The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
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Who is protecting our Black women?

Who+is+protecting+our+Black+women%3F

In a speech he made in Los Angeles in 1962, Malcolm X, a prominent human rights activist, said, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” 

In the subsequent six decades, civil rights activists have drawn attention to the many ways in which Black women are subjugated.  

On the Oct. 3 season premiere of Saturday Night Live, rapper and songwriter Megan Thee Stallion drew attention to the continued oppression of Black women in America in her performance of her hit song, “Savage.” In the performance, she highlighted the grand jury’s decision not to charge any of the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor. Stallion’s message during the song: protect Black women.

Black women are continually murdered without consequence, as we pointed out in our Sept. 30 editorial. Taylor’s murder and the grand jury’s bizarre, but not surprising, decision continues to confirm that Black women’s lives don’t matter. Even when Black women are not killed, their lives are at risk or threatened, even on our campus. An example of this is the threats made against mainly Black and brown women on our campus by the owner(s) of an anonymous Instagram account. 

The account made death threats and threats of sexual violence against multiple women through direct messages. The women reported these threats to the Office of Public Safety & Security and to the Philadelphia Police Department. Just reporting these threats did not make these women feel any safer, in part because of a lackluster response by the university. 

This response, and poor follow-up communication with the women involved, is cause for concern. A number of the women who reported the threats did not hear back from the university after their initial reports. This is telling, given that most of the women who reported the threats are Black and brown. Would the university have responded differently had the group of women been mainly white? Patterns of systematic oppression in the criminal justice system say ‘yes.’ Members of Public Safety and the Office of Title IX and Equity Compliance who are investigating these threats would have responded differently to white students.

The university also seemed particularly focused on the student-athletes involved, leaving students who are not athletes without an advocate. Athletes had Jill Bodensteiner, J.D., director of athletics, who organized a meeting with athletes and the Title IX Coordinator. Non-athlete students, who should have had a proactive advocate at least in the associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as the Title IX Coordinator, had to seek out their own resources.

 If Black and brown women on campus are threatened with sexual violence and death, they shouldn’t have to fight so hard for communication, care and protection from a university that promises “cura personalis.” Their phone calls should be returned. Investigators should follow up with the status of the investigation. Their plight shouldn’t appear on a university Instagram story that disappears in 24 hours. 

St. Joe’s has a duty to protect all of its students, especially Black and brown women who are not protected by the American justice system and society at large. Otherwise, the university is simply replicating, reinforcing and perpetuating that oppression. And that is simply unacceptable.

 

—The Editorial Board

 

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