#METOO: Black girls and the Sexual Abuse-to-Prison-to-Stock Market pipeline
November 14, 2017
By Suzanne Vierling, AFROPUNK Contributor
We are all now painfully aware of the number of women coming forward and acknowledging their own experiences of abuse under the hashtag #metoo. #Metoo was started well before the advent of social media by activist Tarana Burke over 10 years ago, but wasn’t modernized on until sex abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein was brought to the surface. Since then, we’ve been overrun with wealthy white women speaking up about their abuses at the hands of powerful men. Women from the Senate. Women from Fox News. Women from Hollywood. Women with power.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. Their pain is valid, but it does reveal a dichotomy inherent in our culture of whom we believe to be of value or “worth”. Millions of poor women and girls go unnoticed and unrecognized in this space. The message is clear: not everyone gets an equal platform under the auspices of #metoo. Under patriarchy wealthy white women’s virtue is to be upheld; everyone else be damned.
Black women stand outside of those who are treasured by our society and by whom restitution is given. We bore witness to Harvey Weinstein’s denial of his advances towards Lupita Nyong’o, a wealthy black actress. We have memories of Dr. Anita Hill ignored and reviled during the confirmation hearings with Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas. Many of us find it difficult to see our own people defending predators like R.Kelly and Bill Cosby.
What has not been discussed is a long-standing sexual abuse-to-prison-to-stock market pipeline that has gone on unchallenged. At the core of this business is the poor, unnamed black girl. It has been shown that the same patriarchal system that rendered justice to wealthy white women, neglects poor, sexually abused, black girls. Black girls are abused in their communities, mistreated in schools, and incarcerated. As we’ll see, #metoo is denied to poor black girls.
Here are some truths about the lives of Black girls:
- 3 out of 5 Black girls are sexually assaulted by the time they are 16 years old.
- 3 out of 5 children grow up with hunger and housing insecurities.
- Black girls are 5 times as likely to be incarcerated in comparison to white girls.
- Black girls experience homelessness more than another US teen.
- Black girls are identified as problematic by school officials more than another girls and are likely to be expelled and/or experience physical harm by staff and security.
- Black girls are least likely to have their mental health issues addressed properly.
- Most sex trafficked blacks girls were runaways.
- Most black girls in foster care are easily sex trafficked during their tenure and after emancipation.
- Homeless Black girls are more likely to utilize survival sex in order to obtain food and shelter.
- Black girls from ages 0-18 make up 2% of the general population, yet make up 40% of all domestic human trafficking victims.
- Black girls between 0-18 are 33 percent of girls detained / incarcerated.
Sexual abuse in the community
Sexual abuse flourishes in the black community. We’ve all known people in our community who side with the abuser over the abused. We often tell our children to ‘be seen but not heard’. We are more likely to hide the abuse, telling our children to keep ‘what happens in this house in this house’, or call our black girls ‘fast’ if they call out their abusers. Black culture doesn’t believe black girls can be sexually abused.
This idea of black girls not being rapable goes back to slavery. They were repeatedly raped and forcibly impregnated. Their children were bought and sold. During this period white minstrel actors created the “Jezebel” – the archetype of a slave portrayed as enjoying her sexual exploitation. This image of the seductive black girl still haunts us today and influences how society as a whole treats our most vulnerable. Under this model, the Jezebel is considered the temptress and is never the victim. Since she’s already powerful through her feminine wiles, she isn’t seen as being worthy of protection.
Relatives, neighbors, and complete strangers rape poor black girls. Human traffickers kidnap them out in the open, especially girls in foster care – stuffing them in car trunks and taking them to “deprogramming” locations where they are tortured into sexual slavery. Without even so much as a blip in the news, black girls reappear as slaves in Vegas, truck stops, hotels, craigslist listings, the streets, and home fronts. Very few culturally competent services exist and girls go untreated.
School to Prison
Black girls carry all of these untreated sexual traumas to school. Many schools are tasked with the responsibility of educating a traumatized student body that they are woefully underprepared to nurture and teach.
“Protectors” such as teachers, therapists, social workers, and case managers carry fear-based stereotypes of black girls. Those in the helping profession unconsciously carry the ideas that have been engrained in us from slavery. They believe that black girls are incapable of feeling pain or having “soft” emotions such as anxiety, fear, introversion and depression, their actions perceived as aggressive and are criminalized.
Unfortunately, many public schools have stronger relationships with police officers and private prison companies than they do with culturally competent mental health support staff. Schools have memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with private prison companies to remove and detain “problematic” students. They would rather put these girls in prison than deal with the multiplicity of issues.
Prison to the stock market pipeline
Once black girls are brought to the detention center and the ‘bed is filled’, millions of dollars are allocated from the federal government for prisons to continue their base operations. Jobs are created, pensions are paid, and dividends are made. The sexually abused black girl becomes a unit of profit.
The top companies that profit off of sexually abused black girls are the public and private detention centers that are publicly traded on the stock market. Some examples are CoreCivic and the GEO Group. These investment products are stocks classified as real estate investment trusts (REIT) that pay generous quarterly payments to their shareholders. Their holdings include girl’s juvenile detention centers throughout the U.S. Like slavery, girls are held as property in these facilities.
Wealthy white women ink book deals, obtain high profile interviews and deposit healthy settlements. Their perpetrators lose their companies, jobs and endorsements. Yet publicly traded American facilities are filled with voiceless black girls with a history of sexual abuse, rape and commercial sexual exploitation.
Black girls don’t get an opportunity to receive a public apology. They have no human resources department with which to file a claim. There are no big multi-million dollar settlements to deposit and non-disclosures to sign.
Our culture is sent messages that black women and girls do not have a virtue to violate. This, in combination with systemic racism and a prison-industrial complex hungry to fill beds, you’ll have a recipe for disaster for the lives of poor black girls. Instead of poor black women being included in a national discussion on sexual exploitation, an uninterrupted, voracious pipeline from the community to the New York stock exchange is present and maintained. No one should profit off of sexual abuse. There should be no hurt hierarchy. Poor black girls should be heard and believed.
While working to dismantle white supremacy, let us ensure that the lives of black women are acknowledged, valued and protected. We will never see justice if we do not include intersectionality in all our clap backs toward abuse. Freedom and safety is for everybody.