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McBride and other Black women need to be defended

Julianne Malveaux | 12/2/2013, 1:40 a.m.
All Renisha McBride wanted to do was to go home. She had been in a car accident, her cellphone was ...

She languishes in jail, supposedly, because she remains a threat to her batterer, but even he supports her release. Her continued incarceration is not only mean-spirited, but also an illustration about the unevenness of law. Zimmerman got away with murder for standing his ground. Alexander is incarcerated because she stood hers.

With domestic violence an epidemic in our country, it seems unfathomable that a woman who wanted to prevent it is charged with a crime. While the civil rights community has surrounded Alexander, I am not aware of women’s organizations or domestic violence organizations that have been similarly supportive. E. Faye Williams of the National Congress of Black Women says that her organization has been active in assisting Alexander, and that’s a good thing. Still, just as the hoodie came to represent Martin, and people from around the world, including on the floor of Congress, donned the hoodie in solidarity with Martin, there has been no similar support for Alexander.

Alexander’s incarceration and the murder of McBride have something in common. They illustrate the vulnerability of Black women, both in the legal system, and in the public perception of race and gender. Black women are not afforded the privilege of standing their ground against batterers. Black women can be shot at far range because a 54-year-old homeowner was so frightened that he had to shoot.

More than 20 years ago, when now Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas attempted to character assassinate attorney Anita Hill with his wild accusations, a group of Black women stood up in her defense. Using the moniker of “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves,” the group took out ads both in The New York Times and in the Black Press supporting Hill.

(Disclosure – my mom, my three sisters and I all signed the ad). We defended ourselves then, and we must defend ourselves now. The legal system seems unwilling and unable to do so.

Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C.-based economist and writer. She is president emerita of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.