Black Women and Bodily Privacy
I generally try to avoid footage of black folks being shot, strangled, and otherwise abused. It's triggering for me. So it was with great reluctance that I watched the video of Chikesia Clemons being arrested at the Alabama Waffle House. What struck me was how cavalier the officers were about exposing her breasts and the rest of her body during the course of an arrest that the local police department is calling justified. I immediately thought about the long historical acceptance of black women's bodies being exposed against their will by others with power over life and death. The immediate contemporary connection for me came from the findings of the Department of Justice investigation of the Baltimore Police Department following the murder of Freddie Gray. The DOJ found that the BPD engaged in public (roadside) strip searches of black women stopped for minor traffic violations. Simultaneously, a historical example that sprang to mind for me was J. Marion Sims's "experiments" on enslaved black women, often without anesthesia. That part of the story of the "father of modern gynecology" has garnered media attention in the past several months, and it is horrible enough. What is less known is that Sims often invited others, not only medical trainees but any curious soul, to view these women's genitals. This is all I'll say for now because I'm turning around a longer piece and want to organize my thoughts.
I refuse to share that video.