We Still Live in an Era of Black "Firsts"


cross posted to Jack & Jill Politics

Hat tip to Negrophile, whose Twitter feed acts as my Web 2.0 stock ticker for the state of black folks.

The further we move through time away from the historic Civil Rights Movement and legislation of the 1960s and 1970s, the less likely we are to encounter major "black firsts" in society. Obviously, the first black president spot has remained elusive, but we've been able to tick off many other positions, from chairman of the joint chiefs to CEO to quarterback and brain surgeon. Some white people have even managed to get their first black friend :)

I know some folks get rightfully annoyed at a focus on that one brother or sister attaining a modicum of power while millions more are left behind, but there is strength in "the one" as well. So it made me smile to see this story out of Tennessee. profiling Georgette Jones and Joanne Morrow, the first black female officers in the Collierville PD.

The article doesn't just put on a smiley face for Jones and Morrow but provides some much-needed context on the near absence of black women from law enfocement

Women of color have not always been welcomed by the boys in blue. And law enforcement remains a profession dominated by white men.

In 2000, the National Center for Women & Policing tracked the statistics in its report "Equity Denied: The Status of Women in Policing."

The key findings stated: "Women currently comprise 13 percent of all sworn law enforcement positions among municipal, county, and state law enforcement agencies in the United States, with 100 or more sworn officers. Women of color hold 4.9 percent of these positions."
Update @ 12:23, 6 November 2007:, thanks to a commenter on my blog, I've got to correct the charts (removed) and data. It turns out the 4.9 percent is of the overall law enforcement positions, not just 4.9 percent of women

Let's focus on that math. All women of color comprise 4.9 percent of the 13 percent of law enforcement positions held by women. That's 0.6 percent or 6 out of 1000. Check out these pie charts which dramatize the point even further. The 2001 version of the Status of Women in Policing report is online and offers this startling assessment:

Research shows that women officers respond more effectively to domestic violence incidents – which constitute approximately half of all violent crime calls to the police. Moreover, studies have found that up to 40% of police officers commit domestic abuse themselves. That means that 4 in 10 officers responding to the scene of a domestic violence incident may themselves be abusers.
From law enforcement to media ownership, there are certain key gatekeepers in our society who exert a disproportionate influence on the health of our communities. I hope what's happened in Collierville, Tenn. is a sign of more to come.

In related news, check this out: all the top elected posts in Baltimore are held by black women.

Update @ 12:23, 6 November 2007
I was listening to WNYC today and heard part of the story of the NYPD's first Asian American female officer, Agnes Chan. She's featured in a new documentary, Tea and Justice, screening this Saturday at the Queens International Film Fest.