WSW: Does the #MeToo Movement Include Poor Women Of Color?
Historian and author Danille McGuire says the story of Shawana Hall is the story of how marginalized women disappear from stories of sexual assault. She says the #MeToo movement is largely about rich white women. McGuire says she and Wayne State University History Professor Kidada Williams wanted to remind people that are many women like Shawana Hall whose cases don’t get solved, and whose stories are not known.
McGuire and Williams wrote two stories for Bridge on how Hall stepped forward to assist in the prosecution of a Memphis truck driver accused of raping her in 2008. Calvin Kelly was linked to other sexual assaults across the country, but was found not guilty by a Kalamazoo County jury. Shawana Hall died about a month after the verdict of an apparent opioid overdose.
Hall grew up in Kalamazoo, and went to Loy Norrix High School. McGuire says she was very close with her family, especially her younger sister Talaya who was interviewed extensively for the Bridge story. Williams says talking to the family allowed them to see Hall as a whole person. She says it also showed what the kidnapping and sexual assault did to her, and why it was so difficult to come forward. Williams says Hall was worried what would happen to her in the criminal justice system. McGuire says Hall’s sister told them that a delay in the case caused Shawana to go into tailspin. She took it as a sign that her attacker would not receive justice, and McGuire says "in some ways she was right."
Calvin Kelly’s was brought to trial on rape charges because of the Cold Case Initiative in the Attorney General’s office. Through the testing of rape kits investigators found 10 other women who had filed complaints, and the name Calvin Kelly came up in all of those cases. Despite that, Kelly was found not guilty. Williams says she believes that the jury believed Kelly, who claimed that the sex was consensual, because jurors did not see themselves or someone they knew in Shawana Hall.
"She was understandably devastated by the verdict, by her confirmation of her worst fears."
McGuire says DNA is supposed to be the “gold standard” in criminal cases. She thinks the jury saw Hall, a woman of color, who is poor with a history of drug use. McGuire says the verdict tells us is that there needs to be more education about the history of racism and sexism in society. She says without that “It won’t matter how much DNA evidence we have.”
Shawana Hall’s Family believes verdict sent her life into a downward spiral. McGuire says the verdict told Hall that she didn’t deserve justice, that her life didn’t matter. Williams says Hall felt that way through entire trial, and worried that the jurors wouldn’t believe her. “She was understandably devastated by the verdict, by her confirmation of her worst fears.”