Blog

Domestic Violence Agencies Must Interrogate Violence Against Black Women So Real Healing Can Begin

“Loving blackness is often undervalued, woefully misunderstood, and yet absolutely necessary; it is quintessential counterstory in a white supremist democracy where the devaluation of Black lives has historically been and in many ways still second nature."--- Denise Taliaferro Baszile

 

I formally worked at a domestic violence and sexual assault agency, requiring all new volunteers and new employees to complete a 40-hour training before working with victims/survivors of these unspeakable traumas. For three weeks, women and men sit in a classroom setting to learn about the different aspects of domestic violence and sexual assault. One of the training pieces is diversity and inclusion (DEI), which covers biases, various "isms," and working with special groups such as Black, Latina, and Indigenous women, military, LGBTQI. From my standpoint, the DEI presentation is problematic because it ignores white supremacy, patriarchy, colonization, imperialism, capitalism, and historical underpinnings as to why Black women are more likely to experience forms of violence and refuse to seek help from domestic violence agencies, law enforcement, and judicial systems. For example, this presentation suggests that a barrier for Black women seeking help from abuse is their desire to shield black men. However, this presentation fails to acknowledge systemic racism laced within the legal systems that possibly causes Black women to protect Black men. One reason is that Black women prefer men arrested and not shot dead by police. Unfortunately, we have seen multiple incidents of police shooting first and asking questions later. My former black clients can also attest to being re-traumatized by law enforcement during the arrest of the abuser. Black women know our Blackness is weaponized, deemed inferior, and unvalued by the dominant culture. The DEI presentation also suggests that Black women instead rely on the church to intervene in abusive situations. However, this presentation fails to examine how the Black church was a protective factor for Blacks during slavery, post-civil war, segregation, desegregation, and still protects black women. The DEI presentation additionally stated that another barrier to Black women seeking help is Black women embody the idea of "strong Black women." This illegitimate projection ignores that this concept of "strong Black woman" was not a theory Black woman created or embraced willingly. Since slavery, white supremacy depicted Black women's aesthetics as strong, burly built, and only good for labor and property. Authors Sora Han, Jared Sexton, and Angela P. Harris argue:

this logic renders Black people as inherently slave-able – as nothing more than property.1 That is, in this logic of white supremacy, Blackness becomes equated with slaveability. The forms of slavery may change – whether through the formal system of slavery, sharecropping, or through the current prison-industrial complex – but the logic itself has remained consistent. The logic is the anchor of capitalism. That is, the capitalist system ultimately commodifies all workers – one’s own person becomes a commodity that one must sell in the labor market. At the same time, the profits of one’s work are taken by someone else.[1]

Black girls and women have been historically marginalized, colonized, objectified, and have had their identities violently constructed. These constructions are the most significant source of conflict and turmoil plaguing them psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Black women have been subjected to Euro-centric aesthetics and images for centuries. Black women's appearance defies the full, dark, and natural-haired African Diaspora women of today. Instead, patriarchy insists femininity is "small, fair, delicate, and dependent."[2] The burden to submit to the thrones of toxic images that denounce the beauty of Blackness is overwhelming. Additionally, these toxic images implicitly link Black women’s bodies to property and the forced labor of slavery. Since the trafficking of African bodies, white merchants, captains, and crews of slave ships adjudicated black women's flesh as reproductive and commercial items of profitable business and occasions to vent sexed aggression and power. Colonization and slavery depended upon the breaking, beating, dehumanizing, producing, power, control, and usage of black people as "work animals, tools for service, violent expansion, settlement, and domination."[3] This leads to Black women being placed "at the least physically, at the least economic and for erotic disposal of European and European American men and women."[4] Simultaneously, European and European Americans categorized black women's bodies as "primitive, lascivious, and repugnant."[5]  The shackle of Black women stereotypes such as sexless, groveling, angry, and inhuman, or oversexed was one of the many keys used to chain and maintain the subservience of Black women during slavery.

However, healing is possible, and it starts with decolonizing minds by breaking with the ways that reality is defined and shaped by the dominant culture. Domestic violence and sexual assault agencies must begin to challenge and disrupt the roots of patriarchy and white supremacy by remembering, reclaiming, and celebrating the voices, stories, experiences, and standpoints of Black women. There must be a shift from an individual approach to a community approach, Ann Russo in Feminist Accountability: Disrupting Violence and Transforming Power contend that community members need to intentionally "build their critical consciousness and skills to increase our capacity to respond to oppression and violence as well as to work toward prevention and transformation."[6] Russo's declaration allows us to shift from a community that reacts to violence, oppression, and tragedies to one that caters to preventing such atrocities. As advocates, leaders, clinicians, and human, we must take responsibility and accountability for deconstructing hegemonic philosophies that ignore social, political, economic, cultural, and historical contexts of Black women's lives in the United States and how it is complicit in the past and present violence toward Black women and offer a space to for them to heal and reclaim joy.

 

[1] Andrea Smith “Heteropatriarchy And The Three Pillars Of White Supremacy Rethinking Women Of Color Organizing in Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology (Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2016), 2

[2] Sacred Images of African and African American Women She is Everywhere (Universe, 2008), 22

[3] Shawn M. Copeland, Body, Representation, and Black Religious Discourse (Newark: Rutgers), 181.

[4] Ibid.,181

[5] Ibid.,181

[6] [6] Ann Russo, Feminist Accountability: Disrupting Violence and Transforming Power (New York: New York University Press, 2018), 92

 

Ms. Ngozi Ashibuogwu is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), National Certified Counselor (NCC), and founder of Houston Therapy for Women. She has an unwavering commitment to serve girls and women desperately trying to heal their mental wounds in the face of hardships and obstacles. Ngozi is a firm believer that faith is the cornerstone of an individual’s well-being and psychological make-up. She believes that integrating faith with traditional psychotherapy in times of unforeseen circumstances, rejection, depression, betrayal, or tribulations will directly transform a person’s hurt, pain, despair, or brokenness into something so magnificent human minds could never conceive. She calls this the transformation of God turning individuals’ ashes into beauty to become conduits and impact the world. 

 

Bibliography

Copeland, Shawn. Postcolonialism, Feminism, and Religious Discourse: Body, Representation, and Black Religious Discourse New York: Routledge, 2001.

Razak, Ariska. Sacred Images of African and African American Women She is Everywhere, Bloomington, IN: Universe, 2008

Russo, Ann. Feminist Accountability: Disrupting Violence and Transformational Power. New York: New York University Press, 2018.

Smith, Andrea. Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology: Heteropatriarchy And The Three Pillars Of White Supremacy Rethinking Women Of Color Organizing. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2016

 
Posted by Lynn Brewer-Muse at 05:00
Partner with us

Become a Member

Learn More