Anybody would think that Florida State Attorney Angela Corey has a problem with young black men and women

Angela Corey is an American attorney currently serving as the State Attorney in Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit Court after being elected in 2008. She is the first woman to hold the position. Angela Corey is reputed to be a ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor. On average, Corey tries more male juveniles as adults than any other county court in Florida. However, Corey also tries a much greater percentage of black male juveniles as adults than the rest of Florida. In the five year period between 2006/7 and 2010/11, across the state of Florida, an average of 52 % of black male juveniles were tried as adults for crimes they had committed. Angela Corey tried an average of 70%. The same state over the same time period tried an average of 25% of white male juveniles as adults for crimes that they had committed, Angela Corey, on the other hand, tried an average of 18%. (Source)

florida juveniles tried as adults

In 2012, Julie Bindel interviewed Angela Corey. In a piece on the death penalty, Bindel quotes Corey talking about the death penalty:

“I had a young black woman tell me she was totally against the death penalty unless somebody killed someone in her family. Luckily justice is blind and we treat everyone’s loved ones the same.”

I do not support the death penalty. However, analysis of death penalty data tells us that Florida is far from unique with its racist application of ‘ justice’.  Since 1976, 35% of people executed in the USA were black, 56% were white.  Their victims were black in 15% of cases and white in 77% of cases. However, where the victim was white and the killer was black, there have been 261 executions (I prefer to see them as state sanctioned murders). Where the victim was black and the killer was white there have been only 20. What is particularly worrying is that America knows its justice is racist.   The United States General Accounting Office, Death Penalty Sentencing report from February 1990 states: “In 82% of the studies [reviewed], race of the victim was found to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving the death penalty, i.e., those who murdered whites were found more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks.”  Angela Corey is therefore just one of many, but if justice is -as she claims – blind, it is blind to racism not race.

Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old young black man was chased, beaten and shot by George Zimmerman in Florida on 26th February 2012. Zimmerman claimed he feared for his life and was acting in self-defence.

Less than two years previously, Marissa Alexander, a 31-year-old black American woman had been jailed under Corey.  On 1st August 2010, Marissa Alexander’s husband, Rico Gray, hit her, attempted to strangle her, threatened that no one else could have her and told her, “Bitch, I will kill you,” as he ran towards her. She fired a warning shot from her gun which was angled away from him. She did not hit him and originally Rico Grey said that he did not believe she had intended to kill him.

George Zimmerman pleaded self-defence,  even though he ignored a 911 call-taker’s recommendation that he did not need to leave his car and chase Trayvon Martin, even though, despite this recommendation to the contrary, he hunted for Trayvon Martin, confronted him, attacked him and shot him dead. Marissa Alexander was trying to flee from Rico Grey. She was in her mother’s home. He had attacked her moments before and was threatening to kill her. He has a record of domestic violence against her and several other women.

Trayvon Martin is dead. His shooter, his assailant, his attacker, George Zimmerman, walked free after being found not guilty of murder.

Rico Grey is alive and well. His shooter, who was trying to escape from him and against whom he has a history of violence, was found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Marissa Alexander was sentenced to twenty years in prison.

George Zimmerman has a criminal record which included domestic violence and “battery of law enforcement officer”. Marissa Alexander did not have a prior criminal record.

Anyone would think that ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor Angela Corey is a little tougher on young black men than young white men. Anyone would think that ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor Angela Corey is a little less tough if the victim of crime is black. Anyone would think that ‘tough on crime’ prosecutor Angela Corey is a little tougher on crimes committed by black women with a history of being a victim of domestic violence.  Anyone would think that justice in America is racist.

Anyone wanting to support Marissa Alexander may want to sign this petition demanding that she is pardoned: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/503/600/056/dont-imprison-marissa-alexander-for-standing-her-ground/

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It’s not all about you

Last week, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner released a report on the impact of pornography on young people. Tweets about this report from the perspective on an organisation working with women, young people and children elicited responses including the following:

“so improve porn. Don’t ban young people from seeing it. Porn is a healthy aid to masturbation. It’s just badly done.”

“Telling women they’re debased by sex. Feminism.”

