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Understanding #Holtzclaw: The intersections of race and sexualized violence

Let’s begin with some groundwork. There are long-standing social systems that lead to the widespread oppression of certain groups of people. Actions and behaviors committed by a member of a dominant group exerting power and control over a traditionally oppressed group feed into the monstrous system of social inequity. We will not end any one form of social oppression until we end all of them. 

The actions of former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw perfectly illustrate the intersections of oppression. Holtzclaw used his position of power as a police officer patrolling in an economically depressed community to commit acts of sexual violence against at least 13 Black women in Oklahoma City. Holtzclaw used sexual violence as a tool of racial, class, and gender oppression.  

In An Open Letter from Black Women’s Blueprint to the Black Women Survivors Who Were Sexually Assaulted by Daniel Holtzclaw, Farah Tanis discussed nuanced connections between “sexualized racism and racialized sexism.” A lethal combination of bias, bigotry, historical trauma, and broken and bruised legal systems has concocted a terrifying reality for Black women and girls

It’s no wonder that many survivors of color will never report their victimization or seek help from a mainstream sexual assault program. Every person has a right to safety in body, mind and spirit. Black women and girls are often denied that right. 

“…be clear about this: you have a right to protect and defend your body, your self and you have a right to speak against sexual violence even if the harm-doer is an agent of the state.”
~Farah Tanis, An Open Letter

For this reason, it is crucial that we promote awareness and solidarity in the face from Holtzclaw’s sentencing. So here is what you need to know:

  • January 20 is the Day of Visibility - You and your organization can increase the dialogue about this case on social media, in letters to the editor, and on traditional news media. Seek out these opportunities now!
  • January 21 is the Day of Accountability – This is the day of the sentencing hearing for Daniel Holtzclaw. Follow the sentencing and publicly call for accountability in this case.

The African American Policy Forum has tools available to help you. You can watch a webinar recording to learn more about our role in continuing the conversation and working to end systematic racialized and sexualized oppression against Black women and girls. You can also participate in the upcoming webinar Beyond Holtzclaw: Demanding Visibility and Accountability for ALL Victims of Police Abuse January 19. 

Use the social media hashtags #Holtzclaw, #BlackWomenMatter, and #SayHerName to help contribute to this conversation. Let’s mobilize to end this oppressive violence. 

This is part of a series.  

Read Part 2 What does #Holtzclaw mean for White Anti-Violence Activists?

Read Part 3 Law Enforcement & Justice in the face of #Holtzclaw

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