Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Ken Holtzclaw has been hit with a 16 count indictment on charges of first degree rape, sexual battery, indecent exposure, stalking, forcible oral sodomy and burglary. These are charges would virtually insure that any other man so charged would be buried so deep in a prison cell that he'd be lucky to ever see the light of day in his lifetime. But Holtclaw will do more than see the light of day. He's free on bail. He walked out of court for a fraction of his initial $5 million dollar bail. His only stipulation is that he remain at home and wear a GPS device pending his upcoming trial. In the weeks after his August arrest on the charges, dozens rallied to his defense and donated thousands of dollars for his defense. Oh, and he's being paid while awaiting trial. To add to the outrage, his attorney has screamed conspiracy in the charges.
Despite the mind boggling charges, and subsequent kid glove treatment of Holtzclaw, there's been no indignant spate of articles and features in the national press on this injustice, no rallies, demonstrations, and marches from women's groups, and most tellingly, not a word of protest from civil rights groups. This is more than puzzling; it's a double outrage -- the fact that someone facing these types of off-the-charts-serious sexual violence charges was released on bail, and the virtual silence about it. I believe there is a terrifying reason for the mute silence. Holtzclaw is white, a police officer, and his family is well connected in law enforcement circles. But most importantly, even tragically, his rape victims were all black and female.
During the past decade, black women have been hammered by racial and gender stereotypes, criminal violence, and toss-away-the-key punitive laws.
Their grotesque treatment has had horrific consequences.
* Cheap life. Holtzclaw's kid glove treatment underscores the colossal risk of murder and criminal violence more black women now face. Homicide now ranks as a major cause of death for young black females. A black woman is ten times likelier to be raped and assaulted than a white woman. The media often magnifies and sensationalizes crimes by black men against white women, and ignores or downplays crimes against black women.
* Drug menace. Black women, as black men, have been arrested and imprisoned for long stretches on minor drug charges. Nearly half of the women behind bars in America are there for drug-related offenses, the majority of whom are black. Their disproportionate imprisonment numbers and plight has even been the subject of heart breaking features that spotlight the injustice done to them and their children and families. Since many of them are single mothers.
* Dangerous women: The beating by a California Highway Patrol officer in July in Los Angeles of a middle aged black woman caught on videotape, as well as the gunning down of black women by police officers in a number of cities, has added to the picture of menace being painted of black women. Then there's a sharp upswing in violent crimes by women, and Hollywood films that show black women as swaggering, trash talking, gun-toting, vengeful Thelma and Louise types, have escalated public fears that black women are menaces to society. The result: One in four women is now imprisoned for violent crimes, and half of them are black. Also many black women complain that they, as many black men, are racially profiled.
* Skyrocketing imprisonment: Black women are eight times likelier to be jailed than white women. For the first time in American history black women in some states are imprisoned at nearly the same rate as white men. And they are being jailed at even younger ages than ever. An American Bar Association study in April found that teen girls account for more than one-quarter of the juvenile arrests, are committing more violent crimes, and are slapped back into detention centers after release faster than boys. Black girls were arrested and jailed in far greater numbers than white girls. Almost certainly many of these delinquent teen girls will jam America's prisons as women.
There was a mass outcry over the beating by Baltimore Raven's all-pro running back Ray Rice of his fiancé now wife. Rice was hauled into court for it and received a two game suspension. Rice should have had the book thrown at him and the outcry that his star football status may have shielded him from more heavy duty punishment was certainly warranted. And here's another oh. Like Rice, Holtzclaw was also a star college football player that tried out for the pros. But Holtzclaw is accused of rape and other big ticket sexually violent acts and his alleged victims are also black women. So, the question must stand -- where's the same or even greater outrage about his treatment?
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.