[Image: An ad showing a New York City skyline at sunrise with the Statue of Liberty most prominent. The text says: “Welcome to America, home of 5% of the world’s people & 25% of the world’s prisoners. Let’s build a better America together. NAACP.org/smartandsafe]
NAACP: The City of Philadelphia refused to allow us to publicize this ad in the Philly airport about over-incarceration in America. Share this to “run the ad” and take a stand for the First Amendment:
The private prison industry has raked in tremendous profits. Last year the two largest private prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group — made over $2.9 billion in revenue.
White women drug abusers are far more likely to receive counseling, treatment and other rehabilitative care than are black women. Consequently, racist drug enforcement and sentencing policies, coupled with mainstream assumptions of bad black motherhood, make fetal homicide policies far more insidious for black women. Currently black women constitute over 30% of the U.S. prison population. They are primarily incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses and a significant majority of them are mothers. As the proportion of incarcerated black women swells the right wing assault on child social welfare services will cause both the ranks of black children in the foster care system and amongst the homeless to grow. Dispossessing black women of their humanity, the new cult of true womanhood trains a bullseye squarely on communities of color. — Sikivu Hutchinson (rest of the article here)
"Am I Troy Davis? A Slut?; or, What’s Troubling Me about the Absence of Reflexivity in Movements that Proclaim Solidarity
Sister/Comrade Stephanie Gilmore, who spoke at SlutWalk Philadelphia, is, to the best of my knowledge, one of the ONLY anti-racist White Feminists who has PUBLICLY SUPPORTED the IDEA/PREMISE of SlutWalk while PUBLICLY CHALLENGING its CURRENT RACIST REALITY.
With her FULL PERMISSION, I have re-posted the text of her essay so that people who are not on facebook will be able to read it in its entirety.
“Am I Troy Davis? A Slut?; or, What’s Troubling Me about the Absence of Reflexivity in Movements that Proclaim Solidarity” by Stephanie Gilmore
On September 21, 2011, I joined hundreds of my friends and millions of people around the world to watch, through tears and in abject horror, as Troy Anthony Davis was executed by the State of Georgia. In the twenty years between Davis’ trial for the murder of police officer Mark McPhail and his execution, Davis maintained his innocence while witnesses recanted the testimony that sent Davis to death row. Despite conflicting testimonies and inadequate evidence, the state put aside lingering and longstanding doubt and instead, put Troy Anthony Davis to death.
On Facebook, Twitter, and other media outlets, I saw virtual and real friends declare that “I am Troy Davis.” They changed their profile pictures to a picture or image of Davis, or a black box, all in an attempt to articulate a sense of solidarity, a stand against the injustice of the prison industrial complex and a state thoroughly entrenched in the murder of a man who may not have committed the crime of murder. I agree wholeheartedly that the state was wrong in executing Mr. Davis and I grieve for his death as well as that of Officer McPhail. But in the weeks since Davis’s execution, I have been wondering if people really understand how and why Davis came to be murdered at the hands of the state. People insist that “I am Troy Davis,” but what does that mean?
In many ways, I am not Troy Davis. I am a middle-class, 40-something-year-old white woman. According to a 2008 Pew Center on the States report, one in 36 Hispanic adults is in prison in the United States. One in 15 Black adults is too, a statistic that includes one in 100 Black women and one in nine Black men, age 20-34. Although one of my parents spent time in prison, and through incarceration joined the swelling ranks of 2.3 million imprisoned people and many more in the system of probation, halfway houses, and parole, I and my white peers do not face systemic racial injustice in the structures of imprisonment. And it does not begin or end with the prison system. Black children are suspended and expelled from school at 3 times the rate of white children. Racial discrimination in funding for education also affects children’s success in school, as cash-poor school districts are also overwhelmingly Black and Latino neighborhoods. Schools have been and remain a pipeline to prison for many Black and Latino children, and generations of families, prison is a reality. One in 15 Black children currently has a parent in jail. People say that the system is broken, but I (along with others in the prison abolition movement) admit that the system is working exactly as it was set up to do. Can I really say, “I am Troy Davis” without giving serious consideration to the realities of racism in the prison industrial complex? Does that just become little more than the adoption of a slogan and a picture, without a real awareness of the racist realities of the prison industrial complex?
