BOOK SAYS BLACK WOMEN FACE MORE VIOLENCE UNDER 'PRISON NATION'
Black women in poor neighborhoods have faced increasing violence
because public policy has focused on unconditional punishment, not
prevention, according to a new book by a public policy expert at the
University of Illinois at Chicago.
Beth Richie, author of "Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and
America's Prison Nation" (New York University Press, 2012) directs
UIC's Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy.
Harsh sentencing since 2000, especially for drug trafficking, combines
with gender dynamics in black neighborhoods to propel some women into
violent relationships and crime, Richie says.
"I define the 'male violence matrix' as violence against women that has
its roots in patriarchal arrangements, as well as by communities,
institutions, and agencies organized around patriarchal power and male
supremacy," said Richie, who is professor of African American studies
and gender and women's studies at UIC.
Most political responses to the culture of punishment address its
effect on men, Richie said.
"While the impact on men is clear, there are also significant ways that
women experience the negative effects of the prison nation, especially
those women who also experience gender violence."
Richie states in her book that the anti-violence movement has
compromised with conservative leaders for the sake of limited progress.
She writes that feminists, racial justice advocates, and anti-violence
activists have not responded to three incidents that she presents as
--Repeated police brutality toward a middle-aged Chicago public housing
activist, who won a settlement but said she never again felt safe.
--An assault against four young lesbians in New York, who were
imprisoned for defending themselves.
--Infant abandonment by a Chicago teenager who had been raped at home
and was afraid to contact police.
"Together, they represent thousands of women and the new level of
disdain toward black women who are young, poor, queer, or living in
vulnerable circumstances -- groups that anti-violence programs
typically ignore," Richie said. "The more stigmatized their social
position, the easier it is to victimize them."
Richie urges the anti-violence movement to adopt "a critical black
feminist approach" in which:
--Anti-violence activists focus on black women's everyday experience of
"gender subordination, structural racism, class inequality, and
pressure to conform to hetero-normative sexuality."
--State-sponsored solutions are among options that include intervention
by community officials, faith leaders, activists and family members.
--Crisis intervention is culturally competent, reflecting the norms,
beliefs and practices of the community being served.
--Grassroots activists mobilize around issues of youth disempowerment,
sexuality, rebuilding the family, and reframing gender relations.
--The anti-violence movement addresses globalization's role in chronic
unemployment, war-related violence, and sex trafficking.
"When America's prison nation is understood to be the backdrop for male
violence against black women, a new formulation of anti-violence
politics will emerge," Richie said.
She will read from and discuss the book Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Women
& Children First bookstore, 3533 N. Clark St., Chicago. For
information, call (773) 769-9299.
For more information about UIC, visit www.uic.edu.
- UIC -
NOTE: Please refer to the institution as the University of Illinois at
Chicago on first reference and UIC on second reference.
"University of Illinois" and "U. of I." are often assumed to refer to
our sister campus in Urbana-Champaign.
UIC News Release
September 4, 2012
CONTACT: Anne Brooks Ranallo, (312) 355-2523, firstname.lastname@example.org