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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Marissa Alexander's Not So Peculiar Link To Michelle, Gina, Amanda, Jada, Janay, & Steubenville

In 2013 Marissa Alexander was serving “mandatory twenty year sentence,” for shooting a warning shot into the air after her abusive husband, Rico Gray, threatened to kill her.” And article author Charles S Mombo at Chocolate City asked,” Where is the community outrage?”

Well, there is always a notorious lack of outrage whenever a woman is battered. And it doesn’t much matter which community you’re talking about. What sometimes follows and parallels that lack of outrage is a backlash against a woman that finally shoots an abusive husband. Women used to (still do?) get long sentences if they shot an abusive husband in self-defense.

Therefore, it's not at all shocking to me that this woman fired a shot into the air and got put in jail. It is only surprising that Marissa Alexander's original sentence was 20 years instead of something like 10 years but out in 5.

Sexism and gender bias are as codified into our laws as racism is, if not more so.

Do you remember Ariel Castro?
His time in mainstream media spotlight was brief but horrific. I know you remember. He snatched a teenage girl off the street, kidnapped her, then held her prisoner, chained up, in his house. He did this to a total of 3 young women, girls really.  Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry were all women by the time they escaped 10 years later.

Ariel Castro's story came to an end when he committed suicide shortly after being imprisoned. Coward.

I couldn't find too many details when all this was happening, but holding those girls hostage wasn't Ariel Castro's first time out. He'd had practice holding a woman hostage and torturing her before he ever caught those three girls. Years before, Castro also beat and chained-up his common law wife ...before she escaped.

Yes, Grimelda Figueroa left her ex running. She ran out into the street screaming, much like Amanda Berry did, according to one news outlet.

This would tend to mean that rat bast**d Ariel Castro should have been under a jail for beating his common law wife, Grimelda, long before he had a chance to snatch, imprison and torture those three girls.

Understand: Ariel Castro held those three women hostage for ten years...because the police, lawyers, judges, and the rest of us, didn't take seriously multiple accusations of domestic abuse from Grimelda Figueroa 

Grimelda's treatment isn't shock worthy. The law doesn't care about wife beating too much. It never has. And, that's probably because we-the-people don't care much either. But we'll get to that later

While Michael Vick was being sent to jail for abusing animals, some his ball playing co-workers were being given a good talking-to by their coaches / team-owners for physically abusing their trophy wives (=not supposed to talk or think for yourself, or else).  And for most of those ball players? A good talking-to was as far as it went.

The-good-talking-to-punishment? This was seen as enough until Ray Rice was caught on video dragging then dropping on her face, the finance he'd just knocked out. He was suspended for two whole games.

Then, the director's cut of the same video came out.

It was at this point that people could no longer pretend that they didn't already know that Rice had  punched his fiance in the face hard enough to knock her out. So
the collective outrage rose a bit. Before seeing fist connect to face, twice? I dunno. I guess some people thought she just fainted or something.

Many people in the black community dismissed the 1st and 2nd editions of the Rice knockout video as quick or quicker as the Eric Garner video was dismissed by some white people

The excuses were even the same:  "Well...we weren't there, so we don't know what really happened." "Let's not jump to conclusions" "The court said he was innocent!!!"

I wonder if police or other law enforcement officials took Grimelda's statement about being held hostage and beaten said the very same things to her face?  Just kidding. I know they didn't. But I wonder if they thought these same things, to her face, as they dismissed her.

It seems to me that laws are weak in regards to wife-beating because there are so many men and approximately half as many women wailing about possible "false accusations” of wife-beating and/or rape every single time a man is accused.

The people willing to bend over backward

in order to believe

that false-accusations-of-beating

(despite photos and video)

is as big a problem

as wife-beating itself

are at least as numerous

as the number of white people

worried about "false accusations of racism"

every single time

a black or brown person

files an EEO complaint

or dies

at the hands of police


Remember Steubenville? Remember those teenage, pre-college football players in Ohio that raped that unconscious, drunk, white girl and virtually walked?  In the middle of that mess, there was video of mostly white men (silent or stoic) and loud white women protesting in the streets trying to protect their sons' football scholarships etc.  When video and photographs of the rape victim came out, men and women alike essentially started calling the raped girl a tramp who shouldn't have gotten drunk.

