Words by Nick Slay

What do you do in a system that seems to punish black women for protecting themselves in self-defense? Bresha Meadows (now 16) is finally home from a residential mental health facility after 6 months.

Her crime?

Fatally shooting her physically and abusive father in the head at 14, while he slept. Her father terrorized Bresha, her mother, and her siblings for years, even going as far as threatening them with the same gun she ended his life with. Even though she claimed self defense as a minor, it seems being black she was charged with manslaughter and the system attempted to try her as an adult. Unfortunately, for black women in America this isn’t a random occurrence, this is what happens when you break the law attempting to defend and/or protect yourself.

If you remember, Marissa Alexander was unsuccessful at using the same “Stand Your Ground” law that protected Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. Although she only fired a warning shot in the air to stop the assault of her abusive ex-husband, she would ultimately fail in her defense.  Alexander would spend the next year in lock up or on house arrest, before having her ankle monitor removed. Cyntoia Brown was arrested and charged as an adult for killing the man who bought her for underage sex. This lead to celebrity outrage because for her crime of self defense for killing her attacker in his sleep, she would be sentenced to spend her days in jail until she was 67. The Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Rita Smith asserted that, “Most battered women who kill in self-defense end up in prison. There is a well-documented bias against women [in these cases].”

Although Bresha Meadows is now home, the question has to be asked, “Did the system fail her?”  She lived a life where every adult failed in protecting her so she was punished when she took justice into her own hands. What’s more intriguing if not disturbing is why are minors tried as adults when they attack their abusers. Does the system favor men who take advantage of women? If we look at how long women were abused and sexualized in the entertainment industry, that may be a resounding yes. Murder is wrong, it is why our society has laws to punish that crime, however where is the exception when a woman, especially an underage black woman is abused by the men in her circumstance who did not uphold the law in the first place?