To Be Black, Female, and Already Dead: Black Women, Discourses on Value, and Disposability

Itané O Coleman

Abstract


Given disparities in treatment of black female victimhood as it relates to violence and homicide, this paper will interrogate the ways in which black women are increasingly vulnerable to instances of kidnapping, sexual violence, and serial murder. The HBO film Tales of the Grim Sleeper will be integrated throughout this paper to map the ways in which disposability occurs and how black female lives are situated in these violent intersections. The underrepresentation of targeted violence against black women in the media is conducive to the very violence that manifests. By prioritizing female violence based on race, the media contributes to narratives that construct violence against women as violence against white women at the hand of strangers. This narrative situates black female life in territories of disposability, in which the presumption that black women’s bodies can be thrown away without regard is institutionalized. This paper will frame the definition of disposability as the literal using up and throwing away of black women’s bodies in moments of violence. Black women’s bodies are subjected to overwhelming moments of contemporary disposability resulting in their increased representation as victims of sexual violence and serial murder. Black life being negligible has historical features rooted in chattel slavery that will be discussed to understand prevailing discourses on value.


Keywords


Black women; Intersectionality; Gendered Violence

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