Another day, another shooting

Another day, another shooting

Dr. O'Neal
Photo credit: Franciscan Health
Dr. Tamara O’Neal died in a shooting at Mercy Hospital on Nov. 19, 2018.

Another day, another shooting where multiple lives were lost.  This time, it was in a a place designed to save lives — Mercy Hospital in Chicago.

Dr. Tamara O’Neal was the victim of domestic violence. The shooter was someone she was in a relationship with. Three other lives were lost: Pharmacy Resident Dayna Less, and Officer Samuel Jimenez. Officer Jimenez had been on the police force for less than three years.  The gunman Juan Lopez also died.

The whole incident is heartbreaking, especially after the NRA made a big to do by telling doctors they should “stay in their lanes” and not have discussions about firearms with their patients. Interestingly, last year, the ACLU at Florida successfully sued for the First Amendment right of doctors to be able to talk to their patients about gun safety in a case commonly known as “Docs v. Glocks“. The importance of doctors having such conversations is that it can lead to a discussion as to whether or not the patient feels safe in their own home. Revelations of domestic violence open up the door to the resources that are available to victims.

There is a narrative that if  a victim arms herself  that somehow domestic homicide could be prevented. Let’s think through this particular situation. Is a doctor going to go from surgery to surgery, patient to patient with a gun strapped to her back? It’s not practical. Domestic violence calls are one of the most dangerous calls any police officer can respond to because of the volatility of the situation. If it is unsafe for a trained professional, how is it any safer for a civilian? Additionally, how many of us (especially in communities of color), remember the case of Marissa Alexander? She fired a warning shot during a domestic violence situation, and ended up in prison.  This leads to a question with regards to equality of 2nd Amendment enforcement across racial lines (but that is the next installment –stay tuned!).

One of the reasons why I vocally opposed Marsy’s law in the state of Florida is the fact that it provides no resources to victims of crime. Nationwide, there has been a strain on budgets to protect survivors of domestic violence. Shelters are operating on a shoestring budget. Some shelters cannot accommodate whole families especially if the children are over a certain age, or are male. DV service providers often rely on the kindness and donations of others rather than robust government funding. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) provides a source of funds, but more is always needed.

Women of color are  more likely than their white counterparts  to be victims of domestic violence, and for it to be more fatal. Again, it comes down to access and networks of assistance. If you are wealthier, you may be able to finance your escape from your abuser. If you are in a lower social strata, it is more difficult for you to be able to pick up and leave. It’s even more difficult if there are children involved. Think about it: you have to come up with a first, last and security deposit, in a place that is not near your abuser, as well as buy furnishings and make sure that your children’s education is not interrupted. Meanwhile, you need to maintain your full-time job. We all know that jobs are not easy to come by.

This heartbreaking scenario and loss of lives should be a call to action. Not for more guns, but for more resources so that victims and survivors can start their lives over again. Aspects like counseling, shelter, relocation, and more police presence if required are critical to successfully escaping an abusive relationship. Employers should be required by law give days off to verified domestic violence victims so that they can attend court hearings, get a restraining order, or to move if necessary. Also, it should be mandatory for workplaces to train with regards to domestic violence situations, so that if such an issue is brought to their attention, they know to know to notify security or take extra steps to make sure the abuser does not gain access to the workplace.

To be clear, my points about the lack of resources is not to dissuade victims from leaving — it is to raise awareness about the challenges surrounding domestic violence as well as ways we can do better as a society. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you do not have to suffer in silence.  Click here for resources.

May Dr. O’Neal and all of the victims rest in peace. May their families find comfort and healing. And may their deaths not be in vain — but instead, stimulate discussion, legislation and change around the issue of domestic violence.

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Victims of Mercy Hospital Shooting: Dr. Tamara O’Neal, Officer Samuel Jimenez, Dayna Less. Photo Credit: CNN

 

 

 

Domestic Violence: The Story Behind the Glory

Domestic Violence: The Story Behind the Glory

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; it is a cause near and dear to my heart. Last year I did a series RLD on DV, outlining the reasons why folks stay with their abusers and resources to help those who are victims.

