Treating black people as beneath basic recognition as persons?

(This is a ‘developing story’. Right now the background is here.)

Notice that the victim here is a young woman girl in a bikini (see comment # 1). The policeman kneels on her body. The scene is ugly enough that analysis may seem inappropriate right after it happened. Still, is this a denial of personhood, or a brutal recognition of it?

12 thoughts on “Treating black people as beneath basic recognition as persons?

  1. “Notice that the victim here is a young woman in a bikini.” I know this is how the story is being represented in a lot of places (though not in the one you link to), but I’d like to note that the victim you describe is 14 years old. Identifying a 14-year-old the way you have here reinforces the hyper-sexualization of black girls and women.

  2. Anonymous, I really regret having to say I don’t agree with you. Nonetheless, I certainly don’t want to contribute as you say I do, so I’m happy to change it. Still, not agreeing with your assessment leaves me unclear what to change.

    The reason I don’t agree is this: i spend much of my summers on or near the beach in Galveston. i think that the sexualization of female children accelerates at the first signs of puberty. I find the way it get worked out in public in swim wear really highly upsetting. I can’t see that it has any particular racial implications, and being one race or another doesn’t seem to protect the girls physically or psychologically. There are all obviously hyper-sexualized by the norms they apparently feel they need to meet.

    Galveston is at the end of the rt 45 corridor, a stretch of highway that is notorious for the disappearance of girls. We are talking actual physical danger. No doubt many parents would say I am too afraid for these children.

  3. Oh my god. This is beyond upsetting to watch. But people need to know. Thanks for posting. She very clearly was not a threat to anyone- certainly not to that police officer.

    But to answer your question, it’s a denial of her rights, and a recognition of… Well, “recognition” isn’t quite right because it’s a factive term. But maybe it’s a brutal and inappropriate projection of some sort of agency onto this kid (that she’s a threat) that she just doesn’t have.

    Is there any way people (maybe women in particular) can let her know that we know that what happened to her was not cool, and that she has nothing to be ashamed of, but that the officer most certainly does? Does she read Frministphilosophers? I didn’t when I was 14- or 24 for that matter.

  4. I would have thought that the fact that the young woman in question was in a bikini was certainly relevant for the fact that it made it pretty implausible that she was hiding a weapon. This is all the more so when you know that these events happened at a pool party. While, I suppose, someone might hide a weapon in a bikini under certain circumstances, doing so at a pool party would be especially unlikely. This makes the level of force used much harder to justify, since fear of a weapon was pretty clearly unreasonable, and so is worth noting.

    (I’d also add that there’s nothing obviously “hyper-sexualized” about someone wearing a bikini in itself.)

  5. It’s late in Houston, so let me say quickly:
    1. SLB, lots of people on cnn and msnbc have express lots of sympathy and support for her.

    2. Matt, yes. Thanks.

  6. I’m the anon above. My comment about hyper-sexualization wasn’t meant to be about the swimsuit, but referring to a 14-year-old as a (young) woman, rather than a child or girl. That was unclear from the way I phrased it. There is a long history of justifying violence against young females and young black people in general and young back females in particular by insinuating that children/girls look older than they are, etc. I don’t think that’s what’s going on in this post, but I do think that it’s worth considering that one of the ways black persons are denied personhood is that they are denied childhoods.

  7. I believe what Anonymous is highlighting are the ways in which the black female body has specifically been hypersexualized throughout American history and present day. Although female children’s sexuality in general has been heavily worked into the realm of swimwear, there is a duplicitous nature for the black female body where black female girls are often times portrayed as more primal and more animalistic in their sexuality (i.e. – Jezebel stereotype). White patriarchy has often times protected white girls sexuality, while the Jezebel stereotype served as justification for slavery. Moreover, Jezebels can’t be hypersexualized or raped because they has no ‘virtuous womanhood.’ There is no violation upon the black girl’s body because she is already an inherently sexual animal.

    By stating that the victim is a young woman, you implicitly reinscribe historical conceptions of black girl bodies as more ‘mature,’ thus more sexually available and more promiscuous.

  8. From Brittney Cooper, at, June 10, 2015:

    “At some point, as [19-year-old Tatiana Rose] says in a video interview, two white adult women began yelling at her and her friends to ‘go back where they came from,’ ‘back to section 8 housing,’ and calling them ‘black fuckers.’ When a 14-year-old girl responded, the women further ridiculed her, prompting Tatiana to tell the adults that the girl was 14 and their comments were inappropriate. According to Tatiana’s account, the white women then approached her; one ‘hit her in the face’ and the other began participating in the attack….

    “White women have been some of the worst perpetrators of racial aggression and racial indignity in this country, but their aggressions frequently escape notice, precisely because white womanhood and the need to protect it animates the core of so much white supremacist aggression toward Black people.

    “But you won’t see white feminists contextualizing or calling out this long history of white female bullying of Black women with less social, political or economic power than them. They leave that work to Black feminists.”

  9. “Entrenched in racist upbringing, Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of black innocence. In fact, studies show that white people consistently perceive black children as older and “less innocent.” Tamir Rice was 12 years old, but was perceived as an adult when he was gunned down by Ohio police. Other stories about black children as young as six being taken out of school in handcuffs further expose an ugly truth: in a white supremacist society, black children are not children.”

  10. Anon (9:45). Thank you for your explanation. I’m relieved that I’m was in the right ball park at least.

    Let me say that I am aware that the gap betwwn the understanding of many white people’s understanding of black lives and the reality of those lives is vast, far greater, as far as I can see, than that between white women and white men. It may be close to meaningless to talk in the very general terms I have used, but i hope those terms help locate a huge problem. So I couldn’t possibly think myself in a position to contest anything that is said about the experiences of black children and how they get viewed and used.

    I usually have enough sense not to go up to black people and ask them to help me with this problem. However, I was the one who asked Charles Mills to the Hypatia/CSW conference so I tried to talk to him about this gap. There have been a lot of efforts to form groups of blacks and white and describe the results of what the white participants regard as bonding. Black participants are noticeably less sanguine.

    I’m beginning to think that the thing white people need to do is to take guided, inform action on the behalf of victims of racial injustice. So I am very glad there are a number of voices her talking about the experiences of black girls and women.

    And it does seem positive there there is a lot of outrage against the police officer. One of the instigating white women is being attacked verbally at her workplace for her racism. The outrage seems to go beyond a sort of spectator engagement. Perhaps we havwe learned some things since Twana Brawley.

    Finally, I note the time, and I must run. But in fact I should say that we might not be able to put much weight on the word “adult.” But I’m not sure about this. I’m wondering if different communities have different conventions. If you look at wiki, it seems that the term is ambiguous.

  11. Anon – I apologize for reiterating your point. I hadn’t yet seen your second post when I submitted my comments.

  12. Anon 1 & 6 here. No problem, TMH; I think you gave a better explanation than me and I was encouraged to read it.

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