The internet is full of offensive content and hateful comments but for Black women in the public eye, online harassment goes way beyond jokes and trolling.
Although Black women are one of the most vulnerable and heavily targeted groups online, tech giants like Google and Twitter aren’t the only ones criticized for allowing this abuse to continue. CNN reports that Rachel Rollins, who was sworn in this week as Massachusetts’ first Black woman U.S. attorney, is still struggling to get federal protection from an endless and increasing flood of death threats.
Hateful bigots didn’t even wait until Rollins’ new position became official on Monday. Republican leaders like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK), campaigned against her nomination and gave deranged MAGA groupies enough ammunition to incite rampant harassment by calling Rollins “unhinged personality [with a] pro-crime record” for her refusal to prosecute minor drug charges. As soon as she was confirmed in a highly contentious Senate hearing where Vice President Kamala Harris was the tie-breaking vote in December, Rollins’ Instagram, Twitter, and email inbox were swamped with hate mail and death threats like “hide your kids.”
“You’ll probably die … I don’t have the (nerve) to outright kill someone … but keep going and you will find one (who does have the nerve) … I hope,” one of the sick and twisted emails said.
The newly confirmed U.S. Attorney turned the evidence over to the U.S. Marshals, expecting them to offer her additional protection and take the threats to her safety seriously. However, the Boston Globe reported that the Marshals refused to offer her a security detail, claiming that she was at low risk. If endangering the lives of a federal prosecutor and her children is low risk, no wonder the Jan. 6 insurrection was treated more like a family reunion than a dangerous act of treason. She actually had more guaranteed protection in her former role as the Suffolk District Attorney, which came with a Boston Police detail.
The number of threats the Marshals service investigates skyrocketed recently, increasing by more than 40% in two years according to their 2020 fiscal report, Dozens of clergy members have joined forces to demand Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department provide better protection for the most diverse class of U.S. attorneys in the history of the department.
“We have been through an era where others have been killed because of the stances that they were taking,” said Rev. Jeffrey Brown associate pastor for the Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts. “I believe the threats are coming because the atmosphere feels like they can easily target women of color.” Rev. Brown saw some of the hateful and violent comments himself in response to the congratulatory tweet he sent to Rollins.
The Justice Department and U.S. Marshalls can’t comment on ongoing investigations or security protocols, but hopefully, the demand for accountability and action is leading to real change. Rollins’ colleagues like former Vermont State Representative Kiah Morris and US District Judge Esther Salas are just a few haunting reminders of how extreme and constant the threats are for these women in power.