It is interesting to note, and bears repeating, that this is an issue that affects all levels of the socio-economic rainbow.  I love hearing stories of women who overcame violence to find success.  In the months since I published the story about singer Michel’le and the abuse she suffered at the hands of rapper/producer Dr Dre in my piece “Straight Outta PR: Hip Hop, Violence Against Women & An Apology”, Lifetime TV did a movie about her story. I think it is critical that the stories continue to be told on the small and big screens.

In pain, there can be found resilience and strength. I absolutely adore Taraji P. Henson — I watch her religiously every week on the hit show Empire. There is an intense story behind her glory — before the fame and the awards (as in Golden Globe, Emmy, and NAACP Image Award), there was an abusive mate. She left him, even though that meant she would have to struggle as a single mom; but found success beyond her wildest dreams. See her story in People Magazine. 

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Taraji P. Henson in Glamour Magazine; photo credit Jason Bell

But let us not forget the perils of leaving. A tragic story out of Chicago  where a woman tried to break off her engagement — she went to her ex’s apartment to return the ring, where he stabbed to death and subsequently took his own life. It is heartbreaking to know that in her last moments, she called her father. The tale of this victim is a cautionary one; if you are trying to leave someone who is abusive or unstable, do not encounter the person alone. Never underestimate the power of desperation to control and violence. 

What gives me hope is some of the great programs that working with victims of domestic violence. It is more than just the abused spouse; it is the children who have to witness their family member — the person that is supposed to protect them — abusing and being abused. The “Camp HOPE America” program featured in the Huffington Post does a great job working with the children of trauma in domestic violence relationships. Also, one morning on the Tom Joyner morning show, I learned about Daylight Inc, a program started by a DV survivor in Atlanta which helps women leave. Sometimes shelters are not available exactly when you need them; her program seeks to fill the gaps.

Domestic violence is a serious serious crime. It hurts so many; we must not turned a blind eye and assist those who are trying to make a difference in their communities.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you are a friend of someone who is going through a violent situation, stand by the person. Abusers thrive on isolating victims from support systems, their families, and the outside world. Make sure that your friend knows that you are there to assist them. It does take several tries before a victim will eventually leave the relationship; often as many as 4 to 5 attempts to be finally free. It’s a tough situation to be in, but just know that your actions may save a life.

M.

The RLD on DV: Final Thoughts

The RLD on DV: Final Thoughts

20140712-155146-57106832.jpgAs I bring this series to a close, I cannot end without talking about the most hotly debated topic in the country, as well as in domestic violence circles — the use of firearms. Statistics show that a woman is eight times more likely to die at the hands of her abuser if there is a firearm in the home.  African American women are 2.5 more times likely to die than their White female counterparts.

This past May, I had the honor of joining a roundtable discussion/working group with the Battered Women’s Justice Project. As a prosecutor, I came in with the very specific mindset that if there’s any opportunity to protect a domestic violence victim by removing a firearm from the home, I’m going to take it.

But it was very interesting to hear of the other participants in the discussion, who came from the perspective of victim advocates, as well as law-enforcement. The participants came from across the country, from cities, rural areas and native tribes. The biggest debate came from the fact that sometimes the victims will say “yes my spouse is abusing me, but he never uses the gun to abuse me”. “Yes I am afraid of him, but he never threatened me with the gun he always hits me with his hands. If you take his gun, this will make him more mad and place me in more danger.”

Another consideration that was discussed is that of survival. The folks in rural areas will use guns to hunt, which is a major component of how they eat. There’s no driving to Publix, Walmart or Whole Foods, which some of us take for granted. Taking their gun is literally taking their ability to survive. Additionally, there are cultural concerns, where you have firearms or rifles that have been handed down from father to son. So by taking away the firearm, you are literally taking away a family’s history or disrespecting a tribal symbol.

