Intersections of Violence: A Look Into Racial and Gender-Based Violence

woman protesting in front of police officers

Written by: Geeya Patel

“But because of our numbness. We’re strangers
To one another’s perils and pain,
Unaware that the welfare of the public
And the planet share a name–
–Equality
Doesn’t mean being the exact same,
But enacting a vast aim:
The good of the world to its highest capability.”

Amanda Gorman

This poem by Amanda Gorman encompasses the struggle behind the lack of intersectional understanding of racial and gender-based violence in the United States. Intersectionality provides individuals with a uniqueness that will be unfamiliar to others and thus, should create an environment of learning and understanding which must be present for progress to occur in the society they inhabit. 

Understanding Racial and Gender-Based Violence 

Racial violence is defined as “a physical act of aggression or assault upon another because of, or in a manner reasonably related to, race.” This is seen with police brutality towards specific groups such as African Americans, immigration officials targeting Hispanic Americans, and the increase of violence towards Muslim Americans during the month of September. The treatment that is perpetuated towards these groups is caused by their race and a specific stigma that has formed around it over time and has spread to younger generations. 

Gender-based violence is defined as “sexual, physical, mental and economic harm inflicted in public or in private. It also includes threats of violence, coercion and manipulation. This can take many forms such as intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation and so-called ‘honour crimes.’” Gender-based violence can project itself as domestic abuse, marital rape, and emotional manipulation to invoke one’s wants. 

Examples of Racial and Gender-Based Violence in the United States 

A recent event that showcases the intersection of racial and gender-based violence in the United States is the shooting of six Asian American women in 2021. The timeline is key to understanding the racial violence aspect as COVID-19 was still prominent and many Asian communities were being targeted due to false assumptions that they had been actively involved in the creation or spread of the virus. Along with that, the fetishization of Asian women is prominent in media and society through the spread of “yellow fever” in the early nineties which focused on their innocence and exotic behaviors. Such ideas put Asian women at risk for racial and gender-based violence when they do not comply with the demands of others. 

In 2010, tribal women from the West Coast participated in a survey and the results showed that 50% had faced abuse on the reservation. As tribes can not take judicial action against non-tribal members, many tribal women are more susceptible to abuse by outsiders as they know they will not face any repercussions. Along with that, many state and federal agencies are more dismissive of crimes reported on reservations. This approach makes these women more susceptible to internal and external gender-based violence due to their race. 

A forgotten figure at the start of the civil rights movement would be Gertrude Perkins, an African American woman who lived in Alabama during the civil rights movement and was raped by white police officers. Her story is monumental in seeing the intersection of race, gender, and civil rights. By being already marginalized, Perkins was limited in her ability to fight and speak up. This made her vulnerable to the violence perpetrated upon her by the more powerful, racially-advantaged men who attacked her.

Ways to Help 

Such incidents can be found since the beginning of history; however many will go unnoticed or unreported, due to the feeling of vulnerability and lack of support that is made available to people experiencing Gender-based Violence. To create a better environment for these victims, legislation, both at the state and federal level must be created which actively emphasizes the importance of intersectionality of racial and gender-based violence. Contact your representative and advocate for legislation that protects the victims of racial and gender-based violence. 

At Global Foundation for Girls (GFG), we are active thought partners, serving global communities of birthing persons in order to advance and support the advocacy movement. We lead webinars and trainings for providers, including doulas, social workers, childbirth educators, and more! To learn more about our upcoming trainings click here!