Legislation for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
Legislation for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
Abstract and Keywords
Chapter 4 demonstrates how the approach of political intersectionality in domestic violence prevention legislation provides an important analytical tool for understanding how African American women representatives navigate traditional feminist policies. The chapter illustrates that Black women legislators in the Maryland state legislature mention domestic violence as a policy priority whereas White women and, overwhelmingly, White and Black male legislators do not. This chapter uses generational analysis to find a marked difference in how younger African American women vote on domestic violence legislation in comparison with their older counterparts.
Take responsibility for yourself because no one’s going to take responsibility for you. I’m not a victim. I grow from this and I learn.
Recently, I was in Africa monitoring elections when right on the street, this guy started beating a woman. I got out of my car, pulled her inside and drove her to the hospital. But after the doctors treated her, she was too afraid to press charges. I’ve seen this over and over in America, too.
—Rep. Barbara Lee, (D-CA)
Black women may be the most cohesive demographic group within state legislatures. Survey research clearly indicates that African American women state legislators have distinct policy interests (Barrett 1995). Research by Edith Barrett has shown that African American women state legislators maintain a high degree of consensus in the types of legislation they prioritize. Since Barrett’s path-breaking study, other scholars have also found high degrees of uniformity among Black women’s legislative preferences (Bratton, Haynie, and Reingold 2006; Orey and Smooth et al. 2006; Smooth, 2001). However, scholars have yet to investigate which factors, if any, may cause Black women to diverge in their policy preferences. This research pushes beyond race, class, and gender as the “holy trinity” of intersectional analysis to critically examine generational affiliation and a legislator’s personal experiences as salient categories for analysis in an intersectional framework. By using select domestic legislation, I investigate the role of generational identity—legislators born in or prior to 1960 and (p.90) those born after 1960—as a contributing factor in Black women’s policy-making within the Maryland General Assembly.
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, or intimate partner violence, is broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both participants in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, friends, or cohabitation. The Centers for Disease Control and Pervention estimates that 10 percent of the American population is affected by domestic violence (Tjaden and Thoennes 2006). Domestic violence severely undermines healthy American families and communities as the “most common cause of nonfatal injury to women in the United States with an estimated cost of $50 billion annually” (Bhandari, Dosanjh, Tornetta, and Matthews 2006, 1473). In sum, domestic violence is a major public health concern.
Domestic violence occurs among women and men of all races and classes. Yet, Straus and Gelles (1986) find that African American husbands were more likely to commit severe violence toward their wives than White husbands. As a result, Black women have a unique relationship to domestic violence and to antiviolence programs and politics. Minority victims of abuse often feel pressure from their communities to keep silent about sexual and domestic violence for the purpose of maintaining a united front against racism (Smith 2000). Unfortunately, racial justice organizing has generally focused on racism as it affects men and has often ignored the forms of racism and sexism that minority women face. As a result, minority women have often been marginalized in racial justice initiatives (Crenshaw 1995).
Instead of asking whether race trumps gender (Mansbridge and Tate 1992) in the policy preferences of African American women state legislators, the purpose of this chapter is to examine how Black women’s identities are mobilized on issues that disproportionately affect Black women in particular and the Black community as a whole. While not specifically pertaining to domestic violence prevention, research indicates that gender affects the political attitudes of African American women toward sexual harassment, abortion, and the women’s movement (Gay and Tate 1998; Mansbridge and Tate 1992; Simien 2005; Simien and Clawson 2004). Research has also shown that race is likely to influence African American women’s political attitudes about welfare spending, affirmative action, and busing for integration (Simien 2007). It is clear that African American women’s race and gender identities are both influential in their attitudes about politics and public policy. Yet, when policies are both race and gender oriented, do African American women state legislators view this legislation in similar ways? Moving beyond a race-gender analysis, how does a legislator’s (p.91) generational cohort influence her policy choices? By exploring legislation for the prevention of domestic violence proposed in the 2009 legislative session of the Maryland state legislature, I examine how Black women state legislators combine descriptive and substantive representation in their policy preferences. In doing so, they represent not only Black women who are victims of domestic violence victims but the Black community as a whole.
Unlike the White women and Black men I interviewed for this study, Black women legislators shared stories of their personal experiences with domestic violence. This experience enables them to understand how domestic violence legislation uniquely affects African American women. Using Crenshaw’s (1991) concept of political intersectionality, which shows how feminist and antiracist politics marginalize Black women’s politics that are simultaneously racialized and gendered, I detail how Black women legislators draw from experience, culture, and identity to explain their positions on domestic violence legislation. In so doing they share insights about the legislation’s potential impact on their constituents that might otherwise have been left out of the discussion. Similar to Hawkesworth’s (2003) finding that minority congresswomen draw upon their own positions and experiences of race and class to critique welfare reform, I contend that Black women state legislators frame domestic violence as a race-gender issue—in the process incorporating other identities, such as their generational cohort—to advocate for African American women who are marginalized and disempowered. Lastly, using representational identity theory, I investigate generational differences in how Black women legislators vote on domestic violence legislation.
In a broader context, the domestic violence bills that I highlight in this chapter are important because they provide an indication of the legislators’ policy priorities and underscore the need for the inclusion of historically excluded groups in the policy-making process. They show that Black women are needed at the legislative table precisely because they have different policy preferences than Black male and White legislators. Because I did not include questions about domestic violence legislation in the in-depth, semi-structured interviews, these unsolicited narratives give an indication of what types of bills were foremost in the legislators’ minds. It is important to note that during the two-week period in which my fieldwork was conducted, there were several bills championing the prevention of domestic violence before the Maryland House of Delegates.1 Therefore, delegates may have been primed to provide domestic violence legislation as an example of an issue about which they felt strongly. Not all legislators mentioned domestic violence as an issue during the interview, but it is notable that, unprompted, (p.92) eleven out of the fifteen Black women delegates mentioned domestic violence legislation. Thus, I conclude that it is an issue that is of special concern to African American women lawmakers. Senators, however, did not mention domestic violence legislation; no domestic violence bills were before that chamber. Hence, the data in this chapter focus solely on the Maryland House of Delegates during the 2009 legislative session. Only one White female delegate spoke in depth about the domestic violence bills.2 Another casually mentioned domestic violence as a cause to which she, as a woman legislator, feels a special connection. It is telling that of the twenty-two men interviewed for this project, no men of any race or ethnicity mentioned this type of legislation. While I did not originally anticipate that Black women legislators would want to talk about domestic violence legislation in their interviews, I did expect to hear stories about how race-gender identities affect their policy preferences and how they represent of their constituencies. However, because of the high numbers of African American women who are victimized by intimate partners and because African American women delegates have had personal connections to domestic violence, it is unsurprising that this group of legislators prioritized legislation against domestic violence as a distinctly raced-gendered issue, highlighting the overlapping and interdependent nature of gender and race/ethnicity that makes domestic violence a distinctive intersectional issue.
