Part fourteen in a series by Joy Pedrow Skarka
Faces of black men. Those are often who we see portrayed as rapists on TV. And when people see a black man walking toward them on their side of the street, often they cross to the other side. Yet the stereotype of Black-as-rapist is statistically inaccurate. The Department of Justice says that perpetrators of rape are 57 percent white and 27 percent black.
And when Black men are arrested for sexual assault, they are not treated like white men. A former Stanford student was arrested for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster and sentenced to six months of jail time. After three months in jail, he was released. Why was he released early? “Automatically applied credits” for good behavior prior to sentencing. The system patted him on the back, so to speak, for good behavior, even though his victim was raped when unconscious and left alone behind a dumpster. Why such an easy punishment? The man was a young, “promising,” “a successful athlete.” And white.
Often prosecutors give leniency to first-time offenders to keep from “hurting their future.” In the case of this young man, his father’s character-witness letter described his son’s sexual assault as “20 minutes of action.” Would a Black man have the same experience when accused of the same crime?
Black men and women are often left out of the conversation surrounding the #MeToo movement and rape culture. Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, stated in an article about being ignored, “What history has shown us time and again is that if marginalized voices—those of people of color, queer people, disabled people, poor people—aren’t centered in our movements, then they tend to become no more than a footnote. I often say that sexual violence knows no race, class or gender, but the response to it does… Ending sexual violence will require every voice from every corner of the world, and it will require those whose voices are most often heard to find ways to amplify those voices that often go unheard.
When we discuss rape culture, we cannot forget to discuss the marginalized voices. In fact, studies show that women of color are more vulnerable to sexual harassment than white women, yet they are less likely to be believed if they report harassment, assault, or rape.
Where is the justice in that?