Who cares about little black girls?

“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.”

So stated Malcolm X in 1962. And within the many years since, these phrases have continued to resonate: a rallying cry for black girls who felt sidelined within the battle for civil rights, ignored throughout the feminist awakening and discounted at the same time as their protests in opposition to police violence have earned that motion new consideration.

But it’s a brand new 12 months. And three episodes within the first week of 2019 have given black girls ample purpose to contemplate whether or not something has modified.

At least one could possibly be categorised as excellent news. On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, R, granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown. In 2004, the then- 16-year-old was sentenced to life in jail for the killing of a 43-year-old stranger who picked her up and took her to his house. Brown stated she had been pressured into prostitution by a violent boyfriend and that the person was one in all many johns who had bought her for intercourse; however, she was tried and convicted for homicide. Now 30 years previous, Brown has been in jail for 15 years. Her launch, on supervised parole, is scheduled for Aug. 7.

In a press release thanking Haslam, Brown wrote: “We truly serve a God of second chances and new beginnings.” But her case highlights how the criminal-justice system fails to see the distinctive vulnerability of black girls in America immediately. Black girls are particularly more likely to be victims of intimate accomplice violence. No girl is extra more likely to be raped. Yet the eye to Brown’s case is an anomaly. Who cares when it’s a little black lady?

That brings us to the unhealthy information. On Tuesday,a funeral was held for 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes. The second-grader from Texas was killed when a gunman in a pickup truck all of a sudden opened fireplace on her household’s automotive, injuring Barnes’ mom and sister and taking pictures her within the head.

Her dying gained nationwide consideration within the first days of the brand new 12 months, particularly as a result of the suspect was first described as a white man. That data raised the specter of racially motivated violence, catnip for public dialogue. This weekend, nonetheless, a tip led to the arrest of two black males, and the story is rapidly fading from view – even though black girls represent greater than a 3rd of feminine murder victims within the United States whereas making up solely 13 p.c of American girls. But then once more: Who cares when it’s solely a little black lady?

Both episodes have been instructive – exhibiting black girls make folks care, regardless that most people’s consideration is most frequently mounted elsewhere.

Brown wouldn’t have been freed with out the tireless work of the organizers and activists who launched the social media marketing campaign #FreeCyntoiaBrown. Jazmine Barnes’ alleged shooters had been discovered by way of ideas solicited on Twitter. Celebrities used Instagram, Facebook and different social media retailers to name consideration to each tales; the secret is to sidestep mainstream media retailers (which extra usually relegate black girls to the again web page, in the event that they’re acknowledged in any respect) and put stress straight on police investigators and their bosses.

The third episode tells us how far we’ve to go.

Over the primary weekend of the brand new 12 months, the Lifetime community aired “Surviving R. Kelly,” a six-part documentary detailing the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer’s decades-long historical past of sexual predation. There are interviews with girls who say he manipulated and sexually abused them and fogeys who say he’s holding their daughters in coercive intercourse cults; it revisits his 2008 baby pornography trial; and it appears again at his 1994 marriage to a then-15-year-old Aaliyah. It is harrowing, and horrifying. But Kelly’s conduct has been an open secret for years. Fans, critics, producers and music executives have given him a go, largely as a result of his victims are black girls and women.

It’s not but clear that may change. Only a number of of Kelly’s well-known collaborators have been keen to publicly converse out in opposition to him, and streams of R. Kelly’s music reportedly elevated by 16 p.c after the Lifetime sequence aired. But as soon as once more, black girls are utilizing the instruments we’ve developed, and on this occasion, they might truly work. #MuteRKelly is trending on social media, and celebrities are lastly calling for boycotts of his music and exhibits. R. Kelly is now underneath investigation in Georgia, and witnesses are being solicited by the state’s legal professional in Chicago.

More than a half-century on from Malcolm X, black girls deserve higher. Maybe this 12 months, somebody will care about black women.

Christine Emba is an opinion columnist and editor for The Washington Post. Before coming to The Post in 2015, Christine was the Hilton Kramer Fellow in Criticism on the New Criterion and a deputy editor on the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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