Remy Ma Opens Up About The Hidden Struggles Of Incarcerated Black Women
Remy Ma has decided to take an important stance against mass incarceration, pointedly in regards to one population that has received little attention despite rising rates of prison time.“Black women are overlooked all the time,” Remy says. “People don’t know all the hardships that being a black woman you have to face.”
The Bronx emcee, who served a six years sentence for an assault charge, opens up about the struggles she and other Black women faced while they were incarcerated after watching Ava Duvernay’s 13 documentary.
“People think I dwell on my incarceration. They don’t understand that literally, one day, I’m in my house, and the next, I’m miles and miles away behind bricks and barbed wire. It literally rips you out of the world, puts you somewhere else, and when they feel that it’s time, like, ‘Okay, now’s the time,’ they just throw you back out into the world. You try to fill out for a job application, you try to fill out for housing, anything as simple as voting for something that you did,” she told Huffington Post . “It’s never really like you paid your debt to society. This system is designed for you to fail.”
While there are constant critics and studies compiled about Black men who have been incarcerated in the aftermath of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, the rising criminalization of Black women has yet to make media attention with the same fervency. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, Black women are eleven times more likely to be incarcerated than white women, and Black transgender and gender nonconforming people are more likely to be incarcerated out of the queer population.
The mass incarceration of Black women was 35 years in the making. In 1986, the Reagan administration passed the Anti-drug Abuse Act, making a 5-year sentence for selling crack-cocaine mandatory. While the bill proved disastrous for Black men, the effects were just as harrowing for women. “The Act also took its toll on women, particularly Black women. Under the Act, police and prosecutors were able to arrest and charge spouses and lovers with drug trafficking ‘conspiracy’ for everyday actions such as taking a phone message or sharing finances,” explains Victoria Law for Public Eye .
The media persona of Black women created during Reagan’s presidency also set the stage for the mass incarceration rate of Black women. “Reagan’s War on Drugs coincided with a less-trumpeted right-wing war on women. Invoking images of Black welfare mothers driving Cadillacs and having children solely to collect more taxpayer dollars, Reagan and his acolytes whipped up public furor against welfare recipients and the idea that society should support those most in need,” Law continues. “The frenzy continued past his presidency; in 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was introduced as part of the Republican Contract with America and heavily pushed by House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other Republicans, as well as right-wing think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, home of Charles Murray, whose racist writings formed the foundation for welfare reform.” Such a narrative that began nearly 40 years ago provided the basis for massive stop-and-frisk of Black women and their funneling into the American prison system.
Black transgender women are more likely to be stopped by police, as they are often profiled as sex workers, even when they aren’t involved in the line of work. They are also more likely to be placed in solitary confinement by correctional officers for their gender identity when imprisoned, under the guise of protection.
As a survivor of the prison system, Remy Ma’s vocal support of prisoners is especially important, in light of the longest ongoing prison strike in American history, on the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising and the lesser known female prison rebellion at Beford Hills Correctional Facility in 1974.