Domestic Violence as a Distinctive Intersectional Issue
While domestic violence occurs in all racial and ethnic groups and in varying class standings, religions, sexual orientations, and education levels, it is young women, low-income women, and minorities who are at disproportionate risk of suffering domestic violence and rape. “African Americans were victimized by intimate partners at significantly higher rates than persons of any other race between 1993 and 1998. Black females experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than that of White females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races” (Rennison and Welchans 2000, 1). African American women in the age group of twenty to twenty-four experience significantly more domestic violence than White women in the same age group. While African American women experience comparable levels of intimate partner violence to White women in all other age categories, they are slightly more likely to experience domestic violence. The effects of domestic violence on women are manifold. Black women who have been victims of domestic violence report more (p.93) physical ailments, mental health issues, are less likely to practice safe sex, and are more likely to abuse substances during pregnancy than Black women without a history of abuse (Rennison 2001).
Organizations that combat domestic violence find that, when it comes to reporting instances of domestic violence, there may be compounding factors for women from minority communities. These factors include limited access to legal advice, racism, discrimination against women in Black and minority ethnic communities, increased isolation, family or community pressure or collusion to keep the abuse a secret, discriminatory employment practices, and reduced access to services (Wyatt, Axelrod, Chin, Carmona, and Loeb 2000). Research indicates that domestic violence is tied to socioeconomic factors. Indeed, domestic violence within African American communities is often explained by socioeconomic status and poverty rates (Asbury 1999; Barnes 1999; Hampton and Gelles 1994; Hotaling and Sugarman 1986; Lockhart and White 1989; Uzzell and Peebles-Wilkins 1989; West and Rose 2000). Staples (1982) suggests that spousal abuse in lower class Black families is seen as the normative expectation, that there is an expectation that physical violence against the woman is natural or necessary. Dennis et al. (1995) found that domestic violence within the African American community is more prevalent when men have incomes of less than $20,000. Cazenave and Straus (1979) found that when income was controlled, Black respondents were less likely to report instances of spousal slapping at every income range except the $6,000 to $11,000 level. Black respondents at both the lowest and highest income categories were less likely to report violent behaviors than White respondents with comparable incomes. Marsh (1993) contends that abused and economically dependent African American women are imprisoned in abusive relationships that they do not have the personal financial resources to exit.
In addition to poverty rates and socioeconomic status, there are several other barriers to reducing the perpetuation of domestic violence in African American communities. First, Black women have reported that shelters and batterers’ intervention programs are not community based and are therefore geographically inaccessible (Asbury 1987; Williams and Becker 1994). The inaccessibility of services is also tied to lack of transportation and the money necessary for accessing certain protective services. Second, African American victims of domestic violence have reported a lack of cultural competence among service providers, making it difficult for case workers to effectively connect with the client (Allard 1991; Asbury 1999; Kupenda 1998). Scholarship has documented that African American women have been denied shelter because they did not sound fearful enough or appeared too strong to require temporary housing (Allard 1991; Kupenda 1998; West (p.94) 1999). The stereotype of the strong black woman (Wallace 1978) is that the African American woman can sustain anything, has no fear, and can easily protect herself (Collins 1990). As a result of this stereotype, some Black women do not receive much-needed domestic violence services.
Third, racial loyalty serves as a barrier for those seeking domestic violence services. Bent-Goodley argues that racial loyalty is readily seen in “African American women’s decisions to withstand abuse and make a conscious self-sacrifice for what she perceives as the greater good of the community but to her own physical, psychological, and spiritual detriment” (2001, 323). It follows that Black women fail to report domestic violence for fear of the discrimination and injustice that African American men often experience in the American criminal justice system (White 1994). Lastly, African American women are often further victimized by social structures (Richie 1996). This gender entrapment—the socially constructed process through which Black women engage in behaviors that are an extension of their race-gender identities, culturally expected gender roles, and violence within their intimate relationships—accounts for abused African American women who are compelled to commit crimes (Richie 1996). Thus, linkages between gender-identity development and crime are part of a larger social structure rather than simply a result of the individual actions of wayward African American women. In fact, Blacks of both genders are more likely to be arrested for domestic violence than White Americans (Beck and Mumola 1999; Fagan 1996). As a result, Black women are more likely to distrust the criminal justice system and are therefore reluctant to use it, and research shows that the criminal justice system can work against Black women who are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence (Plass 1993).
To illustrate how racism and sexism are experienced in tandem by minority women, Crenshaw (1991) uses the example of violence against women as a case study for exploring the various ways in which race and gender intersect to shape the structural, political, and representational aspects that inform minority women’s lives. The traditional analysis of identity politics that focuses on a single category of identity fails to understand how violence against women has multiple causes. In her study of battered women’s shelters, Crenshaw finds that shelters are not equipped to deal with the multilayered forms of domination that structure the lives of minority women. Many minority women are victims of poverty due to racial discrimination in employment and housing practices. The high rates of unemployment for African Americans make it less likely that minority women can depend on financial support or temporary shelter from friends and relatives. Thus race, class, and gender intersect to further marginalize Black women who are victims of domestic violence.
(p.95) Black feminists have been on the forefront of addressing domestic violence in African American communities. These activists, practitioners, and scholars recognize that race and class are directly connected to domestic violence. The generalized feminist claim that domestic violence happens and “can happen to anyone” erases the necessity of analyzing how patriarchy and White domination operate in the lives of Black women (Richie 2000, 1135). Thus, to willfully ignore the victimization of those at the margins of power—particularly low-income women of color—often invalidates the anti-violence movements in America. Domestic violence as antiracist politics often silences feminists’ attempts to expose patriarchy within the Black community and misses the needs of women of color (Crenshaw 1991). For example, while mainstream feminist communities view increased law enforcement as a solution to domestic violence, many women of color fear increased rates of arrest, incarceration, and detainment of people of color as a response to violence against women (Richie 2000, 1136). Strategies that encourage more aggressive policing of communities of color—which can lead to increased rates of incarceration and amplified police brutality—undermine the work of feminists of color who are concerned about ending domestic violence in communities of color.
Given these concerns, many minority communities find that feminism is a distinctly White endeavor and that White women’s issues have little relevance to Black issues (Simien 2006; Simons 1979). Crenshaw’s (1991) findings demonstrate that the intersecting patterns of race, gender, and class produce multilayered dimensions of violence against women of color. Not only does domestic violence have disastrous effects on Black women, but it also has an impact on the Black community, and a history of institutionalized racism through law enforcement has left many African American women with nowhere to turn (Plass 1993). These experiences are not represented in feminist or antiracist discourse, and because of their intersectional identities and experiences, the interests of women of color are simultaneously marginalized by both discourses. Black women state legislators are therefore primed to reference their identity as a factor in legislative decision making on this intersectional issue.
