For Black women, the simple answer remains, “sometimes”. The parameters placed around being a Black woman who deserves love, protection, respect, and justice are habitually insurmountable. You have to be humble, strong, pretty, infallible but relatable, ride or die, independent enough not to require anything from a man, yet show a man you “need him”. You must be cis, straight, light skinned, slim-thick and a perfect mix of saint and sinner. Even with all that, we may still have to Say Her Name, with no justice in sight.
What are we still asking for?
Safety, justice, and civil rights for Black women. In a year of continuous violence and harm visited upon Black women, oftentimes we must focus on the victories we have across different sectors in order to survive each day. On October 12th 2019, Atatiana Jefferson was killed by Fort Worth Police officer Aaron Dean. He was responding to a call for a "Wellness check" made by one of her neighbors, in response to her front and back door being open at an odd time of night. Atatiana was in the home playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew, when officers swarmed the house and did not identify themselves before shouting commands and shooting into the home. Aaron Dean, who was previously charged with assaulting a young woman and a part of a police department whose "culture has claimed more lives than any other police force in the region". On Dec 5th the trial of Aaron Dean began, and he was recently convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to nearly 12 years. A trial we did not think we would ever see, after so many like Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, and Pamela Shantay Turner went unheard. A conviction we never expected after the police involved killings of Rekia Boyd and 7 year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Yet, in this case, we find a moment of solace from the onslaught of brutality that the largely ignored violence against Black women garners each year.
Demand justice for all Black women/femme/folx!
Do not let the names go unsaid and demand justice. Use your voice and vote to elect prosecutors and judges who can see their humanity and will fight for their justice. Learn about the systems that inequitably and unequally push Black women into and out of them.
What to Do
How to do It
Know the stories NOT being told
Move Beyond Performance
Attend, Attain, Accomplish
Believe Black women. Listen to their narratives and accounts. Trust their lived experiences and apply context. Do Not speak over or for them. Build an understanding of anti-Blackness, white supremacy, systemic oppression,and colonization. Develop a cultural competence so that you are not relying on stereotypes. Hold institutions you belong to accountable for how they participate in harmful practices and narratives perpetuated about Black women.
What about ALL women?
If we need a better example of how Black women are never allowed to participate in the “damsel in distress” treatment look no further than the stories of Brittney Griner and Megan Pete AKA Meg Thee Stallion. With Brittney Griner, she was in Russia, a country where she has played basketball for years, because of pay inequity in the United States. She was detained trying to leave the country as tensions began to mount between Russia and Ukraine. The lack of attention this case garnered after her initial detention was astounding. She is not only a decorated Olympian and WNBA champion, but an activist and wife. It took the work of her fellow WNBA players, the coaches, and her wife to finally get national attention. Once there was a mention of drugs connected with a Black woman, we saw the immediate shift from, this inarguably evil superpower is holding her for leverage, to, “sounds about right”, “she deserves the book thrown at her”, “when will those people learn they can’t break the law everywhere”. When people saw her photos, they commented on her appearance, compared her to a man, and decided she deserved whatever punishment could be given to her. We saw the same narrative used in the People vs Tory Lanez. Meg deserved to be a victim because of her stature. “She must be the aggressor”, “she calls herself a stallion so she’s a man right”, “she was sleeping with him, and she lied about it so whatever happens, happens”. Neither of these women were seen as victims of violence. Neither of these women were given grace, let alone the humanity they showed during their ordeals. When Brittany was eventually traded for a Russian terrorist, who had nearly finished his sentence and was the only trade offered by the country, she faced even more scrutiny. Her life vs the life of a white male former marine, people were shouting that they would rather see “no one come home”, vs her freedom. When Megan took the stand under penalty of perjury, she told the truth of what happened to her that night. Tory was eventually convicted 2 years after the shooting, and in the aftermath, she is met with the continued narrative of “everyone was lying so we will never know”, despite being the only one of the 3 witnesses to take the stand and answer every question, as well as evidence and a jury of her peers corroborating her account of the events. Just looking at these two cases, compared to other cases of white women who are alleging domestic abuse, or receiving Netflix deals after their convictions of crimes committed and being given the opportunity to rebrand as an unfortunate soul, we can draw a straight line to gender discrimination, misogynoir, and racism.
What we need to reckon with is why we love and celebrate the suffering of Black women. We are quick to highlight “strength” and “power to overcome circumstances” that Black women are supposed to inherently have. Allow space for Black women to be celebrated in all of their attributes and gifts. Do not
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Authors: Nicole Andrews Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org