by Josey Allen
Black History Month may have officially ended, but we should continue celebrating Black accomplishments and contributions to society– while also keeping in mind it is important to acknowledge the major gap in justice black people still face. Even though Malcom X famously said that Black women and girls are the most unprotected group in America nearly 60 years ago in 1962, it is still true today. Black women and girls are far more likely to face sexual assault at a young age, and experience intimate partner violence at a rate of 4.4% per 100,000 of the population, a rate that is higher than all other ethnicities, according to a report by the CDC.
Several studies show that adults see young Black girls as more “grown up” and in less need of protection than their white peers. There is no truth behind this. Black children are just as innocent and in need of adult protection as any other child, they just grow up in a racist society that sees them as mature and therefore are more violent against them. On top of that, women in general are sexualized at a young age, but this is even more evident for Black girls. They are seen as sexual objects more early on, and as a result, may face sexual assault or relationships that end up volatile.
There is a large distrust in the Black community for law enforcement, and rightfully so. Oftentimes, when a Black person calls for help they end up being treated like a suspect or are put in harm’s way. Black women are twice as likely to be a victim of intimate partner violence and have much higher murder rates, usually at the hands of a man they were involved with. On top of this, many times Black women are blamed for the abuser’s actions, including their own abuse or their children being injured by the abuser.
There have been several high profile cases where Black women and girls have been convicted for the harm caused by their abusers to others or for harming their abuser in self defense. One of the most prominent cases in the recent past was when the victim of sex trafficking, Cyntoia Brown, was convicted for killing an abuser. Brown was a minor romantically involved with an abusive drug dealer, who was trafficking her. One night, 43 year old Johnny Allen picked her up for sex and brought her to his house, where he had a large collection of guns. Brown said she feared for her life, it appeared as if he was reaching for his gun so she shot and killed him with her own gun. The prosecutor spun the case as a murder-robbery. The defense claimed self defense, but the prosecutor was set on convicting Brown as an adult for murder. She was sentenced to life in prison, which happens all too often to children of color. After 15 years and many appeals, Brown was released from prison in 2019.
There is still a long way to go regarding how the law and society handles the abuse and homicide of Black women. Cyntoia Brown is one person who eventually received justice, but we must remember that her abuser and the criminal justice system took 15 years of this young woman’s life.
There are thousands of cases just like Brown’s nationwide. Every day women die or lose their life because of systematic racism and the failure of the legal system. It is imperative that we continue to broaden the discussion and efforts we put in to end violence against Black women.