Domestic Violence Legislation
The vast majority of the domestic violence legislation discussed by the Black women legislators during their interviews centered on HB 1181—Denial or Dismissal of Domestic Violence Petitions: Expungement of Records.3 This bill included a proposal that would have allowed a respondent in a domestic (p.96) violence protection-order proceeding to request expungement of all court records relating to the proceeding if the petition was denied or dismissed at the interim, temporary, or final protective-order stage. The most contentious aspect of the bill centered on removing a person’s name from a public database maintained by the state judiciary’s Web site and provided public access from the case record after three years of denial or dismissal of the petition.4 Opponents, including a majority of the Women’s Caucus and the majority of older Black women legislators, noted that victims of domestic violence may not request a final protective order because they may be intimated by their abusers. Eliminating the public record of denied or dismissed requests could erase a record of abuse. Supporters of this legislation, which included younger Black women legislators and several legislators with legal training, expressed their desire to protect individuals who were victims of false and malicious temporary protective orders from having their names appear on a public Web site. They argued that because of the stigma of an unproved abuse accusation, dismissed protective orders available on a public Web site could be used to unfairly deny people jobs or housing. If it had passed, the bill would have removed the domestic violence court records in cases in which a domestic violence petition had been denied or dismissed.
It is relatively easy to file a temporary restraining order (TRO) after accusing someone of domestic violence. Even if the accusation were proven to be completely false, the charge would be in the open record, publically linked to the accused person’s name on an Internet database. Some believe that keeping these records as a public record helps defend women from domestic violence and abuse. However, battered women are unlikely to file a permanent restraining order against their abusers. We know that battered women frequently return to their abusers and that abusers routinely threaten women, their children, and the women’s extended families if women attempt to flee the abusive situation. Studies have furthermore shown that abusers of immigrant women use the women’s immigrant status as tool to keep them from seeking legal protection. As a result, women stay in the abusive relationships or fail to file a permanent order of protection. Women’s rights activists feared that HB 1181 would give abusers increased leverage over their victims; that is, the abuser could tell the victim that he or she would hire a lawyer to argue that the petition be denied and his or her record expunged and thus that filing for a court order of protection would have no consequences, effectively deterring the victim from filing the order. The members of the Women’s Caucus recognized that victims could be further victimized by the expungement of TROs and asked their colleagues to consider how this bill could have unintended consequences.
(p.97) Of the more than seventeen thousand temporary protective orders granted in 2008 in Maryland, only about nine thousand were made final. As a result, some legislators and activists have been concerned that laws intended to aid women may have negative consequences for those who are falsely accused. They fear that some parties are using the courts to punish an individual with whom they are angry, filing false domestic violence allegations against him or her. To guard against the institutionalization of false allegations, legislators and activists wanted to provide a process for removing them from public court records.
On February 27, 2009, the House Judiciary Committee, the committee that introduced the legislation, voted eighteen to three to approve the bill but the measure failed in the House of Delegates. Although the legislation generated extensive debate, it was not successful, and HB 1181 died an unusual death on third reading. During this stage of the legislative process, a bill is read with all amendments and is (generally) given the final approval of the legislative body. Bills that have been sufficiently amended and have made their way out of committee are viewed as duly vetted. Once the bill has made it to third reading, it is generally assumed that it will be favorably voted upon and will move to the other chamber for discussion. Committee structure usually guarantees that only passable bills make it to the general assembly floor for third reading. Committees, however, ensure that they have completed proper due diligence before sending a bill to the general assembly because party leadership and committee chairs are humiliated when their bills do not pass in the general assembly.
Newspaper reports on HB 1181 in the Baltimore Sun, The Associated Press, State and Local Wire, and the Washington Post during March 10–27, 2009, reflected relatively similar viewpoints (e.g., Bykowicz 2009a, 2009b, 2009c; Helderman 2009; White 2009). The three newspapers highlighted the testimonies of both male and female legislators who themselves had been victims of domestic violence—or had family members who had—making their stories a major focal point. The newspapers all concluded that it was important for victims to understand that their representatives had had similar experiences and that, in light of these revelations, victims should not be ashamed to speak out against abuse. The newspaper articles also reported that there was a split among members of the Women’s Caucus; twenty-nine women joined with forty male colleagues to successfully defeat the bill, and fifteen women voted for the measure.
Those who voted for the bill had concluded that this legislation would help those falsely accused of abuse clear their records. In contrast, the chair of the Women’s Caucus and domestic violence prevention experts asserted that alleged victims of abuse did not need another reason not to follow (p.98) through on protective orders. This camp concluded that the problem of dishonestly filed protective orders had been overstated. The bill itself was clearly controversial and caused extensive debates as a result. However, legislators’ perceptions of HB 1181 provided me with significant insights about the role of race, gender, and the generational cohort in the legislative decision-making process.
In the following discussion, I detail African American women legislators’ comments about HB 1181 to illustrate the necessity of employing a methodology of political intersectionality when legislating policies historically seen as women’s issues. I show that neglecting the intersection of other categories of marginalization—including race and ethnicity—when considering policy legislation for women’s issues is highly problematic. I have included a few lengthy quotations from my interviews with Black women delegates; these observations are illuminating and assist with our understanding of how identity mediates representation. They also display a generational difference in how legislators view HB 1181, likely attributable in part to the increased likelihood that the younger Black women legislators have a legal background, which, when coupled with their race-gender experience, affected their understanding of this particular domestic violence legislation. Five younger Black women legislators born after 1960 and two older Black women legislators born prior to 1960 supported HB 1181, and eight older African American women legislators opposed the bill. This break suggests that greater and more sustained scholarly attention should be paid to generational differences within intersectional groups. The differences in the policy preferences of the eight Black women legislators in opposition to the bill in contrast to the seven who supported it highlight that shared identity alone does not mediate the legislative decision-making process in uniform ways.
Intersectionality scholars have yet to pay significant attention to generational differences within groups. This study is among the first to investigate how group cohort influences Black women legislators’ policy preferences. Building upon the work of political science scholars—most notably Andra Gillespie (2010, 2012) and Linda Williams (2001), who investigated the role of generational affiliation in Black politics—I point to the educational and socialization differences among age cohorts of African American women legislators to explain differences on policy positions, such as bills like HB 1181, that disproportionately impact Black women.
(p.99) A generation is defined as an identifiable group that shares birth years, age, and location and that experiences significant life events at critical developmental stages (Kupperschmidt 2000). As an age cohort, generational groups share historical and social life experiences. The effects of these experiences are relatively stable over the course of their lives (Smola and Sutton, 2002). A cohort develops traits that influence a member’s experiences of race and gender. Different scholars conceptualize a Black political identity that prioritizes one’s life histories and experiences. For example, the scholarship of Cohen (2010) and Simpson (1998) on the post-civil rights generation’s Black youth finds that the youths’ experiences with racism and race-based social structures and institutions influenced that generation’s connection to Black political identity.5 This research illustrates a generational divide in public opinion among African Americans, and while my work is situated within these and other studies that point to differences in the post-civil rights generation’s politics, I am the first to consider this divide in relation to recent legislative behavior.