“I’m sick of people shaming porn. I’ve been watching porn since I was 11. It’s a healthy part of my life.”

Since then, the voices of so-called pro-porn, pro-sex-work and tory-feminists have started to sound increasingly similar to me. The young woman defending porn as a healthy aid to masturbation, the sex-worker celebrating her mastery of her craft or the former-tory politician describing that hard work that she had to undertake to reach the lofty heights of power, to my ears they’re all ‘me, my needs, my achievements, my just rewards’.

Starting with Louise Mensch, her own words really do it best:

“Aged 14 I had big glasses, was nerdy, feminist, ambitious, idolising Thatcher, and determined to be famous, to be an author, and to be rich. I was at private school my parents couldn’t really afford because I bust my ass and won a 100% academic scholarship. I always believed in myself and I had and have no intention of checking my privilege for anyone. I earned it. I hope the next generation of young women feel the same.”

That’s lovely, Louise. But no matter how hard you busted your arse, it might not be so easy for someone who doesn’t have a family descended from Roman Catholic gentry, who doesn’t get that scholarship and ‘earn’ a place at Oxford.

It’s clear that some groups have power and advantage where others do not. No one should deny that inequality, injustice, disadvantage and privilege exist. No one should deny that some experience multiple oppressions that others do not. This powerful blog by Reni Eddo-Lodge is a kick in the guts illustration to anyone who ever doubted it that that Sojourner Truth, Bell Hooks, Audre Lorde and Angela Carter are as relevant to feminism today as Karl Marx’s thoughts about economic exploitation, alienation and the opium of the people. But from recognising the effects of class, race, age, sexuality, of life choices, life chances, of biologically determined or socially constructed differences, feminist identity politics has developed. Identity politics has become a sort of cultural nationalism, emphasising differences between those who share or do not share certain characteristics of identities whilst blurring what they may share.

Somewhere along the way ‘the personal is political’ became – not about the way that patriarchal society shapes the detail of women’s lives, not about the commonalities of experiences and certainly not about the social and political forces defining and constraining what it is to be a woman – but about identity, the individual, empowerment, the freedom to choose, the freedom to excel, to achieve.

The conflation of empowerment and the personal – as an individual, not social being – as the political undermines collective action to dismantle the structures upholding inequality. Emphasising self-determination and personal achievement is conservative, it protects the status quo if it stops us from recognising or caring about the barriers that others face. Autonomy, choice, agency, empowerment are at best tools, political means not ends. If we confuse them with our goals then we might as well watch the chance to create a fairer and more just society for all slip through our fingers.

Can we create autonomy for ourselves as consumers? Does the young woman enjoying her healthy aid to masturbation see this outside of the global porn industry? Is her masturbation not influenced by the big business of the market, competition and profit? Feminists have historically and continue to fight for women’s sexual liberation, but on our terms; not a plasticised, eroticisation of power inequality defined by men and their profits. Can her freedom to enjoy porn be separated from the exploitation of women and girls? How easy is it to separate her ‘ethical feminist porn’ from that which produces images of violence against women and girls created by actual violence against women and girls? What about the women and girls who suffer sexual abuse, violence and coercion from men and boys whose expectations have been shaped more by the pornography they have seen than their own experiences?

Do we want the freedom to gain economic advantage from commodifying women, packaging our sexuality, whether through lap dancing, pornography or selling sex, to appeal to the male gaze? If we can see the relationship between cheap clothing, the Rana Plaza Bangladesh Factory collapse and international economic exploitation, why can’t we see the connection between buying and selling women, exploitation of women and girls through prostitution and trafficking and inequality between women and men? If we want better and fair working conditions for people in Bangladesh factories (the largest sector of women’s employment and creating over 75 per cent of the country’s export income), do we not equally recognise that a gendered employment market with economic inequality and the low paid, dead end jobs being disproportionately held by women in the West creates the conditions that make selling sex a viable (lack of) choice?

Or do we only care when it suits us?

Empowerment is all well and good, but how will it change the world? Feminism for me is not about focusing on the individual. It’s about transcending the politics of the individual. I want a better world for all of us.