a state in which nearly one third of residents are black. But because the state Constitution capped the number of justices at seven, Johnson was appointed to the appellate court, though she served as a member of the high court for her entire tenure.

via After Two Court Orders, Louisiana May Finally Get Its First Black Chief Justice | ThinkProgress.

Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race?

In other news water is wet……

Are minorities treated differently by the legal system? Systematic racial differences in case characteristics, many unobservable, make this a difficult question to answer directly. In this paper, we estimate whether judges differ from each other in how they sentence minorities, avoiding potential bias from unobservable case characteristics by exploiting the random assignment of cases to judges. We measure the between-judge variation in the difference in incarceration rates and sentence lengths between African-American and White defendants. We perform a Monte Carlo simulation in order to explicitly construct the appropriate counterfactual, where race does not influence judicial sentencing. In our data set, which includes felony cases from Cook County, Illinois, we find statistically significant between-judge variation in incarceration rates, although not in sentence lengths.

via Do Judges Vary in Their Treatment of Race? by David Abrams, Marianne Bertrand, Sendhil Mullainathan :: SSRN.

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