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Marissa Alexander: Out of prison, still being punished

As noted yesterday, Marissa Alexander was released from prison yesterday. She has been, however, sentenced to two years’ of house arrest (after having spent three years in prison already), all for the crime of, nine days after having given birth, firing a warning shot at her estranged abusive ex-husband who was threatening to kill her (you can find this info, and the citations, on Wikipedia–I know we’re all pissed at Wikipedia right now, and for good reason, but I don’t see a reason not to trust the article). She had tried to escape through the garage, but the garage door wouldn’t open, at which point she got her gun out of her car and returned to the house, which is when her ex threatened to kill her. Her ex, Rico Gray and his son, who was present, corroborate every bit of this, and other women who have been involved with Gray confirm that he’s an abusive asshole.

Angela Corey’s vendetta, and decision to attempt to go for a sixty year sentence, has been documented already here. Angela Corey feels that Alexander fired the gun “in anger, not fear.” Apparently, if you’re a black woman in Florida, you are not allowed to let anger at being abused and threatened taint your fear of your abuser. Do we need to talk about how this plays into racist tropes of the Angry Black Woman? That what Corey is saying here is that as an Angry Black Woman, Alexander did not have properly ladylike emotions, and therefore should be punished?

Anger is a legitimate response to abuse. This is something I had to reiterate in very different circumstances, when I was running a petition regarding a friend who had been sexually harassed and her attempts at redress. Women are allowed to be angry. Black women are allowed to be angry. A woman can be angry and still need to defend herself.

Under you learn something new every day, I did not know that Alexander is required to pay for the ankle bracelet monitoring her movements and keeping her under house arrest. As the email that was sent to me by Free Marissa Now notes, this bracelet extends state surveillance and control into Alexander’s very home, and forcing her to pay for it is part of the privatization of the prison industry (please see Maya Schwerner’s article for more on the former, and Professor Beth Richie’s piece for more on the latter).

As far as I’m concerned, no matter what pieties the courts may mouth about this, they have no credibility. They have no place sitting in judgment on a woman trying to defend herself in her own home. That’s all I have to say right now. I’d like to find the text of Judge Daniel’s ruling/statement, but no luck so far.


6 thoughts on Marissa Alexander: Out of prison, still being punished

  1. Angela Corey feels that Alexander fired the gun “in anger, not fear.” Apparently, if you’re a black woman in Florida, you are not allowed to let anger at being abused and threatened taint your fear of your abuser. Do we need to talk about how this plays into racist tropes of the Angry Black Woman? That what Corey is saying here is that as an Angry Black Woman, Alexander did not have properly ladylike emotions, and therefore should be punished?

    Sorry, but while I’m with you on the rest of your post, this is a really blatant misrepresentation of a) Corey’s words and b) the point of distinguishing between self-defense (fear) and attacking someone (anger).

    And yeah, fuck Angela Corey, and no, Alexander shouldn’t have been in jail, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to represent everyone honestly/fairly.

    1. I understand you’re in disagreement with the author’s point of view here, but you don’t actually give me enough information to follow your argument. The prosecutor characterized Alexander’s motivation as anger not fear. As EG seems perfectly aware of, those two motivations have different legal outcomes in re: self-defense. EG is then saying that black women are misinterpreted through the lens of cultural racism to be “angry” in many cases when the same behaviors–if performed by white people–would be seen as having different motivations.

      Therefore, the characterization of Alexander as angry, not afraid, has a cultural history tied to racist ideas about black women, and that very racism threatened to put Alexander in prison for a long time.

      The quote from Corey is accurate, so I’m not sure how this is a really blatant misrepresentation of Corey’s words.

      What, then, is your precise objection to this line of argument? How is this not honest or fair? Because you don’t actually say, and I would like to be follow your argument.

        1. Because Corey wasn’t trying to say anger isn’t a legitimate response to abuse, or that abuse victims need to be ‘ladylike,’ or that anger is an inappropriate emotion.

          She was trying to say that Alexander got angry, and so got a gun, and then came back in a purposeful attempt to murder her husband, due to said anger. As opposed to shooting at him due to her fear of imminent physical harm.

          And I think you know what she meant.

    2. I should say that EG follows on with the idea that fear and anger are not magically separate, and one can feel both, and that deciding that the anger was the motivator rather than the fear is the thing that has a setting within systemic racism and sexism.

  2. If you don’t understand why emphasizing a black woman’s “anger” and placing it above other possible motives is problematic in a judicial setting (and elsewhere), then I have actually no idea how to explain it to you.

    Talking about a black woman being “angry” as part of an attempt to get her sentenced to life in prison when she injured no one participates in a tried-and-true tactic of institutional structures of racism, and so, yeah, I think EG knows exactly what the prosecutor meant. You, on the other hand, seem to think that the prosecutor’s words exist in a motiveless vacuum of pure proof and the desire to see impartial justice done.

    Zimmerman was characterized as being “afraid” and got off even though he murdered somone. Talking about Alexander’s “anger” is not divorced from context and history, for fuck’s sake.

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