Incorporating generation, race, and political behavior, Gillespie’s (2010, 2012) work on third-wave6 Black politicians illustrates that those born after 1960 differ markedly from their predecessors. For starters, they were born or came of age after the civil rights movement. Other similarities include their education; that is, they were educated in Ivy League and other predominately White institutions and often attended law schools as they began to build their political careers. This group is also seen as having more political potential; that is, they have more realistic chances to hold higher executive office than their predecessors (Gillespie 2010, 139). This generation has ostensibly lived the American Dream and represents a generation of Blacks who do not feel cut off from the larger society and are determined to move beyond the moods and methods of their predecessors toward improving Blacks’ ability to live the American Dream. Unfortunately, Gillespie’s edited volume only includes one chapter on African American women political elites. While her transformative text concluded that there were too few African American women political elites at the national level, the one chapter in this volume dedicated to Black women focused on their political behavior and campaigns, not their post-election legislative behavior (Gamble 2010). In general, the work on generational differences among Black political elites pays little attention to African American women.
More fully incorporating race and gender within a discussion of generational trends, Linda Faye Williams (2001) conducted the first study that disaggregated the political agendas of Black women state legislators according to the civil rights and post-civil rights generation. Using committee assignments and legislative priorities, the women of the New Deal (defined (p.100) as those aged sixty-five years or older) and the women of the civil rights generations (defined as those forty to sixty-four years old) were studied to “test the thesis that the further we move from the Civil Rights–Black Power Era, the less important the long-term dual agenda of Africans (ending racial discrimination and oppression and supporting social and economic justice for all Americans) would be centrally important to Black female elected officials” (Williams 2001, 322–323; emphasis added). In a multivariate analysis, Williams found that Black women state legislators who came to political maturity during the New Deal or civil rights–Black Power eras are more likely to report a strong commitment to civil rights and redistributive programs. She also found that the post-civil rights generation of Black women state legislators does not view redistributive and civil rights issues as a priority, although women of the civil rights–Black Power era did. However, Williams’s study does not account for women’s interest policy priorities or Black women state legislators’ relationships to gender politics.
Building on the Williams’s (2001) work, I assert that third-wave Black women state legislators are committed to race-gender issues, as evidenced by their attention to domestic violence legislation. Their understanding of political phenomena is altered by their generation’s privileged background of benefiting from the civil rights and feminist movements. Therefore, this vantage point leads younger Black women legislators to view public policy differently than their older civil rights counterparts. The third-wave Black women legislators are more likely to pursue an encompassing political agenda that understands the intersections of race and gender, but their political strategies are not built or sustained around identity alone.
In providing context for third-wave Black feminism, Kimberly Springer (2002) differentiates between generations among Black and White feminists, finding that younger Black women pay homage to their feminist foremothers, after whom they have modeled their politics. In doing so, third-wave Black state legislators show respect for the work of their political foremothers yet part ways with their older counterparts to establish their own political identities that reflect both their race and gender. Hip-hop feminist Joan Morgan (1999) concludes that as daughters of the post-feminist, post-civil rights, post-soul hip-hop generation, younger Black women are reaping the benefits of the struggles that older Black women endured. These third-wave Black women politicians aim to produce a more accepting society of raced and gendered bodies. Morgan theorizes that some Black women of this generation are “college-educated, middle-class black girls, [who] are privileged because we now believe that there is nothing we cannot achieve because we are women, though sexism and racism might fight us every step of the way” (1999, 59). The new generation of Black women legislators is (p.101) aware of the challenges and obstacles that they face as women of color, yet their individual educational and professional backgrounds prove that they have been more privileged than their predecessors.
This study divides Black women legislators into two cohorts: those born in or prior to 1960 and those born after 1960. This framework overlaps with the terminology used in Williams’s (2001) framework of the New Deal and civil rights–Black Power eras and that of the post-civil rights generation and Gillespie’s (2010, 2012) categorization of third-wave black politicians.7 While civil rights–Black Power era terms for generational cohorts and post-civil rights and third-wave Black politicians’ terminologies overlap, the waves of feminism are not easily mapped onto the above-described age groups,8 and the wave analogy often associated with White feminist discourse is not only problematic but also not easily transferred to Black feminists (Springer, 2002). I view younger Black women state legislators as not only having benefited from the civil rights and Black Power movements but also from the second-wave feminist movement during the 1960s through the 1980s that challenged gender inequality within politics, culture, and law.
Delegate Julissa Moore, a young African American woman, supported HB 1181 based on her understanding of political intersectionality coupled with her training as a lawyer, which she notes had enabled her to understand certain terms and legal structures better than her nonlawyer colleagues. Having grown up in a middle-class community in Prince George’s County, Delegate Moore notes that her exposure to issues facing victims of domestic violence occurred during her legal training at the University of Maryland. Delegate Moore frames her support for the legislation by explaining her willingness to protect wrongly accused individuals—Black men. She notes that some women were opposed to this bill because particularly, they did not want to be seen as weak on legislation about women’s issues. However, she alleged, on the surface the bill appeared as if it were providing protection for domestic violence victims, usually women, yet actually it would have other potential cultural implications. During our interview she described to me the process of obtaining a temporary restraining order (TRO), breaking down legal terms and reasoning before she presented her analysis of the legislation. Delegate Moore stated that the bar is set very low for TROs because the legal system does not want to create barriers for people who need protection. “It’s a good thing that the bar is so low because it gives more people access, but, unfortunately on the other side, it gives people who are presumed innocent a huge stigma as an abuser, both men and women.” The law, in her opinion, should enable all Maryland residents the ability to petition the court for their personal protection; however, she (p.102) acknowledges that individuals who have not been victims can also obtain TROs by falsifying records and lying.
Because the court records for the state of Maryland are available via public record, this legislator believes that if a person is found not guilty or a permanent restraining order is not granted, the TRO should be expunged from the public record. While Delegate Moore thinks that Maryland residents should be able to easily file for a TRO, she does not believe that that filing should be viewable by the mass public.
