When I was asked to watch "The Rape of Recy Taylor", I did not know what to expect nor was I fully prepared for the emotions that I experienced at the end of the documentary. It is to no surprise that Black women have been subjected to abuse and sexual assault for years. In fact, Black women have been perceived as everything less than a woman and that has caused trauma, depression, and hopelessness within the community.
Recy Taylor was only 24 years old when she was gang raped by six white boys in Abbeville, Alabama back in 1944. Recy was a daughter, a sister, a mother and a wife. Her fearlessness drove her to do what most women were afraid to do during a time where Black women were raped; she spoke up. Recy's bravery propelled her to identify her rapists and as a result, it gained the attention and support from The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other supporters throughout the United States.
Although Recy's story cultivated support and unity amongst Black women, it was a bitter reminder of how Black women are viewed. For that reason, it is imperative for me to share her story with you and this is why.
1. It exposed a justice system that failed women, particularly Black women
The premise of Recy's story is not new information. Many Black women had been raped but the justice system did nothing to protect them. As Recy's story began to make the headlines in newspapers and rallies took place, the pressure for legal intervention transpired. The documentary noted the power and impact of the press and how that brought to light how a Black woman's body was perceived.
Recy immediately told the deputy sheriff, Lewey Corbitt of her abduction and rape the night she was dropped off to go home. Unfortunately, her accusation was not enough for any arrests to be made despite her disclosing the name of one of the boys. After Recy made the report, her home was set on fire and that forced her family to move into her father's home. As you can see, Recy received no support or protection from the sheriff. It seemed as if her notable stance to speak out against the rapists backfired on her. She was even advised by the deputy sheriff to not tell people about the rape but that was no enough to keep her mouth shut.
The pressure and support from the NAACP and Alabama Committee for Equal Justice for Taylor resulted in the hiring of private investigators to review the case in Abbeville, Alabama. Consequently, no indictments were made but with a jury that consisted of all White men, are we really surprised? Recy's story brought to light the harsh reality of a broken system that is sexist and racist.
2. It revealed the true essence of Rosa Parks work
Rosa Parks played a vital role in Recy's story and has played that supportive role for many Black women for years. As a member of the NAACP, Rosa was sent to investigate sexual assault cases that was brought to the organization's attention. She was an advocate for women and risked her life in order to obtain justice for others.
While visiting Recy, Rosa was thrown out of her home and threatened to never return back to Abbeville by police officials. However, that did not stop her. It was Rosa's resiliency and passion for helping women that led her to relocate Recy and her husband and daughter to Montgomery for safety purposes. Rosa stood up for many women like Recy and that is truly the foundation of the work and who she was for so many women. History classes have taught Rosa Parks as being a woman who only refused to give up her seat when she was much more than that.
3. Recy's story is still the story of so many women
No one asks to be raped and sadly to say, we live in a society that believes that women intentionally position themselves to endure in such a horrific act. The story of Recy reveals that rape can happen to anyone.
Recy was on her way back from church when she was abducted and raped at gun point. Recy was a church going woman, married and had a daughter. Despite what many would call as "wholesome", 6 White men made it their duty to take away her sanity. The men who raped Recy did not do so because she "asked for it", they did so due to their disregard for Black women and their bodies. Their false narrative of Recy being a prostitute was meant to trick people into believing that she was "bad" and brought it on to herself.
Recy's story is a mirror reflection of so many Black women and their untold stories from the past and present. The outcome of her story affirmed that there is a serious problem with the perception of Black women and their bodies. For that reason, many women have chosen to remain silent due to hopelessness and fear. But we all know that silence does not mean extinction.
Recy passed away at the age of 97 on December 28, 2017. It was not until 2011 that she was issued an official apology from the Alabama State Legislature.
For 72 years, Recy was forced to live with the the appalling decision of 6 White men who got away with their actions.
Life was not easy for Recy following the tragic incident. Her marriage ended and she lost her only daughter due to a tragic car accident. Recy is a reflection of so many women who were forced to "move on with their life" and carry the weight of trauma for years. It was her courageous act of speaking up that paved the way for today's activists. Her story may not be taught in schools but it will always have an impact in the history of Black women.
If you are interested in hosting a live screening with a group of people should visit: https://www.therapeofrecytaylor.com/host-a-screening/
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