This is why the battle continues. It was very eye-opening for me, and a reminder that life is not cut and dry, black-and-white. As a city dweller, I learned a lot from that discussion. On a personal note, I am married a man who has a ranch in Idaho. When I first went out to the area with my husband (aka the Cowboy), there was definitely a few cultural differences (high heeled boots are never the fashion in that particular town in northern Idaho. I am a Diva after all!). I had some exposure to using firearms in the past; but I definitely learned a new respect for them because it is the instrument of your survival in the woods when wildlife is your next-door neighbor. I understood the arguments that were made at the roundtable; I found some more persuasive than others.

Ultimately, the prosecutor/women’s empowerment side of me strongly believes that it takes just one angry word, one moment of rage, one moment in that explosionary part of the cycle of violence coupled with the easy availability of that firearm for a domestic homicide to happen.

So the discussion continues. There are no easy answers. But I believe that if we keep talking, if we keep raising awareness, and if we keep rallying around victims — letting them know that they are loved, supported, and that they do not have to stay with their abusers, we will find a way to eradicate this problem. And if we give victims support in testifying against their abusers, and getting justice, whether it be in the form of a prison sentence or psychological counseling for their abusers, we will go along way in restructuring how our society thinks about violence along with how relationships should be.

Here are a few resources.

National Domestic Violence Hotline  (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or (800) 787-3224 (TTY) or visit their website

National Network to End Domestic Violence List of State DV Coalitions visit their website

American Bar Association For legal assistance visit their website

Stalking Resource Center (800) FYI-CALL or visit their website.

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (800) 656-HOPE or visit their website.

Whatever you are going through, you are not alone. There is help — you are loved, you are worthy, and you are STRONG!

M.

The RLD on DV: Personal Stories of the Victims

The RLD on DV: Personal Stories of the Victims

awareness DV

Continuing this month’s series on Domestic Violence Awareness, I wanted to touch on three more distinct stories, with separate themes.  The first is a horrible story from Kentucky, where a man used the family dog as part of the instrument of violence against his girlfriend.  I have prosecuted cases where offenders will often abuse the family pet, knowing that this is another way of upsetting the victim. But this offender took it one step further.  See her story here.

The next story explores the trauma of a Miami woman who did leave her husband, but he found her, and shot her.  He is still at large; his picture is below. Please read her story here. This Miami Herald story also discusses the challenges involved in domestic violence cases.

Jose Luis Duarte, wanted for Attempted Murder. Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald
Jose Luis Duarte Borrero, wanted for Attempted Murder. Photo courtesy of the Miami Herald

Lastly, Oscar Pistorius, the South African athlete who was known as the “Blade Runner”, was released from prison yesterday to serve the rest of his murder sentence under house arrest.  He was tried for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.  Reeva was shot by Pistorius through a locked bathroom door in the home they shared because, as he stated, he believed she was an intruder. Despite the evidence that came out at trial indicating she was afraid of him, the presiding judge found him guilty of the lesser charge manslaughter and sentenced him to five years in prison. After serving only one year in prison, he will spend the remainder of his sentence in his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria.

Reeva Steenkamp
Reeva Steenkamp

This is a reminder that domestic violence affects all races, all ethnic groups, all socio economic backgrounds, and all countries. I have worked with domestic violence victims who covered their bruises with Chanel sunglasses, to those who scraped by on government assistance.  The evil disease that is DV does not discriminate; neither should we in our assumptions.

M.

The RLD on DV: Why Don’t You Just Leave?

The RLD on DV: Why Don’t You Just Leave?

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It’s the age old question asked of domestic violence victims — why stay? If your partner is abusing you, you should leave.

Then comes the judgment, and my favorite line:

“If that was me, I would never stand for that.  I would leave immediately!”

Sometimes, it’s that easy.  90% of the time, it is not.

Keep in mind, an abuser never hits you on the first date.  Or even the second date. An abusive relationship begins much like any other relationship — with love, trust, and wooing. But somewhere along the line, the abuser becomes controlling. S/he begins to isolate the victim from friends and family. The abuser begins to break down the victim’s self esteem. Emotional abuse becomes a key factor. And then physical abuse (if used) begins.

