(WOMENSENEWS)– Saturday was by many accounts a good day for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
On Friday last week, chief prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced her office would "throw the book" at six police officers charged with the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore. The news electrified protestors and progressives across the nation. In a heartbeat, Baltimore shifted from a city gripped by fear to a city filled with hope. But late Saturday evening something strange happened: Everyone stopped to watch the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight, and our politics flew out of the window.
Let’s sum it up in a hashtag: #BlackWomensLivesMatter.
As night fell Saturday, many of the same people who passionately spoke out against anti-black police brutality all day happily set their politics aside to turn on pay-per-view and watch Floyd Mayweather, a known batterer, use the same fists he has used to beat black women to earn nearly $180 million.
Now, not everyone is guilty of this strange code switch. Lots of black women, men and allies recognized this hypocrisy and rebuffed it. For instance, political sportswriter Dave Zirin flatly refused to glorify the fight given what he knows about Mayweather’s past. Having just participated in protests demanding justice for black women who are victims of police brutality, Zirin recognized the duplicity of speaking out for Rekia Boyd one day, then cheering on Mayweather the next. But unfortunately, many of us did not feel the same way.
One might ask what the question of domestic abuse has to do with Freddie Gray, Baltimore and #BlackLivesMatter?
Mayweather has a long history with domestic abuse. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to domestic battery for punching his daughter’s mother, Melissa Brim, repeatedly in the face. In 2004 he was found guilty of battery for punching two friends of Josie Harris, the mother of three of his four children. In 2005, he was charged with felony battery for punching Harris. In 2010 he punched Harris again, this time in front of their 10-year-old son, who called the police on him. Despite religiously avoiding the question and even going so far as to shun reporters who have covered his patterns of abuse, there is no doubt that Mayweather is a serial batterer of women. What remains a mystery is why we insist on not caring.
Recent domestic violence scandals in the sports world seemed to signal a change. In 2014, the Ray Rice domestic abuse debacle rocked the NFL. In February 2014, Rice brutally punched his then-fiancée Janay Rice in the face on a hotel elevator, leaving her unconscious. The attack, caught on camera, spiraled the league into turmoil, threatening Commissioner Roger Goodell’s position. Shortly thereafter, the NFL experienced another scandal when Adrian Peterson was found guilty of reckless assault for violently disciplining his 4-year-old son. Peterson was subsequently suspended for the rest of the year. Yet, Mayweather’s domestic abuse scandals do not seem problematic for his career. His pockets just keep getting deeper.
Why do we allow violence against black women to be erased and silenced?
Without question, we desperately need to expand our discussions of #BlackLivesMatter to honestly include black women. Not only are black women killed by the police, but black women are also threatened by interpersonal violence. And the two are intimately intertwined.
Beth Richie, a University of Illinois at Chicago criminologist, co-founder of Incite! and part of the NFL’s Domestic Violence Task Force, uses the phrase "male violence matrix" to describe the violence black women suffer. She classifies the violence by type (physical, sexual and emotional), context (home, community and within state institutions) and perpetrator (intimate partners, community members and state actors).
The result is a complex web of interconnected violence that threatens black women at "home" and at the hands of the state. We need only to recall the story of Marissa Alexander to remember that for black women, domestic violence and state violence go hand in hand.
Facing Up to Domestic Violence
Although intra-community violence and state violence are not the same thing, they do operate intersectionally. This produces violent and often deadly consequences for black communities. We cannot fully realize black survival without incorporating intimate partner violence into our discussions of #BlackLivesMatter.
Case in point: In August 2011, police responded to a domestic disturbance involving Gerald Bell and his ex-girlfriend Quin’Qualita Jackson in her home in Austin, Texas. Days later, Bell returned to Jackson’s residence and strangled and stabbed her, killing her. Bell was eventually sentenced to life without parole.
There are clear structural threads that tie the crisis of police violence to a discussion of gender violence. Lest we forget, in 2010, the Baltimore police department became embroiled in scandal when reporters found the city had "the highest percentage of rape cases that officers conclude are false or baseless of any city in the country."
From 2006-2010 Baltimore police literally refused to believe women when they said they had been raped. In other words, not only do the Baltimore police have a history of brutality, but they also have a history of disregarding gendered sexual violence, choosing instead to blame the victims.
The structural overlaps between the Baltimore police’s routine use of excessive force and its historical habit of turning a blind eye to rape remind us that racism and sexism are interlocking forms of oppression. Class factors into this as well.
Consider this: The same capitalistic capitulations to patriarchal white supremacy that led Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to call Baltimore’s black youth "thugs" leads many of us to turn a blind eye to Floyd "Money" Mayweather‘s abusive and misogynist behavior and pay $90 to see a good fight.
To win the struggle for black survival, we must take an intersectional approach to violence. If #BlackLivesMatter then black women’s lives matter. Not only must we pay more attention to the black women who are victims of police brutality, but we must also remember police violence is a kind of state-sponsored domestic abuse that is gendered, raced and classed.
Would you like to Send Along a Link of This Story? http://womensenews.org/2015/05/mayweather-blues-why-blackwomenslivesmatter/