On August 6, 2011, I joined Slut Walk Philadelphia. It was a beautiful day and hundreds of people moved through Center City to end up at City Hall, where even more gathered to speak out against sexual violence. I had been following Slut Walks with great delight because I see the people power in the sheer numbers of women and men who are fighting back against sexual violence. So when I was asked to participate, and to stand with queer people of Color in a more racially inclusive Slut Walk than I had seen to date, I said “yes” because the fight to end sexual violence is my fight. And fighting against a culture that perpetuates and promotes rape; cheers on rapists; and diminishes, humiliates, and silences victims through law, education, and entertainment will demands knowledge that the system, again, is not broken. It is doing the very work it was constructed to do – sexual violence is a tool of ensuring white status quo. And if we are to end sexual violence, we must acknowledge how it operates.
I have struggled to accept a movement that does not acknowledge the very problematic word “slut” and how historically many women have not been able to shake the label of “slut.” I participated in the struggle – the movement as well as my own internal struggle – because I wanted to engage in, create, and sustain dialogue. Indeed, many criticize the apparent move to claim “slut” – how can you pick up something you’ve never been able to put down? Black women have been most vocal about the longer legacy of sexual violence done onto their bodies – often against the backdrop of slavery and colonialism — simply for being Black. But I continued to push into these bigger conversations and analyses. I listened and engaged when Crunk Feminist Collective challenged Slut Walks, when BlackWomen’s Blueprint issued their “Open Letter from Black Women to Slut Walk Organizers,” and when individual women of Color (and only women of Color) spoke publicly about racist actions within individual marches as well as racism within the larger movement. White women I know made private comments about different expressions of racism, but never spoke up to challenge individual actions or larger frameworks of analysis, leaving me to wonder “why?”
And then I saw the sign from Slut Walk NYC bearing the words “Women are the N*gger of the World.” I don’t care that the quotation is from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I don’t care that the woman was asked to take down the sign – although I certainly do care that a woman of Color had to ask her to do so while white women moved around her, seemingly oblivious. I am angry when I continue to see so many white women defending it expressly or remaining complicit in silence, suggesting that “we” (what “we”?) need to focus on sexual violence first, as if it is unrelated to racism. And I wonder, can I really claim to be a part of the nascent Slut Walk movement without giving serious consideration to the realities of racism within very publicly identified facets of it? Can I be a part of it when so many women – my very allies and sisters in antiracist struggle – are set apart from it, or worse, set in perpetual opposition to it?
My question is, how can we be in solidarity when we are not willing to be reflexive and to check ourselves, check each other, and be checked? Bernice Johnson Reagon acknowledged that coalition building is hard work, made even harder by people who come to coalition seeking to find a home. My sense, or perhaps one sense I have, is that many people came to the “I Am Troy Davis” momentum or the Slut Walk marches looking for a home, a place where they can sit back and feel comfortable in their hard (very hard!) work, and comforted by others who pat them on the head and tell them “good job.” This is not to dismiss genuine concern for the state of our world. Perhaps we’re all lonely, as the realities of social justice work have taken on different and palatable forms since WTO and 9/11. So many people are down for the immediate issue – the indefensible execution of Troy Davis, the indefensible perpetuation of sexual violence — and that matters. But I worry that many white people aren’t paying attention to the larger structures in place. They are not being reflexive about the realities of racism that undergird prison incarceration, death penalty, and sexual violence.