To further complicate matters is the concept of the cycle of violence.  Once the abuser hits the victim, the abuser becomes incredibly apologetic, even tearful.  The s/he promises this will never happen again.  There may be gifts, as well as a temporary change in behavior.  This is called the honeymoon period.  But after the honeymoon enters a period of tension and escalation, until there is another violent episode. The cycle begins anew.

Rihanna, in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, spoke about her highly publicized relationship abusive with Chris Brown.  She said:

I was that girl…that girl who felt that as much pain as this relationship is, maybe some people are built stronger than others. Maybe I’m one of those people built to handle s%&* like this. Maybe I’m the person who’s almost the guardian angel to this person, to be there when they’re not strong enough”. She admitted that she believed she could change him.

See her full interview here.

Her thought process is not unique among victims/domestic violence survivors.  Some believe that they can change the abuser, or that the abuser can go back the kind person they fell in love with. But there are other common themes among victims and survivors of domestic violence relationships: fear, love, family, money, shame, and isolation.

The Huffington Post did a powerful article featuring the stories of six survivors and why they stayed.  Please read with an open mind — it may give some insight as to the grueling journey the millions of women and men endure every day. Read the article here.

24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.

That’s 12 million men and women per year.

Think about that, and read more stats here.

As always, comments are welcome!

M.

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The RLD on DV: Introduction

The RLD on DV: Introduction

IMG_2825October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. In honor of a subject that I am very passionate about, I am doing a multi part series addressing this deadly issue.

Why?

Because as a prosecutor who specialized in domestic violence crimes for close to four years, and still continues to handle domestic violence homicides although I work in a different unit, I hear the same old stories.

What did she do to provoke it?

Many violent incidents happen behind closed doors, away from the public eye. The only people who know what happened are those in the room — or their children that witness it.  I have had witnesses tell me “he’s such a nice guy, I mean she must have done something to have made him do this to her

Meanwhile, the victim is dead.

Really?

Domestic violence is a family matter, to be dealt with quietly.

I had a victim who was beaten within an inch of her life with a weightlifting bar by her husband. He then took her from the house with the intention of disposing of her permanently.  It was only through a harrowing escape and the kindness of very frightened strangers that she survived to tell her tale.  The defendant’s family had the nerve to tell her in open court “if he was beating you, you should have come to us.  You never should have called the police. This was a family matter”.

I have never heard of a family that persuaded a husband to stop beating his wife.  If you have, please let me know.

She didn’t leave so she must have enjoyed it.

I have actually heard people say this, fully believing it is true. There are a multitude of reasons why someone doesn’t leave an abusive relationship. Over the next few weeks, I will feature some of the stories, so you can see for yourself.  But the reason is never “I liked being beaten“.

She hit him back so they just had that kind of relationship.

Yes, they did. It’s called an abusive relationship.  It’s not something that should be played down or minimized.  It is not acceptable or healthy. As friends and family members, we should be encouraging anyone who is in that type of relationship to end it, seek counseling, and find a better partner.  Once we as a society start to accept hitting as a new norm, we lose our humanity.

They were a passionate couple.

Let’s not confuse “passionate” with “messy“.  We look at certain celebrity relationships, with their ups and downs, as well as every “Real Housewives” franchise, waiting for the next plate to fly or the tea to spill.  No couple is perfect; however, a healthy relationship is based on mutual respect. Once the line is broken with physical abuse (which can be as simple as a push or a slap) or verbal abuse (you’re stupid, you’re ugly, no one will want you), then the line has been crossed from healthy to sick.

Men Can’t Be Victims.

Wrong.  This is about power and control.  The abusive wife derives power from hitting and humiliating her husband; the husband stays because he loves her, and hopes that she will change. Same pathology, different gender.

So For Now…

Here is an interesting article from the Huffington Post about the states in the US where women are most likely to die at the hands of men by domestic violence.  Sadly, African American women die at a rate of 2.5x that of their White counterparts; and if the abuser has access to a gun, the woman is eight times more likely to be killed.  Read the details here.

I hope you will find this series informative and thought provoking. As you will see, domestic violence does not discriminate. It affects relationships rich and poor, straight and gay, of all ethnic groups.

