In all the hoopla surrounding President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, overlooked is that fact that our young girls also need to be targeted for special attention. Sure, they outpace Black males in college attendance and, in many instances, in the workplace. Still, that does not mean they do not also need special attention and encouragement.
Nothing illustrates this better than events of the past week. Sandwiched between President Obama’s White House announcement of his special effort to help Black males and jubilation over Lupita Nyong’o winning an Oscar for best supporting actress in “12 Years a Slave” was news out of Florida that Marissa Alexander, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a “warning shot” in the direction of her estranged and abusive husband, will be retried and could face 60 years in prison instead of the original 20.
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey, the same prosecutor whose office failed to win murder convictions against George Zimmerman in connection with the death of Trayvon Martin and, more recently, against Michael Dunn for the death of Jordan Davis, announced that instead of the 20 years originally given to Alexander, she will seek to triple that by requesting that her three 20-year terms be served consecutively rather than concurrently.
Alexander was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in 2012 and was sentenced to 20 years under Florida’s 10-20 law that requires stiffer penalties for crimes committed with guns. On appeal, the conviction was overturned because Circuit Judge James Daniel placed the burden on Alexander to prove that she was acting in self-defense. In his instructions to the jury, the judge said Alexander had the responsibility to prove that she had been battered by her husband.
In a cruel twist, the prosecutor has announced that she will re-prosecute Alexander, this time seeking a longer sentence.
Marissa Alexander shouldn’t have ever been prosecuted, let alone convicted. If Florida’s Stand Your Ground law should apply to anyone, it should be Alexander, not George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn.
If convicted a second time, Alexander will join other Black women who make up the fastest growing segment of prisoners.
According to the Sentencing Project, the number of women in prison increased by 646 percent between 1980 and 2010, from 15,118 to 112,797. As of 2010, more than 1 million women were under the supervision of the criminal justice system.
Black women are three times more likely to be incarcerated than White women. While most men are in prison for violent offenses, women are more likely to be in prison for drugs or property crimes. Many, like Kemba Smith, become romantically entangled with drug dealers, often serving as their “mules” to transport drugs and money.
While Florida was gearing up to triple Marissa Alexander’s sentence, there was some good news out of Hollywood. The fact that Lupita Nyong’o was awarded an Oscar at Sunday’s Academy Awards lifted the spirits of dark-skin girls across the country and indeed around the world. African Americans, especially females, are told in so many ways that when it comes to skin color, White is right. And if you can’t be White, light is the next best thing.
Of course, there was the famous dolls test conducted by psychologists Ken and Mamie Clark, which was instrumental in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing racially segregated public schools. When asked to pick out the most beautiful doll, most Black girls selected White dolls over Black ones. When the test was repeated in recent years, the results were the same.
Muhammad Ali described racial brainwashing this way:
“We’ve been brainwashed. Everything good is supposed to be white. We look at Jesus, and we see a white with blond hair and blue eyes. We look at all the angels; we see white with blond hair and blue eyes. Now, I’m sure there’s a heaven in the sky and colored folks die and go to heaven. Where are the colored angels? They must be in the kitchen preparing milk and honey. We look at Miss America, we see white. We look at miss world, we see white. We look at Miss Universe, we see white. Even Tarzan, the king of the jungle in black Africa, he’s white. White Owl Cigars. White Swan soap, White Cloud tissue paper, White Rain hair rinse, White Tornado floor wax. All the good cowboys ride the white horses and wear white hats. Angel food cake is the white cake, but the devils food cake is chocolate.”
Little chocolate girls are still being peppered with those White-is-beautiful images. Yes, we need to save our Black boys. But we can’t save our community without saving Black girls, too.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.) He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.