Jennifer Wriggins analyzes the significance how race, ethnicity, and class influence a woman’s vulnerability to rape, the meaning and impact of the rape, and the response of family, of community, and of social institutions. Her article, “Rape, Racism, and the Law,” specifically focuses on the history of rape in the United States between the rapes of White women by Black men. As a feminist, she specifically focuses on two very damaging consequences of this selective blindness: the denials that Black women are raped; and all women are subject to pervasive and harmful sexual coercion of all kinds. Thorough this powerful essay, she examine the legal system’s treatment of rape and how racism plays a major part in denying the rights of African Americans, as well as, deny the veracity of women’s sexual subordination by creating a social meaning of rape which implies that the only type of sexual abuse is “illegal rape” and the only form of illegal rape is Black offender/White victim.
I was exasperated after reading this article. This article highly irritated and annoyed me because of the interconnectedness of rape and racism. As a woman, it is hard not to get heated about this particular subject. Presently, there are now many struggles against rape. And, in acknowledging the struggles against rape one must also acknowledge the difference among women and the different ways that groups other than women are disempowered. In one of the many examples in this essay, racism and justice collide when in 1859 the Mississippi Supreme court dismissed the indictment of a male slave for the rape of a female slave less than 10 years old. “This indictment cannot be sustained, either at common law or under our statutes. It charges no offense known to either system.
Slavery was unknown to the common law… and hence its provisions are inapplicable… There is no act which embraces either the attempted or actual commission of a rape by a slave on a female slave… Master and slaves cannot be governed by the same system or laws; so different are their position, right and duties.” This ruling is disheartening in a few ways: Black men are held to lesser standards of restraint with Black women that are white men with White women; second, white men are held to lesser standards of restraint with black women that are Black men with white women. However, neither white nor black men were expected to show sexual restraint with black women. This is truly upsetting, to me, because no man no matter what color should have the right to exercise rape or sexual coercion of any kind with any woman of any color without her consent.
This reading is important to social work practice because it reflects and expansive and integrated approach to understanding rape, racism, and the law. By exploring the interconnectedness of rape and racism, I learned to analyze the assumptions implanted in and surrounding rape, racism, and social institutions. Finally, it develops understanding of the narrow focus of the black offender and the white rape victim, and the denial of the rape of black women, which engages within the cultural assumption of American society that is important to understand in the field of social work. This reading also teaches up to be receptive social work professionals able to work respectfully and competently with diverse population groups, with at the same time to understand and develop a sensitivity and respect for human rights.
Through this reading, it is easy to see how stereotypes of racial and ethnic differences can have impact on a person’s life in regards to consequences, rewards, and punishments. It has not fit in because examining substantive justice arguably requires that human rights to life, well-being, and the commodities essential to life and well-being, be given priority whenever a societal decision is made. Societal conditions and institutional arrangements should be recognized as grounds for justification because they may impose limits and constraints on the choices available to an individual that are as unavoidable and compelling as those imposed by chance or by another human being. It is a scary thought that your skin color or sex could work against you in the legal system, but it does happen. For this reason, it is easy to understand why many women are not reporting these incidents.
Reference: “Rape, Racism, and the Law” by Jennifer Wriggins
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