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As always, I welcome your feedback!

M.

StraightOuttaPR: Hip Hop, Violence Against Women & An Apology

StraightOuttaPR: Hip Hop, Violence Against Women & An Apology

Dr. Dre, the hip hop icon in the center of the movie “Straight Outta Compton” has issued an apology in the New York Times to “all the women he has hurt”. His apology refers to the social media backlash surrounding the revelations of his abuse of his former girlfriend musician Michel’le, music reporter Dee Barnes, and rapper Tairrie B.

Is he sincere, or is it an attempt to control the public relations angle of a highly successful movie? Where are we in the bigger picture of violence against women in the hip hop industry?

In truth, the abuse as detailed by the women occurred in the 80’s and early 90’s during the heyday of the gangsta rap group NWA. However, these allegations have been swirling around for years, only gaining traction as the movie “Straight Outta Compton” grossed close to $60 million in its opening weekend.

What is most perturbing is the acceptance of violence against women, and the reaction of those who heard the allegations prior to the release of the movie.

Earlier this year, 90’s R&B singer Michel’le (of “No More Lies” and “Something in My Heart” fame”) opened up about her life in an interview on the radio morning show “The Breakfast Club” with DJ Envy and Angela Yee.

  Michel’le is currently a cast member on the show “R&B Divas LA”. But the interview questions focused on her relationships with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight. She revealed that Dr. Dre used to beat her regularly, to the point that she sustained five black eyes and multiple broken ribs during the course of their relationship. Michel’le confirmed that she had heard a joke by a female rapper that the brand “Beats by Dre” was a reference to the beatings she sustained in their relationship. It was clear that her abuse was common knowledge in the rap community of that time.

It was a sad interview, with her telling her story in her distinct, baby like voice. What disturbed me was reading the Facebook responses her interview. Many folks commended her telling her story. But some (all of whom based on their profile pictures were African American women), said some pretty nasty comments. The comments ranged from “Why is she talking about this now?”, to “she’s just jealous and trying to stay relevant”, and “She’s trying to keep a brother down, she should keep this to herself”.

The comments revealed tendency of some in the African American community not to believe domestic violence victims (especially celebrity ones), assuming they want to “tear down a good black man”, “doing it for fame”, or “trying to get something out of it”

Let’s look at some of the arguments given point by point.

Why now? 

Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe the emotional scars have healed. She’s been in therapy, and clearly is a stronger person. Maybe she knows that neither Dre nor Suge can harm her or her career. She’s also older, and wiser. This occurred in her early twenties; she’s sharing a cautionary tale about the perceived glitter of getting with a baller and the dark side of hip hop. In listening to the interview, DJ Envy was very direct in his question about her relationships with both men. Was she supposed to lie to protect her abusers? To what end?

And, more importantly times have changed. DV is a bigger topic of discussion, especially with recent high profile cases in the NFL such as Ray Rice. This was not the case in the past.

She’s just trying to tear a good black man down. 

Why is it hard to believe that the leader of a gangsta rap group that glorified violence, who referred to women as b$&@’s regularly, who was sued for beating the living daylights out of rap reporter Dee Barnes in 1991 could have beaten his girlfriend? A billion dollar deal from Apple doesn’t change his past.

What’s she doing this for? 

What struck me is that she isn’t looking for an apology. Michel’le clearly said in her interview that even if he apologized, it wouldn’t matter since it was so long ago. She already has a show. Michel’le was quite clear that she has been working with a therapist to break destructive patterns, and make sure her life goes on a positive track. She has written a book, and is focusing on her role as a mother to her children. So quite simply, Michel’le was just telling her story. In sharing her story, she is letting other women in abusive situations know that they are not alone, they can leave, and there is life after an abuser.

She should just keep this to herself. It’s their business. 

We all need to get out of the dark ages, especially those of us who embrace hip hop. Domestic violence is not ok. It must not hide in the shadows as a private secret, to be endured. The question is never “what did she do to deserve it”; the answer is not “that’s just what men do”, or “that’s what you have to deal with as a woman”. If we all demand more of our men (respect, love, fidelity) we will receive more. But it starts with us, by respecting ourselves, and respecting other women.

