Color of Violence introduces the reader to an array of topics of particular concern for women of color. The public policies described have an especially damaging impact on African American families and other women of color. But when large segments of our population are marginalized and disadvantaged, all of us are negatively affected, regardless of the color of our skin. Each chapter offers a different author’s perspective on the lives of women of different nationalities, genders, identities, economic levels and situations. For readers who are white, heterosexual, English speaking and able bodied, the book offers windows into the lives of women of color that rarely are accessible elsewhere, including, for instance, those who are Arab-American, poor, queer, sex workers, immigrants or unjustly entangled in the justice system.
Very recently, the mass incarceration of black men held for decades in isolation cells has caught the attention of mainstream media, largely as a result of the prisoners’ hunger strikes in protest of their appalling conditions. In contrast, little attention has been paid to the dramatic rise in imprisonment of women of color during several recent decades and the mistreatment they endure has remained very much in the shadows. Color of Violence provides a long overdue platform for women of color to speak out about sexual assault and other crimes committed against them by local police, INS officers, U.S. prison guards and Mexican-border control guards.
Another form of violence described in the book is sometimes labeled as “the cradle to prison pipeline.” It begins when judges, court social workers and psychiatrists unjustly separate women from their children. A chapter on adoption informs readers that black children comprise less than 20 percent of the nation’s children, but more than 35 percent of the foster care population. In Chicago, for example, almost all of the children in foster care are black and in New York black children in 2004 were “ten times as likely as white children to be in state protective custody.” In some situations even the staff at shelters for abused women contribute to those decisions. Color of Violence urges all feminists to acknowledge that “the racial disparities in adoption are powerful reasons to radically transform the child welfare system, so that it generously and noncoercively supports families.”
Though for several decades I have tracked racism and have worked on behalf of women abused by intimate partners, I learned much from reading this book. In thirty chapters a wide range of authors do more than expose the numerous injustices endured by women of color. They call for changes in government policy. White readers such as myself may feel uncomfortable in learning about the many ways cruelty and abuse of women of color are institutionalized by government policies. But new knowledge about large numbers of our population can inspire us to work toward creating humane policies that makes all of us safer. Reading this book has certainly had that effect on me.