Similarly, Delegate Naomi Young, another young African American woman delegate and lawyer, agrees that unsubstantiated records should not be open to the public. As the daughter of a civil rights activist, Delegate Young is deeply concerned about equality and fairness for Maryland citizens. In the case of victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, she believes that judges should have control over the length of time the file is open. She stated,
The issue was whether we should expunge it from public view, not expunge it entirely. The judges, prosecutors and police would still have access to these records. To me that was what was important. You can be accused of anything and then could go to the cops right now and say “keep him or her away from me.” And the police would give me a stay-away order against you. This will be in your record for the rest of your life. The judge may say later “I’m not going to keep this in place, but only for that TRO week it’s on your record.” It could be on your record for the rest of your life and you haven’t done anything. I feel that if the judge doesn’t make it a permanent order then, we shouldn’t be allowed to do that to Black men who have not been found guilty. (Personal interview, March 20, 2009)
Delegate Kenya Barnes, a younger Black woman legislator and a lawyer, expresses an acute awareness of the negative impact of racialized and gendered biases in legislation that disproportionately affect her district, where an overwhelming majority of her constituents are African American. “In Prince George’s9 we have more domestic violence . . . than anywhere else in the state. Clearly that’s a crime that affects more Black women and so you are conscious of that when you are making a decision about it” (Personal interview, 20 March 2009). While I was unable to authenticate her claim about Prince George’s County, this delegate’s quote presents a rather telling view of the victim in her mind’s eye. Because she believes that most common victim of domestic violence is an African American woman, race-gender plays an important role in her legislative decision making. Namely, she is aware of how identity influences the likelihood of abuse, which informs how this delegate views the legislation.
(p.103) Concerns about the effects that a lasting public record would have on young Black men and the African American community in general are expressed by another young delegate. In explaining the possible negative effects of the bill for Black men, Delegate Barnes explains:
To have something like this on Black men’s record, it makes it harder and you know what happens. I know Black men, just like White men, can abuse their wives or girlfriends. And at the same time, Black men can also be unfairly accused. So in the interest of fairness it was important to vote in favor of the bill, and the Woman’s Caucus went the other way. (Personal interview, March 12, 2009)
Engaging in what is fundamentally intersectional analysis, these Black women delegates make connections to race and gender in their positions on this domestic violence bill to conclude that this legislation could have a negative impact on minority communities and in particular on Black women. The legislators’ comments, however, address both Black men and women. They want to protect the victims, possibly Black women, but are also concerned about Black men falsely accused of domestic violence, who would be stigmatized due to accusations permanently linked to their names.
In a distinct race-gender analysis of HB 1181, Delegate Yasmin Wood, a young Black woman delegate, elucidates her agreement with the delegates’ views detailed above:
There were a lot of women and men [legislators] who had a problem with this bill because they believed that if we did this [expunge the record] it would be like protecting the abuser. I saw it very different as a Black woman. . . . I supported the legislation because I believe that the public record should not reflect an unsubstantiated claim and not create a stigma for people when the allegations aren’t proven to be true. . . . What does it mean then if a Black man can’t get a job to support his family? That’s not right; especially if the TRO is unsubstantiated, this man should not be denied a job. It adds extra pressure on the Black woman to make ends meet and take care of the family. What does that do for the community? A large number of Black men without jobs is not good for the community as a whole. (Personal interview, March 18, 2009)
A married mother of five young boys, perhaps Delegate Wood can imagine the difficulty of raising a family without the support of her husband. Her vision of a two-parent home, with a man who financially provides for his family or perhaps how a TRO could affect her son’s futures may drive Delegate Wood to support HB 1181. The younger African American (p.104) women delegates agree that legislators should not protect Black men at the expense of Black women. However, the younger legislators’ accounts of their legislative decision making around HB 1181 support the narrative of Black male crisis as one to which social policy has responded and in many cases embraced. However, other comments illustrate that these legislators are committed to Black feminism. They critique the social structures that hinder Black advancement, showing a clear understanding of gender dynamics and inequality (Alexander-Floyd 2007; Simien 2006; Smooth 2006). The younger legislators display an understanding that racism plays a large role in society’s depiction of Black men and show that they do not want to continue to needlessly disadvantage Black men. They illustrate a willingness to protect Black men and women.
Coming of age in the 1980s, these legislators likely witnessed an open assault on Black manhood (Blake and Darling, 1994). During this period, African American men faced negative socioeconomic and political determinants (Marable 1983). Enduring stereotypes of African American males—that they are immoral, lazy, violent, overly sexual, mentally deficient, rapaciously criminal, or athletic—imposed by White history have made it difficult for society to view Black men as anything other than deviant (Hare and Hare 1984). The lived manifestations of these stereotypes have led to family and social strife for Black men (Karenga 1986), and racist stereotypes and false accusations have caused Black men to be viewed as one of America’s biggest problems. However, the crisis of Black manhood is a burden faced by all members of Black communities. African American women struggle with Black men to confront racism, and women indicate their awareness of social and political structures that marginalize Black men. In seeking to support victims of domestic violence but also protecting those who have not been found guilty of crimes, these younger Black women delegates use their race-gender identity to understand how racism, patriarchy, and cultural norms have marginalized some members of the Black community. They bring a different understanding to how this policy affects their constituents.
Generational Shift as Seen through Roll Call Data
HB 1181 presents an interesting case study for how Black women vote compared to White women and men and Black men. The debates about this bill also illuminate intragroup differences among Black women legislators. On March 10, 2009, the bill failed sixty-four to sixty-nine on third reading. (p.105) Breaking down the roll call vote by legislators’ demographics we find that seven Black women (five of whom were born after 1960—the total number of the young Black women legislators), six Black men, five White women, and forty-five White men voted in favor of the bill. Those voting against the bill were eight Black women, ten Black men, twenty White women, and thirty-four White men. Additionally, one Black man and one White man did not vote. Four delegates were excused from voting, two White women and two White men. Of the nonvoting delegates, all were Democrats except for one of the White women. Figure 4.1 presents a detailed breakdown of roll call votes by race, gender, and ethnicity.
There is no noticeable generational difference among White women delegates. The majority of White women legislators in this study were more likely to oppose HB 1181, and White men were more likely than White women to support HB 1181. This also indicates a gender split among White legislators. However, this split is most likely attributed to partisanship, as the greater part of White women legislators who supporting HB 1181 were Republicans, as were the majority of the White men who supported the bill. There are no partisan differences between the African American legislators since they are all Democrats. Instead, examining the Black women legislators’ demographics to investigate their roll call votes revealed that generational cohort influenced intragroup voting. Figure 4.2 depicts the generational differences in how the Black women voted.
As younger legislators enter the governing body, researchers should employ a legislature-specific focus to study generational differences and the policy preferences of these newcomers. It bears noting that despite the generational differences that I have outlined, Black women legislators uniformly (p.106) acknowledged that domestic violence is an important issue underscoring their representational duties, which leads us back to the idea that Black women’s race-gender identities affect what types of issues they champion, whom they represent, and how they represent them.
