NEW YORK CITY, December 7 — The New York City Police Department flexed its authority a few weeks ago on a 23-year-old black woman, Jazmine Headley. She had been standing in line for hours at a Social Service office, waiting to get a voucher for child care. Finally, Ms. Headley sat on the floor because no more chairs were available. It appears that sitting is not allowed. Things quickly escalated.
(continued from Co-Chairs’ Corner)
Police approached her and started trying to rip her baby from her arms! Headley was arrested and spent five days in jail. The baby was taken from her and placed with family. The officers? They were not charged with any crime at all.
There are so many conversations to be had around this incident. As an African woman, I see the criminalization of a Poor. Young. Black woman. It’s especially heartbreaking that she experienced such horrific treatment in a place that is supposed to help. She was halted from seeking assistance, and she was demonized. The plight of the black woman being criminalized and or brutalized in the United States is overwhelming. The intersections of abuse and violence by society and the police are plentiful. We know all too well about homicidal violence against black men by law enforcement. But the media gives little attention to the demise of black women versus black men. There is too little conversation and realization for black women.
Black women have historically been victims of all types of violence at the hands of law enforcement. One reason is that white neo-liberal feminists try to sanitize this convo by lumping everyone in the “women of color” category. This blurs the analysis. Especially as it relates to state-sponsored violence against the black population. So what I’d like to do is take a hard look at the maltreatment of black women.
To state it again, Ms. Headley was over-policed and humiliated in front of her child. This is nothing new for African Americans. Since slavery, children have been torn from their mothers — whether through being beaten by slave masters or by experimental abortions. Not to mention families torn apart at slave markets. Then as now, this behavior has been sanctioned. If we flip back through just this year alone we can find examples of black women being exterminated: Black women who are mentally ill. Black women with or without health insurance. Black fetuses put at risk. Black women who talk too loud. Black women who violate gender norms. Black women who violate small traffic laws. Black Women can be disposed of easily and there is little to no accountability. Oh, let’s not forget black women who defend themselves.
Take the case of Cyntoia Brown, which has gotten some recent review and coverage. Brown is a Nashville woman now serving a life sentence for killing a man who had solicited her for sex when she was 16. In 2004 the man took her to his home. She reports that she killed him in fear for her life. Ms. Brown has filed a lawsuit that argues her sentence is unconstitutional: mandatory life sentences without parole for the juvenile offenders violate the US constitution.
There is a public outcry. Activists and protesters are urging that Tennessee Governor Haslam grant her clemency and have her released. They are demanding the governor act now!
Note that this story is just now reaching the media and the ears of celebrities. But how many more black women have this same story? Countless. We must engage in dialogue that leads to action. That action must then lead to altering public policies on behalf of our most marginalized and endangered people: Black women.
This brings us to the issue of self-determination. It must lead to mobilizing towards liberation, to standing against police tactics that are destroying us. Destroying us Black Women.
With the National Black Political Agenda for Self-Determination, the entire black or African nation declares our commitment to facilitate the elevation of African women to full and equal partnership in our struggle to create a new world of freedom and socialist democracy— to create a united black community, to create a world shorn forever of bosses and workers and slaves and masters, a world where African women will share the power to guarantee that African women are adequately empowered as equal architects of our new world.
The Green Party can lead the way on this by creating space to allow these communities to offer studies and build effective paths toward freedom.
— Robin Harris
Co-Chair, Green Party of Florida
December 29, 2019