Abusers love to say “no one will believe you” . For a long time, and still in certain circles, they are right! All of us need to really take a long hard look on where we are on the issue of violence against women. We have advanced to the point that we find it unacceptable in our sports stars, but in hip hop, it seems to be “part of the game”. A man must never put his hands on a woman. Realize that just as quick as you as a man would “go to the death” to defend the honor of your mother or sister if another man laid a hand upon her, what entitles you to do this to another man’s sister, mother or daughter?

Director Ana Duvernay made an incredible statement on Twitter recently “To be a woman who loves hip hop at times is to be in love with your abuser. Because the music was and is that. And yet the culture is ours”.

I grew up in New York, and watched rap music evolve into hip hop.  I loved the message music that it was initially, the fun party beats that made you dance, and the call to action that made you stand tall.  There are artists that still use hip hop to uplift, inspire and talk about real issues. But for too many artists, it is about glorifying violence, misogyny, and crime. Hip hop has moved from the days of reporting the destruction on the streets to glorifying the destruction. What happened to Queen Latifah and Salt n Peppa rapping about how ladies are queens? Public Enemy rapping about the response times of ambulances in NY, and shining a light on a real issue at the time?

It is not impossible to return to this era. We just have to remember that music is an industry — a business. Our dollars speak volumes. If we support misogyny and violence against women through supporting those artists and movies, then we will not see a change. Dr. Dre’s apology shows that he (or someone in his camp) realizes the business aspect.

Which means we, as consumers, should realize this as well.

Here’s a throwback of positivity circa 1989..

Looking Back to Move Forward…

Looking Back to Move Forward…

20140323-142740.jpgSo, as we wait for election results, there’s no better time than now to be reflective.  My blog, The Resident Legal Diva, has recently had its one year anniversary.  Ironically, I took on a 30 day Blogging 101 challenge…because why not? Nothing like a challenge to step up your game! In the next 30 days, you will see a lot of posts from me covering a variety of topics (which remain a mystery to me at this moment)!

The first assignment was to talk about my blog.  Why am I writing publicly instead of writing a personal journal? Who do I hope to connect with? What is the end goal a year from now? And what’s the story behind my tagline?

Whelp, let’s get started.

Why am I writing publicly instead of writing a personal journal? If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I am a prosecutor. (If not, welcome!) I love the law.  The law brings equality; the law brings change; the law brings justice. Often, the media gets it wrong (ratings are king). Often citizens get it wrong (due to just not knowing).  Sometimes the system gets it wrong. Facts and details get lost in the struggle between passion, history, and confusion as to how the system works.  My goal is to educate people about how the system really works, and what goes into the decision making process in cases.  Also, I want people to know what their rights are, and what remedies are available. This can only be done in a public forum.  With the internet reaching more and more people every day, what better way to educate the world?

Who do I hope to connect with? EVERYONE! My blog is not just for legal professionals (who are always welcome by the way). It’s for the students, the curious, the old, the young…anyone who cares about the world we live in and how the law governs us.

What is the end goal a year from now? I hope to have (and continue to have) great dialogues with folks from all walks of life.  My eyes have opened to issues as a result of discussions started on my blog.  I love to teach, but I enjoy learning as well.  The exchange of ideas is the only way our world will get better — it is the way to promote understanding.

And what’s the story behind my tagline? The Resident Legal Diva…I’m your in house legal expert.  And I love the word “Diva”.  I’m on a mission to reclaim the word from the negative connotations that come from reality television.  A Diva is a woman who is well spoken, well put together, and who carries herself with grace and elegance.  Most of all, a Diva is successful from her own intelligence, hard work and merit.  Notice there are no temper tantrums, outbursts, or generally “acting a fool” in that definition. What I described is the definition of a “hot mess”…which does not deserve air time (not on this blog anyway!).  And the rest “My Collection of Thoughts About Real Life and the Law”…is just that.  My thoughts…my opinions…but always open for discussion!

