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Over My Shoulder #33: from the introduction to Color of Violence: The Incite! Anthology

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from the introduction to the Incite! anthology, Color of Violence (2006).

The Color of Violence: Introduction

Many years ago when I was a student in San Diego, I was driving down the freeway with a friend when we encountered a Black woman wandering along the shoulder. Her story was extremely disturbing. Despite her uncontrollable weeping, we were able to surmise that she had been raped and dumped along the side of the road. After a while, she was able to wave down a police car, thinking that they would help her. However, when the white policeman picked her up, he did not comfort her, but rather seized upon the opportunity to rape her once again.

Angela Davis’s story illustrates the manner in which women of color experience violence perpetrated both by individuals and by the state. Since the first domestic violence shelter in the United States opened in 1974, and the first rape crisis center opened in 1972, the mainstream antiviolence movement has been critical in breaking the silence around violence against women, and in providing essential services to survivors of sexual/domestic violence. Initially, the antiviolence movement prioritized a response to male violence based on grassroots political mobilization. However, as the antiviolence movement has gained greater prominence, domestic violence and rape crisis centers have also become increasingly professionalized, and as a result are often reluctant to address sexual and domestic violence within the larger context of institutionalized violence.

In addition, rape crisis centers and shelters increasingly rely on state and federal sources for their funding. Consequently, their approaches towards eradicating violence focus on working with the state rather than working against state violence. For example, mainstream antiviolence advocates often demand longer prison sentences for batterers and sex offenders as a frontline approach to stopping violence against women. However, the criminal justice system has always been brutally oppressive towards communities of color, including women of color, as the above story illustrates. Thus, this strategy employed to stop violence has had the effect of increasing violence against women of color perpetrated by the state.

Unfortunately, the strategy often engaged by communities of color to address state violence is advocating that women keep silent about sexual and domestic violence to maintain a united front against racism. Racial justice organizing has generally focused on racism as it primarily affects men, and has often ignored the gendered forms of racism that women of color face. An example includes the omission of racism in reproductive health policies (such as sterilization abuse) in the 2001 United Nation World Conference Against Racism. Those forms of racism that disproportionately impact women of color become termed simply women’s issues rather than simultaneously racial justice issues.

There are many organizations that address violence directed at communities (e.g., police brutality, racism, economic exploitation, colonialism, and so on). There are also many organizations that address violence within communities (e.g. sexual/domestic violence). But there are very few organizations that address violence on both fronts simultaneously. The challenge women of color face in combating personal and state violence is to develop strategies for ending violence that do assure safety for survivors of sexual/domestic violence and do not strengthen our oppressive criminal justice apparatus. Our approaches must always challenge the violence perpetrated through multinational capitalism and the state.

It was frustration with the failures on the part of racial justice and antiviolence organizations to effectively address violence against women of color that led women of color to organize The Color of Violence: Violence Against Women of Color conference held at the University of California-Santa Cruz on April 28-29, 2000. The primary goals of this conference were to develop analyses and strategies around ending violence against women of color in all its forms, including attacks on immigrants’ rights and Indian treaty rights, the proliferation of prisons, militarism, attacks on the reproductive rights of women of color, medical experimentation on communities of color, homophobia/heterosexism and hate crimes against lesbians of color, economic neo-colonialism, and institutional racism; and to encourage the antiviolence movement to reinsert political organizing into its response to violence.

–Andrea Smith, Beth Richie, Julia Sudbury, and Janelle White (with the assistance of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence collective members, The Color of Violence: Introduction, in Color of Violence: the Incite! Anthology, pp. 1-2.

Further reading:

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Anticopyright. This was written in 2007 by Rad Geek. Feel free to reprint if you like it. This machine kills intellectual monopolists.