Ramarley Graham, Pauli Murray, and Domestic Violence and Eviction

April 18, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region.

1. Buffett foundation unveils $90M plan to help girls of color
Deepti Hajela for the Associated Press: “In the 15-year existence of her girls’ empowerment organization, Joanne Smith has dealt with funders and donors but never quite like this: a foundation putting $90 million toward helping girls of color by letting them determine their needs instead of being told what the funds have to be used for. The NoVo Foundation […] officially announced on Thursday how its $90 million commitment over seven years will be carried out. […] The foundation said the focus on creating the first regional hub in the Southeast was because of how much the area has been neglected by philanthropy, especially in terms of supporting work focused on girls of color, even though it said 40 percent of the nation’s girls of color live in the South.”

2. When Domestic Violence Victims Call Police for Help—and Get Evicted Instead
Annamarya Scaccia in Broadly: “Rosetta Watson called the police several times between September 2011 and February 2012. Watson, who is disabled and black, told them she needed protection from her abusive ex-boyfriend. […] The police arrested her alleged abuser at least three times, but he wasn’t detained for long. Instead, Watson was forced to move out of Maplewood, according to a new federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on Friday. Under the city’s chronic nuisance ordinance, more than two police calls made at the same address within a 180-day period would prompt an eviction, even if the tenant is a domestic victim. The ACLU charges that, by enacting and enforcing the code, the city violates a person’s constitutional right to police assistance, as well as fair housing laws. What’s more, according to the complaint, people labeled “nuisances” must also leave the city for six months. […] What happened to Watson is not an isolated incident. For decades, cities across the country have enacted nuisance ordinances in attempt to curb disruptive behavior. But research shows that ‘crime-free’ ordinances single out domestic violence victims who call police. And advocates say that has a chilling effect on survivors, who are forced to choose between calling 9-1-1 and having a place to live.”

3. The Many Lives of Pauli Murray
Kathryn Schulz in the New Yorker: “A poet, writer, activist, labor organizer, legal theorist, and Episcopal priest, Murray palled around in her youth with Langston Hughes, joined James Baldwin at the MacDowell Colony the first year it admitted African-Americans, maintained a twenty-three-year friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt, and helped Betty Friedan found the National Organization for Women. Along the way, she articulated the intellectual foundations of two of the most important social-justice movements of the twentieth century: first, when she made her argument for overturning Plessy, and, later, when she co-wrote a law-review article subsequently used by a rising star at the A.C.L.U.—one Ruth Bader Ginsburg—to convince the Supreme Court that the Equal Protection Clause applies to women. This was Murray’s lifelong fate: to be both ahead of her time and behind the scenes. Two decades before the civil-rights movement of the nineteen-sixties, Murray was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Richmond, Virginia; organized sit-ins that successfully desegregated restaurants in Washington, D.C.; and, anticipating the Freedom Summer, urged her Howard classmates to head south to fight for civil rights and wondered how to ‘attract young white graduates of the great universities to come down and join with us.’ And, four decades before another legal scholar, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, coined the term ‘intersectionality,’ Murray insisted on the indivisibility of her identity and experience as an African-American, a worker, and a woman.”

4. 1 Teen, 6 Cops, 1 Bullet and 5 Years of a Black Family Screaming for Justice
Jen Marlowe & Amy Myers in Colorlines: “On February 2, 2012, a White NYPD officer named Richard Haste entered Ramarley Graham’s Bronx apartment and fired a fatal shot into his chest. Graham’s little brother, six-year-old Chinnor Campbell was only feet away, as was their maternal grandmother, Patricia Hartley. […] Without civilian testimony, the NYPD shaped the entire narrative, consistently referring to Graham as ‘the perp’ and an ‘imminent threat.’ They cast him ‘walking with a purpose’ and placing his hands in his waistband as suspicious, furtive, criminal behavior. […] [Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham] says Haste’s departmental trial was difficult for her to witness. ‘It was hard to sit there and listen to them talking and how they were characterizing my son…basically like he’s a thug,’ Malcolm told Colorlines. ‘This person they were describing wasn’t my son.'”

5. The Invisible Threads of Gender, Race, and Slavery
Sasha Turner in Black Perspectives: “On March 24, 2017 the United Nations commemorated its ten-year anniversary for the International Day of Remembrance honoring the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This year, the theme chosen for the commemoration is ‘Remember Slavery: Recognizing the Legacy and Contributions of People of African Descent.’ […] It is fitting that the UN-designated International Day of Remembrance falls on March 25, coinciding with Women’s History Month. Indeed, any attempt to remember the enslavement of African peoples is incomplete without considering women’s experiences in slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. In addition to dominating as field workers and sometimes outnumbering men on slaving ships departing the coasts of West and West Central Africa, enslaved women’s reproductive capacity shaped the economic parameters and racial logic of Black bondage. As one UN General Assembly member further cautioned, modern-day slavery, a multifaceted system that entraps over 40 million people, disproportionately affects women and children. Our attempts to address the legacies and new forms of slavery will therefore fall short if race is not considered in conversation with gender alongside significant variables like class and age. These must be understood as simultaneously operating and intersecting aspects of oppression and exploitation that are often invisible and structural.”