BLACK HISTORY MONTH: VICTIM, RACE AND RAPE & SLAVERY AND THE ROOTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

(This is a repost from March, 2009 that discusses two topics on the after-effects of slavery on present-day rape and race of victims and how they fare in the courts. In the second half of my post, I include the discussion of slavery and its effect on present-day sexual harassment.)

Knowledge of the legacy of slavery and race on the criminal justice system is very much needed if we are to understand the ramifications of slavery’s legacy on the (in)justice that Black women receive in the criminal courts where rape is concerned, and how the history of enslavement of Black women has a correlation between today’s sexual harassment cases.

In each part, I include the links on race, rape, and victim as well as slavery and sexual harassment.

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VICTIM, RACE AND RAPE: THE RACIAL DIVIDE
 
Rape and race.
 
A volatile combination; always has been ever since the founding of this country.
 
This report, written by Elizabeth Kennedy, lays out in specific, and chilling detail, how rape victims are seen in America. This report is as much a part of the history of Black people in America, especially Black women, and therefore, it is an apt description of Black history in America, hence its inclusion as a “Black History Month” entry.
 
Many people do not realize the difference in how Black and White women rape victims are treated in the (in)justice system, but, there are differences that jurors and judges assign to rape victims of different races.
 
Factors such as victim credibility and victim culpability.
 
Malicious stereotypes, lies, and myths about Black women’s sexuality.
 
The cruelty of a so-called justice system that for centuries has turned it s face away from the sexual exploitation and victimization of Black women: police, who did not arrest White males who raped Black women and girls (as well as those police who themselves raped and abused Black women.), and in the way today’s police department many times treats crimes against Black women with cavalier disregard. The so-called police who have sworn to protect and serve all of the American public. But, oftentimes, it’s business as usual with the police, where the lives of Black women are concerned:
 
 
 
 
 
 So much for justice for all in the good ‘ol USA.
 
With the racist history that America has shown in its debased mistreatment towards her Black female citizens, it is truth enough that the historical maltreatment of Black women is still with us in this country.
 
The Jezebel/Unrapeable/Wanton/Lascivious denigration of Black American women is still not yet history.
 
Black history month.
 
Not just individual achievements that so many Black people have done.
 
It is also what has been done to us, and still occurs in our lives—-inside, and outside, of the courtroom, since slavery and segregation that still has a profound effect on us.
And in the courts, Black women still are devalued where the crime of rape is concerned.
 
Still unrapeable, even in the 21ST Century.
 
  

Feminist Sexual Ethics Project

VICTIM RACE AND RAPE: A REVIEW OF RECENT RESEARCH

Written by Elizabeth Kennedy :   http://www.brandeis.edu/projects/fse/slavery/slav-us/slav-us-articles/slav-us-art-kennedy-full.pd

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SLAVERY AND THE ROOTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
 
In this article, Adrienne Davis addresses the roots of today’s contemporary sexual harassment which is found in the history of legal captive enforced enslavement of Black women during American chattel slavery. The system of gender supremacy that affected the lives of enslaved Black women is also a factor of the sexual harassment that present day women, especially women of color, face in the types of employment they obtain, and how they are treated, socially and economically, on the job.
 
Sex, law, and power, in the 21ST Century is but a microcosm of what enslaved Black women suffered under American race-based slavery. The social and economic exploitation of women of today found its origins in the captive economic and sexual exploitation of enslaved Black women.
 
The economic and sexual harassment of enslaved Black women after slavery found its place in the forced domestic labor that Black women had to do to keep their families from starving. Having to work only certain types of work (domestic) not only kept them in a neo/worse-than-slavery position, with so-called wages being less than $1-2 a day for 12-18 hour daily, it also caused them to face the constant rape and  coercion abuse they suffered at the hands of White males (in white homes or on white-run companies), a position that left Black women no more protected economically, and with no judicial redress, anymore than they suffered under slavery.

True, there is no way that contemporary sexual harassment of modern American women can begin to compare with the venomous degradation of enslaved Black women, but, looking at sexual coercion through their roles as captive workers to slave masters and the economy of the American South, casts the institution of slavery in a new light: as an early and particularly virulent strain of institutionalized sexual harassment. As yet, neither feminists nor slavery scholars have confronted slavery as sexual harassment. In fact, slavery was one of the  most extraordinary instances of gender supremacy in U.S. history and one of the first to institutionalize and perfect sexual harassment.

In the process, the author of this paper shows how we gain better understanding on sexual harassment when we look at antecedents in U.S. race-based chattel slavery. Realizing that slavery as sexual harassment sheds light on how slave labor was labor law, plantations were workplaces, and enslaved Black women’s resistance constituted gender activism, we can see how sexual subordination in the contemporary workplace is a central tool of labor, sexual and racial control.

 

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SLAVERY AND THE ROOTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT  by Adrienne D. Davis: http://www.law.fsu.edu/faculty/2003-2004workshops/davis_bckgrd.pdf

 

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RELATED LINKS:

“THE SUFFERING WILL NOT BE TELEVISED: AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN AND SENTIMENTAL POLITICAL STORYTELLING”:

a.   Suny Press:  Book Summary and First Chapter

b.   Google Link:  Book Preview

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1 Comment

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One response to “BLACK HISTORY MONTH: VICTIM, RACE AND RAPE & SLAVERY AND THE ROOTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

  1. Ann,

    Thanks for the reposting of this timely article. Most of Black History Month’s emphasis are on the accomplishments of famous Black men. Precious little are about Black women. Of course, the past atrocities must be left out lest it bother the sensitivities of nonblacks and, sad to say, most Blacks in America.

    Yes, racialized sexual harrassment and rape still goes in the 21st century and in 2010. Here’s another book that discusses this very issue. The Suffering Will Not Be Televised by Rebecca Ann Wanzo discusses the historic abuse and explotation of Black women in America up to recent times. She discusses the missing white women syndrome and how it devalues Black women, the medical experiments on Black women by Dr. Sims during slavery along with rapes and sexual harrassment.

    http://www.amazon.com/Suffering-Will-Not-Televised-Storytelling/dp/1438428820/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267405681&sr=8-1

    I recommend this book. It’s an important read in telling the untold story of suffering of Black women in America, past and present.
    ____________________
    La Reyna

    MODERATOR: Thanks La Reyna for that link. I have also revised my post with two additional links to that book. The book addresses two very important cases: Shoshana Johnson and Jessica Lynch and Anarcha, who was experimented on by Sims, as you mentioned.

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