We speak a lot about intersectionality, about what happens when someone belongs two more than one oppressed identity, and how this affects our day-to-day lives. Kan 11’s series “Prisoners” documents the story of four women prisoners, including Natali Asian. Since her story was covered everywhere online, we felt this was a great opportunity to talk about intersectionality.
Stereotypes against Black women are ever-present in the media, and deeply felt in many social interactions. We’re represented as aggressive, combative, angry, and more. These stereotypes greatly affect our lives. Even looking at kindergarten and school children, we can see how Black girls are more severely punished, since they’re perceived as needing more discipline, or as mature for their age and therefore able to handle the severity of the punishment.
These notions also greatly affect the way in which the court system detains and punishes Black women, who, as mentioned above, can expect more severe punishment than other women. Natali’s story absolutely proves this. She was a 16-year-old girl when she killed the man who tried to rape her a second time, while trying to defend herself. She was locked up for 6 years. This is just one of the unspoken ways in which policing and over-incarceration are imposed and affect Black women as well.
We all know things would have been different if she were a white girl. First, because she probably would have had better legal defense. People with no money to hire a good lawyer must do with public defense, which in many cases leads to unfair plea bargains. And second, because white women are perceived as needing more protection, as being more moral, and more.
It’s disturbing to see how a system meant to ensure justice in this country is perpetuating inequality. For example, Shai Dromi, a farmer from the south of Israel, killed a man (2007) who broke into his farm. However, he was only sentenced to a few months of community service for using an unlicensed weapon, was completely acquitted from the offense of manslaughter, and even the penal law was changed because of his case (!!).
To compare these two cases, we can see how the state enshrines property (especially that of white people) above and beyond the lives of others, in addition to ignoring the physical and emotional conditions which create such circumstances to begin with.
The series showed us who are the women who get incarcerated, and what backgrounds they come from: The participants were Russian, Mizrahi, Arabic, and Ethiopian. Is this truly a coincidence? The series noted that 85% of female prisoners have a background of physical and sexual abuse. This begs the question – do these things only happen in these groups? Absolutely not. It’s just that the more money you have, the more access you get to supportive care and rehabilitation that knows how to handle it, and in case of need, protect you from incarceration.
This series and Natali’s case prove how deeply economic status and ethnicity affect life opportunities, not to even mention post-incarceration rehabilitation.