Therefore, we see the influence of identity in how Black women connect their policy preferences to a new understanding of how race and gender informs the legislation that affects their constituents. As supporters of the bill, the younger Black women legislators operate in conjunction with tenets of Black feminism by asking Black men to take responsibility for their actions if they are accused of domestic violence. These generational perspectives lead to researchers’ increased understanding of legislators’ policy preferences vis-à-vis social phenomena that disproportionately affect the Black community and Black women in particular.
Rift in the Women’s Caucus
It was an unusual occurrence that the Women’s Caucus was divided over their support for HB 1181. As mentioned above, the caucus ultimately decided to oppose HB 1181 and rule in favor of not expunging the records. The caucus made the last-minute decision, directly prior to third reading, to rally and defeat this legislation. However, in the process a noticeable rift occurred among the Democratic women, which rarely happens. All of the younger, along with the two older Black women legislators, mobilized in support of HB 1181, but the vast majority of older delegates sided with the Women’s Caucus.
Delegate Julissa Moore, a young Black woman, explained the differences that arose on the floor between some members of the Women’s Caucus. It (p.107) is clear that her race-gender identity caused her to view HB 1181 in a different way than some of her female colleagues.
We had an issue on domestic violence and expunging records from public view when the claims are dismissed or denied. I think that some of the Woman’s Caucus felt very strongly about that issue and some felt differently. Well, I don’t know if that is a good example. In the minority community we see a lot of barriers to employment, and that may be more of a minority experience than with others. Frequently, arrest records, domestic violence, civil records, and things of this nature—whether they go forward or not—can be a barrier to employment, so we may see more of that in the minority community than others. (Personal interview, March 12, 2009)
While Delegate Moore commented on the explicit connection between barriers to employment and unsubstantiated TROs, she also framed her dissatisfaction with the bill in terms of justice for Black constituents:
Recently a big issue that came up was our bill that would allow people who are accused—but the complaints are not substantiated for domestic violence—to have their records expunged. The issue for me in the bill was not whether to allow those people to get their record expunged if they weren’t determined to have committed the abuse. Women of the Women’s Caucus saw that as a woman’s issue and domestic violence issue. But, I saw it as a fairness issue for the Black community—my district, my constituents. (Personal interview, March 12, 2009)
Delegate Naomi Young, a younger legislator, is quoted in the Washington Post as positing that HB 1181 was a common-sense measure and saying that she could not understand why legislators would oppose the bill. She argued that the courts and police are now better trained to recognize the danger that women endure from abusive partners and noted that temporary restraining orders could be easily obtained. Delegate Young’s response shows that she is clearly concerned with those who might suffer from the stigma of an unproven accusation of abuse that might be used to deny them jobs or housing. “Innocent people should be able to clear their records” (Personal interview, March 12, 2009).
Juxtaposed with the Black women delegates’ intersectional perspectives on HB 1181 are the comments of one White woman delegate. This delegate was the only White woman legislator in this study to explicitly discuss the domestic violence bills. When asked if she had a particular affinity to any particular group within her constituency, she answered, “because I started (p.108) coming down to Annapolis advocating for issues on domestic violence and sexual assault, women’s issues are my priority. That still remains with me. . . . My soul is women’s issues, but most specifically domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse” (Personal interview, March 17, 2009). This White woman delegate clearly sees herself as fighting for women’s issues. She is known within her district and the Maryland state legislature as a champion of women’s issues. Perhaps this is why she spoke explicitly about domestic violence legislation.
As a stalwart feminist and opponent of HB 1181, this White woman delegate expressed a gendered commitment to protecting victims of domestic violence. In keeping with the critiques made of them by women of color and third-world feminists, White feminists often fail to see how race plays an influential role in minority women’s lives (Collins 2000; Richie 2000). While White feminists often do take intersectionality into account, this delegate expressed that she was baffled by the younger Black women’s view of HB 1181, although two older Black women had also joined the younger women in their support of this legislation. The majority of older Black women held the same view on the domestic violence legislation as this White woman delegate, indicating that there was a gendered commitment to this legislation despite racial differences. Yet only the White women delegate comments on the apparent generational and racial divisions in the caucus. Below, she addresses younger Black women delegates’ defection from the Women’s Caucus’s opposition to HB 1181:
I assumed that the Women’s Caucus might kill this bill and that a natural coalition [of women legislators] would coalesce around this bill to kill it. And much to my shock and education, the young minority women from the urban areas were not against the bill. In fact, they were for the bill. It was really interesting and it’s something we are going to have to [have] the Women’s Caucus talk about. (Personal interview, March 17, 2009)
When asked to explain why she believes that the young minority women legislators from urban districts supported the bill, this White woman delegate said that she would like to talk with those legislators and learn more about why they favored the bill. While she said that young minority women legislators needed to learn from the women legislators of her generation, this White woman delegate also expressed her desire to learn from the young minority women delegates. She explained that she is looking to expand the dialogue on this subject and to share her experiences as a dedicated women’s rights advocate with the women who supported HB 1181:
(p.109) It was really a very important lesson to me. And I need to share with them what I think and they need to hear from us. I don’t think we as pioneers [first sizable cohort of women to enter the Maryland state legislature] can assume that they have the same experiences about domestic violence and child abuse and the whole thing that we fought for. The same as the women that fought for the rights for us to vote, and so many women don’t take that or use that right. So it’s probably the same thing; we don’t realize what everyone had to do to come to this place to give women opportunities. So it’s important to me that we talk to both sides and have a dialogue. I’m actually looking forward to it. (Personal interview, March 17, 2009)
This White woman delegate’s comments can be interpreted as being parochial and condescending toward the young minority women delegates, yet they show that she understands that Black women’s experiences have given them a different perspective from which they view this particular domestic violence legislation. Or perhaps this delegate’s comments illustrate her wish to talk about differences in policy preferences on women’s legislation.
As a longstanding champion of women’s issues legislation, this delegate is committed to the feminist perspective of a universal or essential woman whose gendered identity largely shapes how she experiences and views the world. A singular perspective, as documented in Crenshaw’s (1991) and Richie’s (2000) findings, does not readily lend itself to antiracist understandings of how legislation can have negative intersectional effects on Black women, Black men, and Black families. This White woman’s comments illustrate that a feminist-only approach hindered her understanding of the Black women delegates’ favorable views of HB 1181. However, this experience has altered this delegate’s views on natural coalition partners and the role race plays in legislating women’s issues bills. The controversy surrounding the failure of HB 1181 led her to consider a more complicated and nuanced approach to identity politics and shows that an intersectional approach is not beyond her capacity. Her desire to meet with the younger Black women delegates points toward a willingness to learn from minority women and explore how race-gender identity may have caused them to have a dissimilar viewpoint from her own.