I am not Troy Davis; I never will be. A system built on the foundation of racism ensures that I will not confront the realities of prison incarceration in the same ways as Black and Latino people. I am a strong advocate against sexual violence, but I cannot fight in and for a movement that is not interested in the realities of racism and the ways that racism undergirds sexual violence, and instead so blindly employs racist language. (The “Occupy Wall Street” actions call for me again the realities of racism and its necessity within the existing structure of capitalism – and the insistence among white people that people of Color indulge a luxury of time and money to sit in with them is untenable and racist. Many others have pointed out that the language of “occupation” is inherently problematic because bodies and lands have been historically occupied, often through sexual violence and criminalization. The movement itself needs to be decolonized.) Even as I support openly the prison abolition movement, the end to sexual violence, and the uprooting of a socioeconomic system that ignores the 99%, I cannot do so without deep awareness of racism that is operating within and among these movements. It is my work as a white activist to speak to and be aware of these legacies and histories of racism. Women and men of Color need not be alone in the front lines of identifying racist action and reaction within the movement. Insisting that people of Color have a voice only when it comes to identifying racism perpetuates, rather than alleviates racism. As I look at the actions of some people within these movements, I am reminded again that the racism of the supposed left is even more damaging and hurtful than the naked racism of the right.
If we are to work together in solidarity, we must do so reflexively, conscious of our actions and the potential outcomes before we act. This is not a call to focus on criticism and self-reflection to the point that we are inactive. That is unproductive, to be sure. But it is a call to be mindful and vigilant about racist action and reaction, to come to terms with the fact that we must do the work of understanding racist underpinnings of prison incarceration, the death penalty, and sexual violence if we are to make significant progress. Undoing racism must be at the core of our collective work across movements. To echo Dr. Reagon’s statement, we need to be honest and ask if we really want people of Color or if we’re just looking for ourselves with a little color to it. So much of the movement work, as it stands, seems to be looking for a little color, when we need to be exploring the realities of racism as part of the problem, not an additive to the “real” issue. In the absence of reflexivity about the structural forces that are keeping us apart, we will never be able to engage in real coalition work that will be required if we are to take seriously our goals of ending sexual violence and the death penalty. These movements as they are going now may continue, but they will not do so in my name and certainly not without my consent.
So no, I am not Troy Davis. I am not a slut. I am not an occupier of Wall Street or any street. The fights are my fights, but the current methods and analyses are not mine. I cannot sit by and listen to people debate the efficacy of the death penalty without understanding that it is the larger complex of incarceration and the “elementary-to-penitentiary” path that tracks and traps Black and Latino youth by design. I am done with the handwringing and “white lady tears” of so many white women who keep defending racist approaches and actions and, at times, respond with violence when confronted and challenged. Such behavior only reinforces the fact that these movement spaces as they are currently defined are not safe. My friend, colleague, and sister-in-spirit Aishah Shahidah Simmons said it best when she commented, “It’s sobering to observe how White solidarity is taking precedence over principled responses…. ” Sobering, indeed. I will most assuredly fight to end the prison industrial complex, sexual violence, and unbridled capitalism, but I will do so from a space that centers the racist roots of incarceration, criminal “justice,” capitalism, and sexual violence. Thankfully, those spaces already exist – even if they remain peripheral in the mainstream media (and in much of what is left of the lefty media). But it is time to pivot the center. Without reflexive analysis of racism and coalition work grounded in antiracist movement, we miss the real root of the problem as well as real opportunities to create change.
Stephanie Gilmore is a feminist activist and assistant professor of the women’s and gender studies department at Dickinson College. For the 2011-12 academic year, she is a postdoctoral fellow in women’s studies at Duke University. She is completing “Groundswell: Grassroots Feminist Activism in Postwar America” (Routledge, 2012) and has started a new research project on how students negotiate sexual violence on residential college campuses in the United States.
[Images: Two photographs. One showing a profile picture, in shadow, of Patricia Spottedcrow, a Native woman. The second shows Patricia Spotted crow wearing a gray prison uniform, at the front of a line with a lot of other women holding papers, standing against a wall by a window marked “Property”. To the side a large, light skinned arm with a thumb up appears.]
Reach Out To A Woman Who Needs Support
If you haven’t heard already, the woman pictured here is named Patricia Spottedcrow. She sold $30 worth of marijuana in the state of Oklahoma and was sentenced to 12 years in prison with no probation by a judge (Pritchett) who retired a month after her sentencing.
