Policing Black Women's Bodies Isn't About Safety, But It Is Rooted In History

black woman standing in a white bodycon dress
Zain Murdock
October 23, 2023

Ten years after Monica Jones, a 23-year-old woman was again accused of “manifesting prostitution.” Police say she was “dressed to attract attention.” Hundreds of people in Phoenix, Arizona, have been charged with this supposed crime. 

And for Black women, this criminalization runs deeper than just one city ordinance.

The moment European colonizers stepped onto African soil, they sexualized Black women and girls. Instead of seeing their nakedness and dancing as a reflection of rich cultures, hot weather, and agency, they labeled them promiscuous and inhuman. They used that to justify enslavement and abuse. 

And when slavery ended, this colonial norm didn’t end with it.

Today, it translates to constantly criticizing how Black women express their sexuality, or projecting sexuality onto those engaging in nothing sexual at all. 

Manifesting prostitution is just one example of a culture of policing that especially impacts trans, sex-working, fat, dark-skinned, and disabled Black women.

And, like all policing, this doesn’t create safety. This teaches Black women to feel unsafe in their own bodies. This authorizes the world to exploit and pick Black women apart.

But unlearning centuries of carcerality, misogynoir, and respectability politics is not only possible but inevitable. 

We’ve existed longer than those centuries. And we will create a future where we all feel safe within ourselves and can walk fearlessly in the world as we are.

We have a quick favor to ask:

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