How America Views Black Fear #FreeSiwatu: 3/3— Invincible illWeaver (@invincibleDET) May 3, 2018
Siwatu-Salama Ra pulled an unloaded gun out of self-defense and was put in prison... because the jury didn't believe she was afraid. full vid: https://t.co/F1dTwhPGqb learn more+donate: https://t.co/1plvEqFCyt#FreeSiwatu pic.twitter.com/Bi5KI2HNFV
A 26-year-old pregnant environmental activist may have to deliver her baby while serving a prison sentence.
Siwatu-Salama Ra brandished a gun to protect herself, her 2-year-old daughter, and her mother from an attacker who was allegedly harassing the family and attempted to run down Ra’s mom with a car last summer.
The woman, Chanell Harvey, took photos of Ra holding the weapon during the confrontation. However, it was registered and unloaded. Furthermore, the incident occurred in Detroit, Michigan, where the “Stand Your Ground” law protects civilians acting in self-defense.
Nevertheless, authorities decided that Ra was the aggressor in the situation because Harvey managed to file a police report before Ra had the chance. According to the Detroit Metro Times, a detective testified at Ra’s trial that officers determine the victim based on who files the report first.
The court said that Ra was not acting in self-defense because she was not in fear, which is a conclusion that she believes can be attributed to her race.
"The prosecutor convinced the jury and judge that I lacked fear and that's not true," the activist said at her sentencing. "I was so afraid, especially for my toddler and mother. I don't believe they could imagine a black woman being scared — only mad."
In April, Ra was sentenced to serve two years in prison but she’s scheduled to give birth to her unborn baby in June.
As an activist, Ra is a member of the Sierra Club. The group’s executive director Michael Brune spoke out on her behalf, calling out the injustice of her sentencing.
"[Ra's] unjust incarceration during a high-risk pregnancy is just one example of the racism people of color in our country experience every day," Brune said in a statement. "Her story underscores the reality that our struggles are all deeply connected — from environmental justice to the fight against racialized oppression in the criminal justice system."
Despite this very blatant miscarriage of justice, gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association have been virtually silent on Ra’s case. Her community and family have rallied behind her, but as a registered gun owner she should have the support of gun rights advocates too.
According to Vox, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch said that she spoke of the case on NRATV and on her radio show, however, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of it on the group’s actual website or any of its social media platforms.
Maj Toure, founder of Black Guns Matter, a gun rights association aimed at urban communities and black Americans, criticized the lack of justice black gun owners often receive.
“You have situations where women defending their lives are sent to jail for the dumbest sh*t on earth. [A man] attempts to attack [a woman] and instead of killing the man, [she] shoots in the air, and that woman is facing years,” Toure said in reference to the case of Marissa Alexander, a woman who served three years in prison for firing one shot near her husband who had allegedly threatened her. “Those scenarios are outrageous and mass media and public outrage is heightened, but justice for these situations is trash.”
The flawed criminal justice system, the hypocrisy of the NRA, and society's overall marginalization of people of color are all to blame for Ra's current circumstance. This poignant revelation casts a very disturbing light on how much work still needs to be done in this country to reach equality for all.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Tony Gentile