In 2009, almost a third of the members of the Maryland House of Delegates were women, one of the highest percentages among state legislatures in the country. Legislative counsel for the Maryland Network against Domestic Violence, Cynthia Lifson, directly links the increase of women legislators over the past two decades with the increasing visibility of domestic violence and calls for lawmakers to protect victims. Lifson is quoted by the Washington Post as saying “It’s always helpful to have women in (p.110) elected positions. Their life experiences are different than men in elected office” (Helderman, 2009, C01). As a result, advocates for domestic violence issues concentrate their lobbying efforts on the fifty-nine women in the Maryland state legislature. Women legislators find it difficult to go against the advice of anti-domestic-violence advocates; however, the increase in numbers of women legislators has also led to greater diversity of opinion in this group. Because abuse issues have long been considered a unifying cause for women lawmakers, the Maryland state women legislators have been expected to support domestic violence legislation regardless of partisanship, race, political ideology, or constituency. However, as the president of the Women’s Caucus noted, the split between members may be an important symbol of change. She surmised, “I think it’s a sign of social progress. Women do feel free to argue” (Heldman, 2009, C01).
Speaking for the Victims
The personal experiences of Black women legislators in this study inform their legislative decision making. Unfortunately, four Black women delegates have had personal experiences with domestic violence, either as victims of abuse or witnesses to it, enabling them to intimately understand who the legislation would affect.
Delegate Ingrid Jefferson was a victim of domestic violence. Her experiences allow her to serve as a victims’ advocate in the Maryland legislature. She shared, “I was actually a victim of domestic violence in my first marriage.” This delegate said that her husband had abused her for about four years. After a severe beating in 1978, Delegate Jefferson informed her husband that she was leaving him and taking the children to her mother’s house in Virginia. Her husband threatened to kill the children if she left. So Delegate Jefferson stayed with him and endured more brutal attacks. During another occasion, her husband had been drinking and later accidentally shot and killed himself with the same sawed-off shotgun that he had threatened to kill her and the children with. She reports on the impact that her story of surviving domestic violence had during a legislative hearing on a 2009 domestic violence bill:
When we were debating that bill about waiving the waiting period for domestic violence victims to obtain guns, I listened to the attorneys that testified on behalf of the bill. I then realized that I needed to speak as a victim and be the face and the voice of thousands of victims that aren’t here in the legislature and don’t have a voice. I was able to share my story and put forth my perspective. It was very well (p.111) received and very well respected by my colleagues, as opposed to the legalese of the lawyers’ testimony on the bill. Most often people look at me and would never think I had ever survived anything so traumatic. My colleagues were very supportive of my perspective. The newspapers carried the story and I was on Fox TV. You know legislators are people too. (Personal interview March 14, 2009)
Similarly, Delegate Angela James also finds that her experiences with domestic violence and other abuses cause her to advocate for victims. Her story of overcoming obstacles from her childhood in rural Georgia and Alabama also allows her to serve as an example for others in bleak situations, and she tells her story to serve as inspiration:
I have been an adult survivor of child abuse. And I come from a home of domestic violence. I’ve had all of those excuses that people use for not succeeding. Yet, I am a published author, I’ve written five books. My first book talks about molestation, abuse, drug abuse, and alcoholism—the whole nine yards, which a lot of people can identify with. When people see that, that was not a hindrance of me becoming who I wanted to become, when they see this “successful person” and then realize that this person has not always been here. But it was a process to get here. And when they see that they can say “if she can, then I can too.” (Personal interview, March 18, 2009)
Delegate James now draws from her experiences to be a voice for those who are in similar abusive situations or dealing with drug addiction and alcoholism. She finds that her experiences help her to advocate for marginalized groups.
While some delegates do not have personal experiences with domestic violence, others have witnessed the tragic consequences of violence to other Black women. They bring this perspective to the types of legislation that they champion. For example, Delegate Estrella Henderson, one of the oldest members of the legislature during the time of the interview, and who grew up in segregated Baltimore City, commented that she has enormous empathy for domestic violence victims because she has witnessed abuse. As a result, she sympathizes with victims. “A couple of years ago, Delegate Jefferson had this bill about domestic violence. I stood up [in support of the bill]. I have not personally experienced domestic violence. But I’ve witnessed it in my family. So I understood what she was going through” (Personal interview, March 12, 2009).
Delegate Abigail Watson, a lifelong educator of impoverished children, gave another version of a personal connection to domestic violence. She does not believe that men view domestic violence legislation the same way (p.112) that women legislators do. “I have personal knowledge of some of the prejudices, some of the not-so-friendly family legislation as it impacts women, like harassment and domestic violence. Even though I have not personally experienced domestic violence, I see what it does for other Black women. So I support that kind of legislation. Yes, you see that type of legislation differently. I don’t think men see it from the same perspective” (Personal interview, March 11, 2009). This comment illustrates the need for women to have a seat at the legislative table since they feel they are more likely to represent issues that concern women. Delegate Watson notes specifically that her experiences as a Black woman allow her to recognize how domestic violence impacts African American women.
Similarly, Delegate Olivia Jenkins, a divorced mother of two from a middle-class family in Baltimore county, finds that her identity provides a particular vantage point from which she views legislation: “As a woman, in terms of the gender, I’m going to interpret a lot of legislation differently, for example domestic violence bills. I see it differently from a male colleague” (Personal interview, March 17, 2009). The Black women legislators in this study clearly find that their identity allows them to bring different sensitivities to domestic violence legislation than their other colleagues. Personal experiences either witnessing or having direct encounters with domestic violence also lead these Black women delegates to a different understanding of intimate abuse than legislators without those experiences, providing examples of how experience influences how they substantively represent their constituents.
The attention that Black women legislators pay to domestic violence legislation illustrates that they bring different policy preferences to the table than their male and White colleagues do. Illustrating representational identity theory, Black women legislators in this study demonstrate how race-gender identities influence their perspectives on domestic violence legislation. As a result, the public policies that they champion may be both antiracist and feminist. Their multilayered approaches to legislation will hopefully help raise awareness of the intersectional structural barriers that prevent women of color who are domestic violence victims from securing assistance (Crenshaw 1991).
Next, because some Black women legislators have personal connections to domestic violence, they are more understanding and committed to assisting victims of domestic violence. The reality that Black women are more (p.113) likely than White women to be victims of domestic violence increases the chances that Black women legislators will have personally experienced or witnessed abuse (Lockhart and White 1989). These legislators show that these experiences lead them to an interpretation of legislation that reflects an intersectional approach to the protection of victims. These voices are necessary within a deliberative body because they help convince their legislative colleagues to prioritize the concerns of domestic violence victims. Delegate Ingrid Jefferson’s testimony furthermore helped to reach constituents who did not otherwise feel that they had a voice.
Black women’s representational styles illustrate the intersectionality of their identity. While the newspaper articles on HB 1181 indicated that both Black and White men delegates also witnessed the abuse of female family members at the hands of their intimate partners, the male legislators I interviewed for this study did not mention domestic violence legislation during their interviews. Black women delegates and one White woman delegate were the only legislators to use the domestic violence legislation as an example of how their identity influenced legislative decision making. While others may have had witnessed domestic violence, they do not cite it as a factor that shapes their identity and consequently their politics. Thus, this chapter demonstrates that both experience and identity matter in the representation of constituents.