Looking back, the last year of blogging has been fun, uplifting, emotional, and really enlightening.  Here’s to many more!!

M.

Why Be Angry Over “Angry Black Woman?”

Why Be Angry Over “Angry Black Woman?”

Shonda-Rhimes1
Shonda Rhimes

Which would you rather be called?

A b&$%!, or an angry black woman?

If you said neither, you’d be on the right track.

If you asked “aren’t they the same thing”?, then you would have hit the heart of the matter.

Folks are wondering why Alessandra Stanley’s New York Times Article about Shonda Rhimes is causing such an uproar. Stanley wrote an article about television writer Rhimes (of “Scandal”, “Gray’s Anatomy” and “How to Get Away With Murder” fame), and while complimenting her success, focused largely on Rhimes’ ability to get away with being an “angry black woman”.

For the record, Rhimes has not been known for any publicized rants or bad behavior; her characters are the furthest you can find from angry black women; yet somehow, the article focused on this aspect.

For African American women, the stereotype of the angry black woman is parallel to the struggle that White women have had with the word “bitch”. Some women embrace the word “bitch” to mean a tough, aggressive, no-nonsense woman that threatens men on their own turf in the corporate world. The majority of women view it by its actual definition – a female dog, and a derogatory term that has no connotation of respect. Women of all races have fought for the right not to be called that word (including the ongoing battle in the music industry).

The image of an “angry black woman” conjures up that of an angry ghetto chick, snapping her gum, screaming at someone for no apparent reason, and making a scene “just because”. It embodies that of a bitter nasty woman who you certainly would not want to be friends with, much less date.

It even justifies (in some people’s minds) domestic violence (well of course he had to hit her…you know how those angry black women are). This becomes even more relevant in the current discussions of the recent arrests of NFL players Ray Rice and Jonathan Dwyer.

The last image that comes to mind when one says the term “angry black woman” is an educated, polished professional woman, who is the top of her career, has great credit, is a pillar in her community, and is a loving family member/friend (which all of Shonda Rhimes’ characters are in some way or form). But from a quick reading of Stanley’s article, Rhimes, as well as her body of work, is reduced to a simple stereotype.

That’s the dangerous thing about stereotypes – it paints all with a very wide brush. This is not to say an African American woman can’t be angry. But there is no “angry White woman” syndrome, or “angry White man”….so why make such a big deal about how Shonda Rhimes defied the odds and is NOT an angry black woman? If we were not sure before, reality television certainly has shown us that EVERY race, gender and sexual orientation can be good, bad and downright ugly. Why not characterize the individual by how they behave, instead of by some perceived stereotype that you believe is the standard?

Stanley has since stood by her article, saying that she “complimented” Rhimes for defying the stereotype. To draw another analogy, it’s like calling the female CEO of a major corporation  “a smart bitch with a heart of gold”, and as folks recoil in horror, saying “but I said she was smart!”
As we explore Stanley’s description of Viola Davis’ character in “How to Get Away with Murder”, she discusses how she is not classically beautiful due to her dark skin (!!) but has a sexy but menacing quality. Menacing, angry…common theme? Certainly not the way any woman would want to be described.

In truth, Stanley does chronicle the television evolution from the “uh uh-ing” maid, to the beloved Claire Huxtable from the Cosby Show, to the characters we see today. But she gave, and took away at the same time.

In summary: happiness comes from within, no matter what race you are.

So here’s a hashtag for you: #happyblackwoman.

Or better yet: #happy.

Weigh in with your thoughts!

M.

Charges Dropped…So is Zimmerman’s Girlfriend A Victim or a Fake??

Charges Dropped…So is Zimmerman’s Girlfriend A Victim or a Fake??

zimmerman again

Prosecutors came out yesterday and announced that charges against George Zimmerman will be dropped.  These charges were in connection with a domestic violence incident with his supposed girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe.

SO the burning question is…did this really happen, or did they make this up for attention?

See my article published on theLaw.tv below…

http://thelaw.tv/news/2013/12/11/victim-or-fake-zimmermans-girlfriend-wants-charges-dropped/