"What was she doing there?" 

"Why was she drinking so much?"

"It's not rape because she didn't say, 'No'"

"We weren't there, so we don't know what happened."

Steubenville brought the words "rape" and "culture" together for me, in a real way, when I saw grown women yelling that nonsense. 

But the thing that made "rape culture" 3D for me was that one teenaged white boy who was not actually involved in the Steubenville assault. He was just the cheering section. Appearing mostly sober to me, he laughed hysterically into what I assume was a cell phone camera, "She is sooo raped right now."

I swear, it seems like it was that video comment alone which undermined the defense's argument that

1) maybe the girl gave drunk consent

--and once confirmed everybody knew she was unconscious--

2)  nobody believed that it was "rape" to have sex with some girl that was, not just drunk but dead-drunk, and unconscious. 

I've always wondered if that argument would have seen the light of day if it had been one of the dead-drunk, heterosexual males that had been penetrated at that party. I'm just kidding. I don't wonder. There's not a chance in...

It didn't feel like more than a few months had passed before I saw the #IamJada  hashtag
, created by a teenaged black girl in Texas who was also raped after she drank too much at a party. Classmates(?) had started taking selfies posing as Jada passed out being raped, just before or after she was raped, and sent them round the web as a joke. These photos tagged  "jadapose" went viral.

And this young girl who had been raped fought back publicly with #IamJada.  I know a lot of grown women who couldn't have done that. I'm pretty sure I'm one of them.

Think about this: Teeny tiny sentence in Steubenville for rape, half the country debating about whether it was rape at all even after hearing that the girl was being carried around limp and unconscious prior to being raped. Of course, the Jada rapists in Texas weren't afraid to sexually assault her.  A sizable portion of this country appeared to think the Steubenville rapists were railroaded. 

The stories of rape that I've heard usually begin with, "I didn't tell anybody for years because I was so ashamed of _________"  Fill in the blank with self-blame and fear of being blamed for drinking anything at all, "bad" clothing, being alone in the dark, etc. And even though I haven't had anybody tell me the group rape story, I know that is a secret buried deep inside a lot more women than we've seen on the evening news.

And then there's the fear of hearing well we want to believe you but...

"We weren't there, so who knows what really know what happened" has got to be a huge factor in deciding whether or not to go to the police, much less going  public. We weren't there so who knows what really happened, was used to stall the Trayvon Martin case until the facts could be arranged just so.

We weren't there, so who knows what really happened
was used to do the same thing in Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases too.
And we weren't there, so who knows what really happened reflects the same mentality that lets rapists think they are free to rape and lets... Ariel Castro walk around free after beating his wife. And that same mentality that Ariel Castro go free is the same mentality that left Marissa Alexander's husband go free, left him free to harass free and violent with his harassment that she needed a gun to defend herself 9 days after she'd given birth.  

Do not think Marissa Alexander was the first
girlfriend Rico Gray had beaten either. Just like Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry would eventually hear about Grimelda, Marissa would hear about a number of women who had been beaten by Gray before her.  In his deposition, Rico Gray would admit that he hit 4 other women before Alexander. He would also admit that he threatened Alexander's life the day of the warning shot.

“I was mad, you know. I said, what the f—- is this, and you know, I told her that... if I can’t have you nobody going to have you …She ain’t shit.”  
 Rico Gray's Deposition
Some days I think that there are so many different flavors of rape-culture saturated men and equally weak-minded women talking about false accusations of beating and rape that the rest of us allow ourselves to be distracted by the dumb stuff until it's too late for Marissas.

Bruises, cuts, bleeding and their children cringing away from their father is 95% of all the proof I need to know an accusation of wife beating is NOT a false accusation.

Why did the police officers and the prosecutor responsible for the arrest of Marissa Alexander need more than that? And Marissa's children did more than cringe. They told the law in Florida what happened.

