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V Books: Andrea Ritchie Looks At Police Violence Against Women of Color In New Book, ‘Invisible No More’

New book sheds light on police violence against women of color. 

Much of the narrative on police brutality in America is centered on police violence against black men. The recent killings of Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Keith Scott, to name a few, have sparked the well-respected #BlackLivesMatter movement as a response to the unarmed killings of African Americans by police. Just because the national conversation about police violence is focused on men, doesn’t mean that women of color are exempt from the ire of law enforcement.

Andrea Ritchie, a police misconduct attorney, decided to take a closer look at women of color's experience with police brutality in her new book titled, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color (Beacon Press).

In Invisible No More, Ritchie draws on the individual stories of Reika Boyd, Sandra Bland, Dajerria Becton, Monica Jones, and Mya Hall. She also looks at racial profiling, immigration, among other issues, and how they affect women of color.

VIBE spoke with Ritchie, who is also co-author of Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women, about her new book, “broken windows” policing, and why more attention isn’t given to women of color experience with police violence.  

VIBE: Briefly tell us about your book “Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color.”
Andrea Ritchie: Invisible No More explores women’s experiences of racial profiling, police violence, immigration enforcement, and mass incarceration from a number of angles - from a historical perspective, through the present-day experiences of girls and young women, women with disabilities, mothers, and survivors of violence, and through the lens of racialized policing of gender and sexuality – as well as ways in which women of color have resisted police violence over decades, centuries really. It uses individual women’s stories, research studies, and examples of organizing efforts addressing women’s experiences of policing to paint a picture of both the problem and the response.

What drew you to this research?
As the 1991 Rodney King beating and aftermath unfolded, and the conversations around racial profiling and police violence sparked by the incident evolved, it became clear to me that Black women’s experiences of police shootings, beatings, strip searches, and sexual violence were consistently left out. While communities of Black women and women of color were talking about and organizing around these cases and patterns of abuse, the rest of the world was only talking about the experiences of Black men and men of color (who were assumed to be heterosexual and not transgender). Black women were coming forward and telling their stories, but somehow they were never integrated into the larger story about policing, our analysis of the problem, or proposed solutions. Gradually, I became what you might call obsessed with documenting, tracking down, raising and publicizing the stories and patterns of police violence that mainstream movements against police brutality and violence against women were not paying attention to.

What message do you want to get across with this book?
That racial profiling and police violence affect Black women and women of color in many of the same ways and contexts as they do men – driving/walking/breathing while Black, “stop and frisk” and “broken windows” policing, the school-to-prison pipeline, immigration enforcement. And that they also affect Black women and women of color in unique ways and settings – like drug law and prostitution enforcement, “walking while trans,” “giving birth and mothering while Black,” and police responses to calls for help. And that the lives of Black women, trans women, Native women, disabled women, queer women, Latinxs, girls of color matter – even if they make up a smaller percentage of stops, arrests, police killings, and people in prison. And that these experiences have a lot to teach us about racism and resistance. If we are not looking at the full picture, we can never fully tackle the problem.

You talk about the erasure of black women’s experiences. How can we counter this erasure?
We need to make room for women’s stories in the conversations, in the research, in the organizing, in the advocacy. We need to look past the surface and delve deeper to learn about women’s experiences, to constantly ask ourselves in conversations about racial profiling, police violence, and mass incarceration “how does what we are talking about here affect Black women (including, of course, Black trans women)? Does that change the way we understand this issue? The demands we should be making?” And if we don’t know the answer, we need to do the work to uncover what is currently invisible, to ask each other, to ask Black women. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard a Black woman tell a story of racial profiling or police violence she’s never told before simply because no one ever asked her about her own experiences, or “it just never seemed like it was something anyone wanted to talk about.”

We also need to look beyond where we are already looking to find the places and ways police come into contact with Black women that may be unique – in hospitals, welfare offices, public housing, in our homes and on the streets – in order to better understand what those interactions look like, if there are trends there that demand our attention. That’s how we’ll see how Black trans women experience policing, how child welfare enforcement involves racial profiling and criminalization of Black women, how racial profiling manifests in the context of prostitution enforcement, and start to integrate those experiences into our analysis and our resistance.

Will you explain policing paradigms and criminalizing webs and how it affects women of color?
Policing paradigms are basically ways in which people think about policing and public safety – for instance, “broken windows” policing is an unproven theory that aggressive enforcement of minor offenses like littering, drinking in public, or not paying a public transit fare somehow stops more serious offenses. Invisible No More explores how paradigms like the “war on drugs,” “broken windows’ policing, criminalization of immigrants, and the “war on terror” weave together into a web that ensnares women of color in ways that are increasingly visible in the current political climate.

For instance, racial profiling and discriminatory enforcement are driving both the growing number of Black and Latina women in jail for drug and “public order” offenses and the criminalization and deportation of immigrant women. A drug arrest can lead to eviction from public housing and further criminalization through “broken windows” policing, which explicitly targets homeless people. Pronouncements by public officials that transgender people are somehow a “disruption” contribute to police harassment, violence, and arrests of trans people in public spaces by police charged under “broken windows” policing with rooting out “disorder.” Erosion of health care means more women in mental health crisis coming into contact with police and being locked up – or worse. In the end, everywhere we turn, there is a tentacle of the criminal legal system reaching out to grab women of color.

Can you tell us—in your opinion-- why more attention is given to men who experience police violence as opposed to women who experience police violence?
Historically, state violence has consistently been framed as something targeting men of color, while private violence has been framed as something experienced by white women, leaving Black women and women of color, who disproportionately experience both forms of violence, out of the conversation altogether. Also, when we understand police violence primarily as fatal shootings of unarmed people we leave out a lot of women’s experiences – including police sexual violence, sexual harassment, and strip searches, for instance. And, I think confronting police violence against women of color requires also confronting the violence that women of color experience within our own communities, which people are largely reluctant to do.

Do you have any ideas on how women can counter Broken Windows policing?
By pointing out the ways in which it increases violence rather than decreasing it – through sexual harassment and extortion by police, police brutality, gender policing of trans and gender nonconforming people, and by criminalizing women for surviving poverty, often in ways that make them more vulnerable to private violence. And by pointing out the ways in which it facilitates racialized policing of gender, and sexuality through notions of what constitutes “disorder,” whether it’s a group of queer or gender nonconforming Black girls hanging out on a corner being loud, or a Black woman walking down the street late at night dressed to go out, or a Black woman sleeping in a public place. It’s not about public safety, it’s about regulating people of color in public spaces.

We’ve heard similar stories like the stories in this book before, but why is this book important?
It brings the individual stories, existing research, and examples of campaigns centering the experiences of women and girls of color together in one place to fuel conversations that go beyond increasing visibility of women’s stories to asking how they change the conversation.

Are there other areas of research you would like to see explored on this topic?
There are so many! At the most basic level, I would like to see scholars and policy analysts challenge themselves to look more closely at existing data through the lens of both race and gender, and to talk about racial disparities in surveillance, stops, arrests, and punishment for women in the context of the “war on drugs,” immigration, child welfare, prostitution enforcement, and responses to calls for assistance. I would also like to see more research on profiling and police violence targeting Native women, Asian women, and Muslim women. For instance, Native people experience the highest rates of police violence in the U.S., but we know very little about Native women’s experiences of policing beyond a few cases of police shootings and deaths in custody. By making all women of color’s experiences of policing more visible, we will find common ground - both among women of color and between men and women of color - that can fuel our collective resistance.

You can purchase Invisible No More over at Beacon Press.

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We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

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NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

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After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

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“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

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“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

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“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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