Trigger Warning: Rape, Violence
On June 28th, 2007, a 35-year old Haitian immigrant was lured out of her apartment in the Dunbar Village housing project of West Palm Beach, Florida under the pretenses of helping a stranger who claimed to have a flat tire. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a ruse. The young man claiming to have a flat tire, Tommy Poindexter, and nine others trapped her in her own home with her 12-year-old son and subjected the both of them to hours of excruciating torture, a lot of which was sexual in nature. After dousing the woman and her son with household cleaning products, the 10 male teenagers fled the home with stolen money, jewelry and other assorted luxury goods. The family had to walk a mile to the nearest hospital for help.
The Dunbar Village housing project is one of many across the country that are inhabited by an overwhelmingly poor population. Crimes like these — while often not this sadistic — are not uncommon. Its inception dates back to 1940 when it was established as a neighborhood for Black people (who had virtually no other options thanks to racial segregation). Currently, it’s only around the corner from beachfront property owned by billionaires.
While this case got little coverage outside of the West Beach area, it briefly got a boost when Al Sharpton and the NAACP got involved. However, instead of rallying around the women and her son, they instead advocated on behalf of the perpetrators, who they believed were subjected to unfair treatment because they are Black. This is not a completely absurd claim as five White teenagers in the Boca Raton area were released on bail after being accused of sexually assaulting two White girls. Still, this action infuriated Black feminists who believed that their focus on protecting Black men was so strong that they were willing to handwave the victimization of Black women. This incident sparked the creation (and spread) of an open letter addressed to both Sharpton and the NAACP. After the letter gained a significant amount of traction, Sharpton and the NAACP withdrew support from the accused. To this day, only four of the teenagers involved in the atrocity have been charged, tried, and sentenced.
This piece of history highlights the importance of acknowledging intersecting identities when choosing which causes an activist group should support. Namely, if advocating for a cause propagates the oppression of a large portion of individuals within that group, it’s not worth fighting for.