The Color of Violence: Introduction
Andrea Smith, Beth Rich~e, Julia Sudbury, Janelle Wh~te,
and the INCITE! Anthology Co-editors
Many years ago when
I
was a student in San Diego,
I
was driv-
ing down the freeway
with a friend when we encountered a Black
woman wandering along the shoulder. Her story was extremely
disturbing. Despite her uncontrollable weeping, we were able to
surmise that she had been raped and dumped along the side of the
road. After a while, she was able to wave down a police car, think-
ing that they would help her. However, when the white policeman
picked her up, he did not comfort her, but rather seized upon the
opportunity to rape her once more.
Angela Davis's story illustrates the manner in which women of color expe-
rience violence perpetrated both by individuals and by the state. Since the first
domestic violence shelter in the United States opened in
1974,
and the first rape
crisis center opened in
1972,
the mainstream antiviolence movement has been
critical in breaking the silence around violence against women, and in provid-
ing essential services to survivors of sexual/domestic violence. Initially, the anti-
violence movement prioritized a response to male violence based on grassroots
political mobilization. However, as the antiviolence movement has gained greater
prominence, domestic violence and rape crisis centers have also become increas-
ingly professionalized, and as a result are often reluctant to address sexual and
domestic violence within the larger context of institutionalized violence.
In addition, rape crisis centers and shelters increasingly rely on state and fed-
eral sources for their funding. Consequently, their approaches toward eradicat-
ing violence focus on working
with
the state rather than working
against
state
violence. For example, mainstream antiviolence advocates often demand longer
prison sentences for barterers and sex offenders as a fronrline approach to stopping
violence against women. However, the criminal justice system has always been
brutally oppressive toward communities of color, including women of color, as the
above story illustrates. Thus, this strategy employed to stop violence has had the
effect of increasing violence against women of color perpetrated by the state.
Unfortunately, the strategy often engaged by communities of color to address
state violence is advocating that women keep silent about sexual and domestic
violence to maintain a united front against racism. Racial justice organizing has
generally focused on racism as
it
primarily affects men, and has often ignored the
gendered forms of racism that women of color face. An example includes the omis-
sion of racism in reproductive health policies (such as sterilization abuse) in the
2001
United Nations World Conference Against Racism. Those forms of racisms
that disproportionately impact women of color become termed simply "women's
issues" rather than simultaneously racial justice issues.
There are many organizations that address violence directed
at
communities
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