Judge Pritchett had seen several cases worse than Patricia’s yet, her sentencing was much harsher on her. One case in particular, a woman (wife of a deputy) was arrested for hiding marijuana in her underwear. She apologized to the judge and served not a single day in jail.
Patricia had never been arrested for anything before and this was her first arrest & conviction. 12 years for 30 dollars worth of marijuana with no probation.
Now, most of you know that this is pretty horrendous. Sentencing a mother of four children to prison for 12 years completely hurts the children and ruins the lives of all involved.
Her kids are being taken care of by her mother now but they cannot afford to visit her.
This means Patricia is extremely isolated in prison. Her one year old doesn’t even recognize her anymore.
Studies have shown that prisoner’s mental health relies on support from outside of prison. Prison as many of you should know, is not the healthiest place to be. It is isolating, confining and can be a scary place to be. Especially for 12 years without probation.
Take five minutes of your time and write a letter to Patricia about anything. Support, your day (like a penpal), a poem, anything to keep her company. Send your e-mail to : firstname.lastname@example.org
-Put her name in the subject line. -1,000 words or less. -Text only. -Remember prison guards/officials will be reading through it as well.
More information about this project here.
News article and video about her case here.
A reblog with some action. Will be doing this.
[TW FOR ANTI-TRANS AND RACIST VIOLENCE AND HATE SPEECH]
SUPPORT CECE MCDONALD!
CeCe McDonald is a young African American transgender woman charged with “second degree murder” after an incident that began when she was violently attacked because of her gender and race.
DROP the charges and FREE CeCe!
CeCe is a creative and energetic person who, before her life was so unjustly interrupted, was studying fashion at MCTC. She had a stable home where she lived with and helped support four other African American youth, her family. CeCe’s family describes her as a leader, a role model, and a loyal friend. She is known as a wise, out-spoken, and welcoming person, with a cheerful disposition and a history of handling prejudice with amazing grace.
Around 12:30 am on June 5, CeCe and four of her friends (all of them black) were on their way to Cub Foods to get some food. As they walked past Schooner’s Bar in South Minneapolis, a man and two women (all of them white) began to yell epithets at them. They called CeCe and her friends ‘faggots,’ ‘niggers,’ and ‘chicks with dicks,’ amongst other things.
As they were shouting, one of the women smashed her drink into the side of CeCe’s face, slicing her cheek open, lacerating her salivary gland, and stinging her eyes with liquor. A fight ensued, with more people joining in. What happened during the fight is unclear, but within a few minutes Dean Schmitz–one of the attackers–had been stabbed.
CeCe was later arrested, and is now falsely accused of murder
For a month, CeCe was kept in solitary confinement “for her own protection”; she had no say in this matter. Finally, she was transferred to a psychiatric unit in the Public Safety Facility. It was nearly two months before she was taken back to a doctor to check up on the wound on her face, which by then had turned into a painful, golf ball-sized lump.
Later on, CeCe’s friends were harassed on the street by people they recognized from the scene of the fight. Individuals circled the block that CeCe’s friends were walking on and called them ‘niggers’ and ‘faggots’ and told them to ‘go back to Africa.’ When they attempted to wave down a passing squad car for assistance, the officer driving the car said he would not help them.
Help us fight for CeCe, and for an end to racist, transphobic violence in our communities! Visit our What You Can Do page and find out how to get involved.
This happened less than a mile from my house.
So fucked up.
troy davis was denied clemency.
keep calling if you can— When you call (404) 656-5651 Listen to the menu, press #5 for “Pardons,” Ask for DA Chisolm, Leave a message.
Folks, please take a few minutes to flood the District Attorney’s office with your disapproval of their death warrant.
District Attorney’s Office
Chatham County Courthouse
133 Montgomery St.
(Corner of Montgomery and Oglethorpe)
Savannah, GA 31401
Click Here for Map & Directions
P.O. Box 2309
Savannah, GA 31402
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Monday – Friday