Finally, an intersectional analysis of legislative decision making exposes the silences in public policy on discourses of antiracism and feminism. Because of their race-gender identities, the Black women legislators in the Maryland state legislature are attuned to the ways in which the junctures of race and gender impact legislation. Their intersectional vantage point produces different understandings of legislation that may lead Black women legislators to draw conclusions correlated according to their generational cohort.
Anti-domestic violence policy, which silences Black women victims, is ideal legislation for exploring the ways in which Black women legislators contribute to legislative policy making and for highlighting the differences among African American women lawmakers. The younger women respectfully disagreed with some of the older African American women legislators and the members of the Women’s Caucus. Expanding Williams’s (2001) findings to include women’s interest legislation, this study indicates that post-civil rights–Black Power era Black women legislators are committed to Black interest and women’s interests although they express their policy preferences differently than their older counterparts.
The younger women’s narratives indicate their commitment to continuing the legacy of Black women’s struggles to end racism and sexism that (p.114) disproportionally affect African American women. However, they disagree with the best means to protect victims, and they struggle with their older counterparts to impart that standing up for victims’ rights should not come at the expense of those who may have been falsely accused. The younger women display traces of third-wave feminism in their failure to accept “universal” womanhood. Instead, they recognize plurality among women’s experiences and challenge the perceived solidarity among women. In doing so, they break the sense of female unity based on oppression common to all women, which serves to align women around their differences with men.
(1) . HB 1181 was one of the many pieces of domestic violence legislation considered during the 2009 legislative session. This bill was heard during the same time period in which Governor O’Malley’s introduced two proposals, one of which would allow the authorities to confiscate guns from the subjects of protective orders and the second that would enable those seeking protective orders to carry handguns. Both state legislators and women’s rights activists viewed the domestic violence legislation introduced as contradictory.
(2) . Out of five White women who were interviewed.
(3) . Court records—including those relating to a domestic violence proceeding—that are maintained by a court are presumed to be open to the public for inspection. Generally, a custodian of a court record must permit someone who appears in person in the custodian’s office to inspect the record. The Maryland State Judiciary’s Web site also includes a link to a database that provides public internet access to information from case records maintained by the judiciary. Maryland District Court traffic, criminal, and civil case records and Maryland circuit court criminal and civil case records are available. Records can remain in the database indefinitely and are not removed except by court-ordered expungement. Subject to certain exceptions, a court record that is kept in electronic form is open to inspection to the same extent that the record is open to inspection in paper form. In September 2008, there were 1,667 final protective orders that were denied or dismissed for various reasons (e.g., denied because the petitioner could not meet (p.200) the burden of proof or the petitioner was not a person eligible for relief under the statute or dismissed because of a lack of personal jurisdiction, lack of service, the petitioner failed to appear, or the petitioner requested dismissal). In October 2009, there were 1,288 final protection orders denied or dismissed, and in December 2008 there were 1334 final protective orders denied. Senate Bill 467/House Bill 1181 (both failed) would have provided for the expungement of court records relating to domestic violence protective order proceedings if a domestic violence petition was denied or dismissed.
(4) . A court order (a temporary restraining order) can be denied or dismissed, and, consequently, a final protection order (a permanent restraining order) will not be issued. However, this case will remain on the Judiciary’s Web site. A person’s name would be publically accessible and linked to a case regardless of its final outcome. If passed, the bill would have removed the domestic violence court records if a domestic violence petition was denied or dismissed. Although this legislation generated extensive debate, it was not successful. Indeed, HB 1181 was defeated on its third reading. The temporary protective orders, which judges grant after hearing only from the accuser, do not often materialize as final protective orders. If a final order is not granted, proponents of the bill would like the record to be expunged from the public record of court hearings.
(5) . While Cohen’s (2010) and Simpson’s (1998) scholarship on the political preferences of post-civil-rights generation of African Americans are instructive for framing the theoretical expansion of Black political identities, these studies focus on the political opinions of Black youth (either college students as in Simpson’s work or Black youth ages eighteen to twenty-five in Cohen’s work). Gillespie’s (2010, 2012) and Williams’s (2001) work is more closely related to this study because it deals directly with elected officials who were born in the decades directly after the civil rights movement.
(6) . The first wave of Black politicians achieved electoral success directly after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 during the time period 1965–1988. The second wave of Black politics is characterized by the prevalent use of a deracialized campaign strategy during the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as the mayoral races of David Dinkins (New York City), Norm Rice (Seattle), John Daniels (New Haven, Connecticut), Chester Jenkins (Durham, North Carolina), and Douglas Wilder for governor of Virginia (Gillespie, 2010, 142).
(7) . The two generations prevalent in this study are also often called the baby boomers (boomers) and generation X or gen X-ers (www.census.gov). For the purposes of this research, I classify boomers’ birth years as beginning in 1940 and ending in 1960. Generation X birth years begin in 1960 and end in 1980. Boomers were profoundly affected by the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the Kennedy and King assassinations, Watergate, and the sexual revolution (Bradford 1993). This cohort witnessed political, social, and religious upheaval that resulted in a lack of respect for and loyalty to authority and social institutions (Kupperschmidt 2000). This cohort also feels the pressures of taking care of their aging parents and their own children (Kupperschmidt 2000). Gen X-ers grew up with “financial, family, and societal insecurity; rapid change; great diversity; and a lack of solid traditions,” which caused them to have an increased sense of individualism over collectivism (Smola and Sutton 2002, 365). This cohort grew up in homes in which both parents worked (Karp, Sirias, and Arnold 1999) or with only one parent due to increased divorce rates (Kupperschmidt 2000). This has forced gen X-ers to turn to small enclaves of friends for support although they (p.201) value a stable family (O’Bannon 2001). This group is untrusting and cynical, as they are influenced by MTV, AIDS, and worldwide competition. This group is comfortable with technology. Because this group is the most diverse generation in American history, gen X-ers believe in emphasizing similarities rather than differences (O’Bannon 2001).
(8) . Third-wave feminism, which began in the 1990s, does not overlap with the above-mentioned terms. This particular wave of feminism is informed by postcolonial and postmodern thinking. Third-wave feminists have challenged the stabilization of cultural constructions of gender, sexuality, heteronormativity, the body, as well as the notion of universal womanhood. However, I am hesitant to apply the label of third-wave feminists to the younger Black women legislators.
(9) . According to the 2010 census, Prince George’s County is 64 percent Black and 11 percent Hispanic. Prince George’s County is the seventieth most affluent county in the United States by median income for families and the most affluent county in the United States with an African American majority.