The Legal System Has Failed Black Girls, Women, and Non-Binary Survivors of Violence

Following the airing of Lifetime’s six-part docuseries, “Surviving R. Kelly,” — which describes decades of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse he allegedly perpetrated against Black girls and women — many of Kelly’s fans and supporters continue to rally around the singer-songwriter and even place blame on his accusers for being “fast.”

This is not surprising. Studies have shown that Black girls, women, and non-binary people are hyper-vulnerable to abuse. About 22 percent of Black women in the United States have experienced rape. Forty percent will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. And Black women are killed at a higher rate than any other group of women. A 2015 survey of Black trans and non-binary individuals found that 53 percent have experienced sexual violence, and 56 percent have experienced domestic violence. At least 16 Black trans people were reportedly murdered in 2018 alone.

Read more at the ACLU

4 Black Middle School Girls Allegedly Strip-Searched At New York State School

A community in New York state is loudly protesting after four Black girls, under suspicion of having drugs, were allegedly questioned and strip-searched by the school nurse and assistant principal at East Middle School in Binghamton.

According to the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin, almost 200 community members packed into a school board meeting, demanding why the board had taken no action in response to the alleged searches that apparently occurred after the girls, who are Black, appeared “hyper and giddy during their lunch hour.”

“The children were instructed to remove their clothing, and felt shamed, humiliated and traumatized by the experience,” said Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow, a local organization in the area.

The school said that they investigated the incident, citing the current law and policy which allows students to be searched in a school building by an administrator “when the administrator reasonably suspects that a student’s health is in danger or is in possession of a substance that may harm themselves or others.”

Read more at Essence. 

Parents Must Shut Down the School-to-Prison Pipeline

When Zakiya Sankara-Jabar’s son was repeatedly suspended from his Pre-K program, she was shocked at first. The preschool kept calling her to say her son was in trouble for biting other students or having trouble transitioning from one activity to another. In Zakiya’s view, “They made normal three-year-old behavior sound very pathologized and abnormal.” Eventually, she had to withdraw her son from the school but he was subsequently suspended and expelled at other preschools.

Zakiya had to drop out of college to care for her son but before she did, she used the college’s library services to search for articles on the experiences of black boys in public education. She quickly learned that her family’s experiences were not unusual. “I suddenly realized that I wasn’t a bad parent and my son wasn’t abnormal. This was something larger, more societal, that was happening to African American parents.”

It turns out that the school-to-prison pipeline starts in Pre-K, especially for black boys. Suspensions are the beginning of the school-to-prison pipeline, which refers to harsh and racially inequitable school discipline policies that push students out of school, onto the street, and eventually into the criminal justice system. Boys of color and those with special needs are especially impacted but girls of color also face discriminatory discipline.

Read more at The American Prospect 

On The Criminal Justice System And Its Biases Against Black Women And Girls

Black girls and women are more likely than any other group of people in America to become victims of sexual violence, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Another crushing reality is the vast majority of sexual assault victims don’t see their offenders brought to justice in a court of law. It’s even harder for Black girls and women to get the justice they deserve. There’s a crucial reason for this: Black girls and women are not believed in court.

During my legal career, I’ve served as a public defender and private defense lawyer. I’ve represented clients in criminal matters including murders, rapes, high volume drug cases, sex crimes, and federal offenses. What I’m going to lay out here may be disheartening, but one of the most important aspects in any trial is believability. The judge or jury’s ability to believe one side versus the other is often the determining factor between a guilty or not guilty verdict. In the law, we use the term believability interchangeably with the term credibility. As for Black women and girls, believability and credibility are not assigned to us the way it is for others. This may sound anecdotal, but research proves it.

Read more at Essence. 

Watch The OverExplainer Break Down What It Actually Means To “Protect Black Girls”

Protect Black Girls has been a rallying cry recently and yes it’s a beautiful thing to see society rally around a group who is typically thought of in negative stereotypes or not at all. There’s even a petition for the internet to pledge protection for Black girls. But what does that actually mean?

Learn more at Essence. 

On R. Kelly and how we fail black girls

Earlier this month, two million viewers tuned in for the premiere of Lifetime’s six-part documentary series, “Surviving R. Kelly”. The docuseries chronicled the R&B musician’s reported legacy of alleged abuse, predatory behavior and child pornography charges throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. Episodes prominently featured the testimony of R. Kelly’s victims, as well as clinical specialists and activists like #MeToo founder Tarana Burke. Among this wide swath of voices, a common observation was situated at the center of nearly every interview. Survivors and commentators alike remarked that Black women and girls aren’t seen as victims in situations of sexual violence as a result of societal misogynoir. This documentary reveals a disturbing pattern of racist institutional failings endemic to the American criminal-legal system—failures only further complicated by the state violence that Black citizens routinely face from the same law enforcement officials that claim to protect the public from abusers like R. Kelly.

Read more at the Duke Chronicle 

The Case of the Missing Girl

Three months ago, a couple from rural Wisconsin, James and Denise Closs, were found shot dead in their home. That same night, their 13-year-old daughter, Jayme Closs, disappeared.

Jayme, thankfully, was found alive on Thursday night. Her reappearance was one of the biggest news stories of the week, trending on Twitter, and even outperforming some of our coverage of the government shutdown.

That outsize attention became a racial flash point on social media.

Read more at the New York Times’ Race/Related newsletter

Who cares about little black girls?

“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

So said Malcolm X in 1962. And in the decades since, those words have continued to resonate: a rallying cry for black women who felt sidelined in the fight for civil rights, ignored during the feminist awakening and discounted even as their protests against police violence have earned that movement new attention.

But it’s a new year. And three episodes in the first week of 2019 have given black women ample reason to consider whether anything has changed.

Read more at the Houston Chronicle

Two Native women in Congress isn’t enough to end the systemic violence Native girls face

A shifting power balance on the Capitol — including the first two Native women elected to the House — might change the political landscape for disenfranchised indigenous communities. For now, though, Washington remains gridlocked and native communities persevere as sites of resistance, struggling on their own for another generation’s survival.

For a Native American girl growing up in Trump’s America today, there seem to be more paths to an early death than to a positive future. While the White House crusades to restore the nation to its supposed past greatness, the lost lives in Indian Country speak to how our history is still lived differently by the land’s first inhabitants.

A new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a federal advisory body on discrimination issues, traces the depth of inequality and deprivation faced by native communities. Indigenous women and girls are often exposed to poverty and violence more than any other group of women and girls in America, burdened by historical discrimination and structural segregation of their communities.

Read more at NBC

Nebraska Native American girl: I am expected to stay quiet

If I asked you to tell me about yourself, about who you are, what would you tell me? Would you tell me the color of your hair, your favorite song, your hobbies, who raised you, what town you grew up in, the schools you went to, your profession? Or would you tell me about the god you pray to, the language your grandparents spoke, the holidays you celebrate, your country of origin, the color of your skin? Would you tell me who you truly are? Let me tell you who I truly am.

Wiragųšge Šibre Wįga hįgaire ną. They call me Shooting Star. That is my Winnebago Ho-Chunk Indian name. My English name is Daunnette Moniz-Reyome. I am 15 years old, I live on the Umonhon Indian Reservation, and I am enrolled in the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. I come from the Bear Clan, the Peacemakers of the tribe. I have grown up everywhere — except my tribe’s reservation. I know what society expects of me, but I refuse to limit myself to those expectations.

I am expected to stay quiet and listen. (“Don’t say anything; the adults are speaking.”)

Read more at Norfolk Daily News