Latasha Harlins and the Victimization of Black Girls

Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 7:30 p.m. PST

In 1991, Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old African American girl, was shot in the head and killed at her local Los Angeles grocery store. Her death, which happened just 13 days after the Rodney King beating, garnered little lasting attention. Black girls continue to be the targets of widespread violence with minimal accountability systems in place. Historian Brenda Stevenson and legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, both UCLA professors, discuss how this case illuminates the vulnerability of black girls and how communities can serve and protect them. Co-presented by the Hammer Museum, audience members have the option of attending this program in person in Los Angeles, or watching the event live via streaming.

Access the stream here via the Hammer Museum website.


ALL HAMMER PROGRAMS ARE FREE: Tickets are available at the Box Office one hour before the program. One ticket per person; first come, first served. Early arrival is recommended.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Who is Latasha Harlins? What happened to her?

    • Latasha Harlins was a 15-year-old girl who was shot by a store owner in 1991 over a carton of orange juice. Latasha brought the carton to the counter and had money in her hand, yet the store owner claimed that she thought Latasha was stealing, throwing a stool at her before shooting her in the back of the head. The judge sentenced the store owner to just five years probation, 400 hours of community service, and funeral expenses for the Harlins family. Few, however, have heard of Latasha Harlins, even though this incident happened shortly after Rodney King.

    • Tweet: Know #RodneyKing? What about #LatashaHarlins? We must lift up the stories of WOC along with men #SayHerName #HerDreamDeferred

  2. What are some recent acts of violence against Black women and girls?

    • In two separate occasions over the past six months, store owners/employees who believed that Black women customers were stealing attacked these women in their shops. A J.C. Penney employee in Indiana grabbed a Black girl in a headlock. An owner of a beauty shop kicked and tackled a Black woman and puts her in a chokehold. In both cases, both perpetrators, who were both men and both private citizens, felt the need to violently apprehend Black female bodies.

    • Tweet: #LatashaHarlins isn’t the only 1. Private violence against Black girls continues 2day. Speak up for WOC victimized by shop keepers & employees #HerDreamDeferred

  3. What kinds of stereotypes do Black women and girls face? Black women and girls are subject to many different stereotypes, which contain both racial and gendered dynamics.

    • The angry black woman/girl: Black women and girls are criticized for vocalizing opinions, and being called angry or having an “attitude” is a way to denigrate these opinions.

    • The hyper-sexualized “jezebel”: Black girls find their bodies objectified, often at a young age.

    • The “invincibility” of strength: Black women and girls are likened to being “invincible” and able to put up with more and less “feminine”, as opposed to stereotypes of the “delicacy” or “femininity” of women of other races.

  4. How do these stereotypes contribute to the silence surrounding violence against Black women and girls? Aren’t some stereotypes “positive”?

    • The angry black woman/girl: There is a notion that because Black women and girls are “angry,” that they have somehow provoked violence or contributed to it.

    • The hyper-sexualized “jezebel”: Because of this inappropriate sexualization of young Black girls and women, they are often subject to victim-blaming. Sexual harassment and sexual assault of Black girls are also downplayed as a result. Historically, Black women were considered “unrapeable” and this stereotype was used to justify that contention.

    • The “invincibility” of strength: Black women and girls’ humanity is not recognized and people take their labor for granted. Furthermore, low rates of mental health treatment, harmful paradigms of what constitutes abuse and little funding or advocacy work to provide survivors with safety and the treatment they need.

  5. What are the consequences of these stereotypes on Black women and girls?

    • These stereotypes not only affect the way society sees Black women and girls, but can also have an impact on individuals’ behaviors and perceptions of themselves.

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