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Our Justice System is Failing Black Women

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(Courtesy Photo)

by Mia Kerner

It is an obvious and incontestable truth that Black women are not receiving the justice that they deserve. With little to no media coverage and a disturbing lack of equity in police investigations, the deaths and disappearances of black women are being swept under the rug. 

According to the Women’s Media Center, “The harsh reality is that an estimated 64,000-75,000 Black women and girls are currently missing in the U.S.”

Though that number is horrifyingly high and only amplified by the number of deaths, far too many cases are going unnoticed. 

The suspicious drowning of Grand Valley State University student Taleah Lowe is one of the countless cases that has not received the attention that it deserves.

Lowe was adored: a beloved friend, daughter, sister, and niece. When asked to describe who Taleah was, one of her best friends (anonymous) replied “Taleah had the biggest heart and could always put a smile on your face. She was one of the funniest people you would meet, never failing to make you laugh. You could forget about all your problems hanging out with her. She had the most unique character and she is like no one else I know. People should know that Taleah would be the person to tell you right now with a smile on her face, that she is with you and wants to see you live your best life”.

This dear friend of Taleah’s wishes to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the situation.

On Thursday, Oct. 14, Lowe’s promising future was stolen from her. Between 10 and 11 o’clock in the evening, Lowe and her new friends Rachel Paulson and Chloe Ward entered the water at the Pere Marquette beach in Muskegon. According to MLive, police were called to the beach around 10:45 p.m. with reports of a swimmer struggling in the water. Taleah Lowe’s body was recovered from the water soon after. 

Lowe’s death was ruled an accidental drowning with no indication of foul play, but many, including her family, remain skeptical of what really occurred that night. 

According to Fox 17, Lowe’s aunt, Angela Lane, “Taleah could not swim. She had a disability, partial paralysis in her left arm from birth. She would never get in the water and she made it known to people that was close to her that she could not swim. She could not — she would not — get in the water. She had a fear of it”.

It is suggested that Lowe was aware of her personal limits with her disability and most likely would not have gone swimming of her own accord, especially in the weather and water conditions.

Suspicions were also raised when not two hours after Lowe’s tragic passing, the girls that brought Lowe to Muskegon that night, Paulson and Ward, started a GoFundMe campaign in Lowe’s name without her family’s consent. 

The inappropriately hasty attempt to acquire money in those painfully sensitive hours after Lowe’s passing was met with public disapprobation, and rightfully so.

I don’t think the situation was looked into deep enough. I think just because it was a few teenagers at the beach at night makes it seem innocent but it could have not been. I think there was something more we may not know about. I think everyone from that night needs to tell their true story and every detail so we can all know the full story. Taleah does not deserve rumors spread. There has been so much false information and it doesn’t make the situation any better”, shares a best friend of Taleah’s (anonymous). 

Tragically, Lowe has not been the only black woman robbed of justice as of recent, and her family is not the only one with unanswered questions.

Lauren Smith-Fields was a 23-year-old business owner and student at Norwalk Community College in Norwalk, Connecticut, studying to become a physical therapist. She had an active social life and posted regularly on social media.

Smith-Fields invited a 37-year-old white man, whom she had met on the dating app Bumble, three days prior, to her home for a date on Dec. 11. The man, identified as Matthew Lafountain, claims that the two were drinking throughout the night and at some point, Smith-Fields fell asleep on the couch. Lafountain claims that he then carried her to her bed and fell asleep beside her.

According to a report by News12 Connecticut, Lafountain told the police that “He heard Smith-Fields snoring at 3 a.m., but when he woke up at 6:30 a.m., she had blood coming out of her nose and was not breathing.” He claims that this is when he called 911.

Smith-Fields was declared dead at the scene as a result of an ‘accidental’ overdose of Fentanyl combined with prescription medication and alcohol, according to the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

After not hearing from her daughter, Shantell Fields went to check on Smith-Fields at her apartment along with Smith-Fields’ brother. Upon their arrival, they found only a note on Smith-Fields’ door, reading “If you’re looking for Lauren, call the number.” The phone number on the note was that of Smith-Fields’ landlord, who had to inform her mother and brother of her death. 

According to NBC Connecticut, The family did not receive notice or confirmation of her death until they reached out to a detective and the Bridgeport Police Department.

When the shocked family spoke to Detective Kevin Cronan, they learned that the Bumble date that Smith-Fields had been on was the last interaction that she had alive. The family was obviously concerned, but Cronan claimed that there was no need to worry, as Lafountain was a “nice guy.” 

Smith-Fields’ brother, Lakeem Jetter, says that when he “asked the officer about the guy, he said he was a very nice guy and they weren’t looking into him anymore,” continuing that “It was almost like he was sticking up for him and it seemed weird to hear that from a detective.”

When Smith-Fields family entered her apartment to collect her belongings, they found “a used condom, a pill and bloody bed sheets” that had not been collected as possible evidence.

The family then requested that the Bridgeport Police Department begin an investigation, beginning with the last person that had seen Smith-Fields alive. The investigation is currently ongoing.

The lack of professionalism and complete disregard for the victim and her family demonstrated by the Bridgeport justice system was completely and utterly unacceptable. 

Ruling out the possibility of foul play based on an incomplete scene analysis and eliminating a possible suspect based on his appearance of being a “nice guy” is blatantly terrible police work, Lauren Smith-Fields deserved better.

The public outcry for justice to be served on behalf of Smith-Fields was fierce, but largely ignored. Cases such as the disappearance of Gabby Petito, a white 22 year-old travel vlogger who’s life was taken tragically in 2021, were met with global outrage and a demand for justice, while black women deserving of the same outrage are met with general silence. 

Taleah Lowe and Lauren Smith-Fields are just two of the thousands of black women who  have been robbed of  justice. Their families are grieving over lost lives without knowing exactly how they were taken.

Our justice system is not providing Black women with the same urgency and dutiful protection as it provides others. Though the justice system was established to serve and protect, Black women in America remain neglected and vulnerable. 

Restructuring the regulations of conduct and reforming the culture of conduction within the justice system is vital to the protection of all citizens, regardless of gender or race.

Having security in justice should not be a luxury, but a birthright as a citizen of the United States. Using your privilege to demand justice for those who have been denied is the first step to reinstating this security. Do not stay silent in the presence of injustice. We as a country need to do better. Until reformation occurs, the American public needs to utilize their privileges, whether it be race, gender or socioeconomic status, to defend those being deprived of protection.

Race should not be a factor in the delivery of rectitude. We need to provide Black women with the justice that they deserve, and if that requires the reevaluation and reformation of the U.S. justice system, so be it. 

 

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