Only a smattering of black women (mostly feminists) cared about Marissa and her children before she got sucked all the way into the same legal system that set George Zimmerman free, the same "Stand Your Ground" laws at the center of her controversy. By the time
Rico Gray admitted to the lies that put Marissa in jail and **we weren't there, so we don't know what really happened** was finally put to rest, the Florida legal system was already committed to putting this woman in jail.

Yes, Marissa being black had something to do with Florida's dedication to abandoning "Stand Your Ground."  However it is just as important to admit that in a sexist, patriarchal culture, women are not suppose to be violent, not even to defend themselves. They're suppose to wait until rescued or simply die.

So, what about you?

What MORE than bruises, bleeding, and cringing children do you need to know an accusation of beating is true? Why do some of us need more than a video of a beating (Janay) to know what happened but no more than a video to understand when someone is being choked(Eric)?

You have to stand up, turn around, and do a recount of your friends and enemies when the video doesn't matter
. You have to.

**All your gender-folk ain't your kinfolk
**  may have been well established early on. But the **well-we-weren't-there-so-we-don't-know-what-really-happened crowd should be drop kicked, with a quickness, into the **All your skinfolk ain't your kinfolk** version of the same basket.
Besides, after O.J.'s wife died, I thought we-the-people decided we didn’t even need a verbal accusation from the victim. But, whatever. Once we all decide what proof-enough might be, maybe we can influence the legal system to take the Rico Grays of the world and put them on trial for assault and/or attempted murder instead of just "domestic ______ "(fill-in-the-blank with b.s.)

-- regardless of what the victim says

-- and long before we get to the point of discussing whether or not another Marissa Alexanders sentence was fair.

The legal system is made of up people that came from US, not Mars, and not Venus either. The legal system is never going to take seriously what we-the-people do not take seriously. So I couldn't answer Mr. Charles S Mombo’s question about where the community outrage was. But wherever it was? It was too little and almost too late.

Yes, Marissa Alexander got a new trial. But, she was threatened with a 60 year sentence, for firing a warning shot, based on the same flimsy evidence already thrown out in regards to her sentencing. I'm not sure why that kind of judicial blackmail was allowed (60 years for a warning shot?), but Marissa was forced to take a bad plea bargain.

Marissa was freed from jail as of January 27, 2015 but she is  not free. With few exceptions, she basically on house arrest until approximately January 27, 2017.

Many black websites mentioned Marissa Alexander's case, once her sto
ry had been validated by abuser Rico Gray. However, except for a few black female websites, most of them feminist, Marissa's case was mentioned 1 out of 10 times for every time Mike Brown or Eric Garner was mentioned --and let us keep in mind that Marissa was still alive to be helped.

I keep thinking about what we might have accomplished if Marissa and her children had been given the benefit of the doubt from the  start.  If a significant portion of us hadn't stopped to consider **well, we weren't there, so we don't know what really happened** for months on end until the abuser himself stopped lying and validated their story,  there's a possibility Alexander might not have gone to prison at all. Maybe.

But what I'm really wondering about is what we could have accomplished united. What if we had focused a white hot light on Florida's antics? Maybe we could have done more to link Trayvon Martin's murder and Marissa Alexander's imprisonment and initiate a DOJ investigation.

Maybe we could have made some sort of impact before the next race-based abuse occurs in hanging chad Florida.


Sisters Men of ALL colors do fail to stand out front when it comes to women's social defense or women's rights. And, for the most part, they are never going to take care of our interests before they take care of their own. Never.

And maybe that's just reality

Assata Shakur, Roseanne Barr, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, all of them and dozens of others have said in some form or other: Nobody gives you power, you take it.

There are a few black men on the front lines as far as working for equality for women, some of whom I showcase over and over because they are so very rare. But for the most part? It is up to us.

Therefore, I hope some of us revisit our thinking on black feminism/womanism AND that black and white feminists find ways to move forward together.

If we don't get it together and change our legal system, we are going to see more Marissa Alexanders; Grimelda Figueroas; Amanda Berrys; Gina Dejesus-es; Michelle Knights; #IamJADA-s; Steubeville rape victims.

Plenty more.
Remember. You have to stand up and do a recount, especially when the videos don't matter.

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