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Cops Abduct, Beat 12 Year Old Girl

December 19, 2008
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Some folks are so skeptical of police that this headline calls forth outrage, but requires no particular explanation. I’m not quite one of those people. So here’s the explanation.

(1) It was Galveston.
(2) She is black.
(3) They were responding to a report of prostitutes in the area.

Well, now, that’s an explanation that calls forth outrage.

According to the article, she is still facing criminal charges for fighting back, two years later; the case produced a mistrial once. The cops, who pulled up in blue van in plainclothes and did not identify themselves, beat the shit out of her before she, understandably fighting like hell, got away. She was treated for eardrum and throat injuries. They rounded her up at school — at middle school! — weeks later to charge her with assaulting them.

Beyond just getting angry and pointing out injustice, I wanted to highlight two things.

First is the demonization of women of color, and specifically black women. From the article:

As it turned out, the three men were plain-clothed Galveston police officers who had been called to the area regarding three white prostitutes soliciting a white man and a black drug dealer.

All this is according to a lawsuit filed in Galveston federal court by Milburn against the officers. The lawsuit alleges that the officers thought Dymond, an African-American, was a hooker due to the “tight shorts” she was wearing, despite not fitting the racial description of any of the female suspects. The police went to the wrong house, two blocks away from the area of the reported illegal activity…

(Emphasis supplied.)

So the police are responding to a report of white women committing a crime (that shouldn’t be a crime), and they see a black child, and they assume she’s a sex worker … because …?

I could not possibly say it better than Samhita Mukhopadhyay did in her essay “Trial By Media: Black Female Lasciviousness And The Question of Consent”:

Representations of women of color in the media are based in the belief that women of color’s sexuality is so potent that the only role for them is to be sexualized.

YMY at p. 151.*

To these cops, they were looking for prostitutes and they saw a pre-teen black girl and said, “Aha! That must be our suspect!” What does that say about them? What does that say about our culture?

There’s a second thing I wanted to say about this story.

SHE’S TWELVE!

We ought not to be charging sex workers with crimes anyway, but who in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to arrest, detain and change A PRETEEN with a CRIME? If a TWELVE YEAR OLD is doing sex work, there are more important things to do than arrest her. In fact, it is more important to do every single possible thing other than to arrest her. It is important to charge all the johns with rape, to charge any adult who put her up to it as an accessory, to get her into a situation where she is safe and provided for and supported, and to get her some counseling because whatever one thinks of sex work for adults who have other options there in no way in the world that a twelve year old is emotionally prepared for that … none of which is accomplished by CHARGING HER WITH A CRIME.

*There is also great writing about the social construction of the bodies of women of color in Kimberly Springer’s and Latoya Peterson’s essays in particular, and some others, as well.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. lee permalink
    December 19, 2008 9:14 pm

    thanks for posting this, thomas.

  2. SusanK permalink
    December 19, 2008 9:59 pm

    Wow – what a great point that I hadn’t thought of and you’re absolutely right. This is a 12 year old girl being arrested for prostitution (which, if I am correct, is a crime committed by adult women who are forced into it by adult men, at least, according to the law). Last I knew, twelve-year-olds can’t consent to sex, regardless of who it’s with, even in back-woods states. I think a lot of people who heard this story missed this point entirely. Thanks for making it clear.
    By the way, I came across your site via Google, the reason I googled Dymond Millburn was theagitator.com.

  3. javacia permalink
    December 20, 2008 11:58 am

    As lee said, thank you for posting this Thomas.

    I’m sitting here shaking I’m so angry and so hurt for this child. And I agree that this all points back to the hypersexualization of black women and girls, and none of us are safe from this. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 12-year-old girl minding your own business or the future first lady (hence an entire essay written about her ass). This makes me sick.

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