In all the conversation about Renisha McBride, I cannot help but wonder where girls such as Aprina Paul fits into this. I would not know her name myself if I were not a Wisconsin resident and keeping up with a blogger, This Black Sista’s Page, who has done a remarkable job keeping up with and commenting on the case. Even those further outside of Madison may not know much about this case. The reason I compare Paul to McBride is because of the conversation that will eventually get back to “acceptable” or “innocent” victims even within black communities.
It’s much easier to see Renisha as a victim. She was obviously only seeking help in a bad situation. She was a threat to no one and was actually doing nothing “wrong” at the time. (Having a BAC level does not mean she was doing anything untoward as she looked for help. It just means she had been drinking.) I was ecstatic to see the support the black community threw behind her to see her killer come to justice when we have seen far too many black girls and boys fall victim to someone claiming these kids were somehow a threat.
The situation with Aprina Paul is different. Aprina apparently voluntarily went off with Nathan Middleton after answering a Craigslist ad. The 18-year-old knew sex and drugs would be a part of the deal. She was complicit in going off with him. However, she disappeared. It is unclear whether or not Middleton killed her, but he tried to cover up her death and now faces multiple charges, mostly to do with mutilating a corpse.
However, there is no wide conversation about Aprina in the black community outside of Fitchburg/Madison. In looking at some of the coverage of the case, Aprina’s own mother does not want to believe that her child would go off with a man she did not know with the promise of sex and drugs. This is no surprise because what parent would want to believe this about her child, especially with the politics of respectability dictating the lives of black women and girls from birth.
Knowing that Aprina met voluntarily with Nathan Middleton makes her less of a victim or not a victim at all in the eyes of many. I even had that nonsense on a comment I erased from my blog that said she should have never answered the ad as if that meant she deserved to die because she made a mistake. This is the same mentality that allowed R. Kelly to go free after being charged with having sex with a minor: she is complicit in her own sexual assault, so it was her fault.
It saddens me that many people within the black community will look at Aprina’s death and say she deserved it because she agreed to have sex with and do drugs with a man she had never before met. I fail to see how this means she deserved to die and to have her death ignored. I know her family will continue to try to present Aprina in a more “respectable” light so that she will get the justice she deserves.
I also feel that these respectability politics have kept Aprina’s name from a wider public. I have not seen news of her in most of the major black news outlets, not even Colorlines. Aprina’s life and how she may have lived that life should not be the issue here. The important thing is another black teen is gone before her time and her family has to live with that premature loss. This is the danger of respectability politics, the notion that Aprina does not deserve justice or possibly even deserved her death. However, I will say that I hope against hope with this “justice” system that her past life will not affect the closure her family needs to get past her loss.