• Daniel Ethan Finneran

What About The Women?

November 2020

The list of Black men in America who’ve recently succumbed to the violence of the police is not one upon which I look with unconcern. Resonant with the beat of all hearts that feel, I find myself deeply saddened by the fact that these men were the recipients of a premature visit by death—that stranger of the future with whom, sooner or later, we’ll all be finally acquainted. The unforeseen and early loss of life is never to be considered lightly, and regardless of the circumstances by which such an end was encouraged or provoked, we must pity those who willingly abandoned their many fruitful years to come, as well as those from whom those vital decades were forcibly stripped away.

Yet in the course of our review of that list’s well-known names—among which we find those of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, and, most recently, Walter Wallace Jr.—we tend to overlook the women with whom, at one time or another, each was associated. Living in the world as we do today, one can hardly conceive of our society being so utterly remiss. Given our unblinking fixation on and quick response to any alleged injustice suffered by a woman, the devout reader, into whom the mantra of “MeToo” has been hammered and the dictate to “believe all women” drilled, might find these oversights quite strange. Indeed, he’d not be wrong to feel this way.

Let us, then, remember the men, but with an eye toward the women.

The moral nadir of George Floyd’s life seems to have coincided with the height of his criminal creativity. Over a decade ago, flanked by a deviant group of friends, Floyd orchestrated a robbery by which, when met with the height of its audacity, the reader is completely astonished. Dressed in the raiment of a water department employee, he attempted to gain entrance into a pregnant woman’s house. Somehow, his well-attired ruse failed to escape the subtlety of her detection, and when she resisted the tale spun by his words, he turned to the application of force. He prevented her from closing the door, and beckoned his fellows forth. A gun was soon brandished, and the pregnant woman’s abdomen was the target of its aim.

Outnumbered and enceinte, she was quite defenseless. She had neither weapon by which her invaders might be repulsed, nor ally by which her strength might be doubled. In so feeble and unenviable a position, she could do little more than watch as her house was searched and robbed, and pray that the life of her child be preserved.

Walter Wallace Jr., the Philadelphia man about whom the obituarist has just finished writing, did something similar just three years ago. He too decided it worthwhile forcibly to enter a vulnerable woman’s house, and intimidate her at the mouth of a gun. Yet instead of feigning his way into her home under the guise of an amiable utilities workman (a la Floyd) he opted for a less imaginative and more direct approach. Perhaps acutely short of time, or deliberately reliant on the element of surprise, he kicked down her door and put a gun to her head. He demanded her submission, or he threatened to kill.

Unlike Floyd, Wallace seems not to have been prepared to threaten the life of the unborn, only the poor woman by whom the completion of his criminal act was so inconveniently delayed. Either way, we hear little from those who might otherwise defend the sanctity of a woman’s life, and the inviolability of her worth; they’ve grown unusually quiet. Wallace’s actions against her are nowhere mentioned, much less censured, by those same people for whom a world universally convinced of the seriousness of “MeToo” is deemed the most valiant and necessary pursuit of our age.

In both the foregoing cases, that of George Floyd and then of Walter Wallace Jr., the women upon whom their violence was unleashed were unknown to them. As people to whom they were entirely unacquainted, and for whom—for that reason—they exercised little regard, they could perhaps more easily mistreat them. The same can’t be said of the woman abused by Jacob Blake, to whom, with sadness, we turn next.

Of the three men, Blake is unique in having escaped with his life his encounter with the police. Also, of the three, his case is peculiar in that it was a domestic “event” (with the mother of his children) that precipitated the arrival of those same law enforcement officers by whom he was later shot. As it turns out, their presence was sought by the woman with whom he was previously engaged, toward whom he’d lately become unspeakably abusive.

In July of this year, a month in advance of the fateful encounter with which the entire world is now familiar, Jacob Blake entered this woman’s house. He did so without having first received her permission. He then entered her bedroom and awoke her. Beside her rested one of their children, unaware of the situation, and shielded by the barrier of sleep. According to her report, as communicated to the authorities from whom she consequently sought help, Blake demanded the return of his possessions and then forced open her legs. He proceeded to penetrate her, digitally, before raising to his nose a vicious finger or two. Confident in the accuracy of his touch, and the infallibility of his olfactory sense, he announced, upon smelling his hand, that she was guilty of having had sexual relations with other men.

Having already abused her dignity, he stole her vehicle and her debit card, with which he proceeded to make multiple withdrawals of $500. Insult was heaped upon injury, and the woman was left to the ravishments of a man unencumbered by feelings of humanity or guilt.

The weeks dividing this initial encounter, and that on which he was repeatedly shot, were something of an entr’acte. Unfortunately for the woman, a second scene was planned and in the midst of getting underway. Blake returned to her home, again uninvited, on the afternoon of August 23rd. As before, he harassed her and, with the temerity of a scoundrel, and the viciousness of a man unimpeded by virtue, attempted again to steal her car. This time, however, their three children sat in its rear and, as we later learned, a knife awaited his retrieval in the front.

The rest of the story is too well-known to warrant my retelling, but Blake, despite the newfound immobility of his physical state, is awaiting judgment on two charges: one for felony third-degree sexual assault, and a second for misdemeanor criminal trespass. Should justice prevail, he’ll escape neither.

The names of these three men, George Floyd, Jacob Blake, and Walter Wallace Jr., have become, and will remain, ineffaceable. So deeply stamped upon the American mind they’ve become, they won’t quickly wash away. And as we navigate the relations of minority races and the police and seek, between the two, lessened hostility and greater goodwill, they’re likely to be evoked time and time again. Yet we’d commit upon ourselves a great disservice, and these women’s memory a grave offense, should we forget their names. Theirs too must be remembered, in connection with those by whom they were abused.

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