“If I speak to you in anger, at least I have spoken to you: I have not put a gun to your head and shot you down in the street; I have not looked at your bleeding sister’s body and asked, “What did she do to deserve it?”
Political activist, scholar, author, and professor, Angela Davis asserts that the liberatory project of each individual must entail the liberation of all humanity. Therefore, neither the oppressor nor the oppressed can experience freedom until their relationship is transformed into one of human equality. Activist, scholar, and author Audre Lorde affirms that “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is any one of you.” Bell hooks, educator, scholar, and author argues that the engagement in a movement to end sexist oppression requires participation in a revolutionary struggle to “eradicate the ideology of domination that permeates Western culture on various levels.” These African American women scholars, activists, visionaries, and revolutionaries give clarity to the importance of naming, shaming, and eradicating all manifestations of race, sex, and class oppression. Unfortunately, there is deafening silence on the advocacy for Black women and children who are victimized, sexually assaulted, beaten, and assassinated by law enforcement agents across the country.
Intersectionality is a concept that draws awareness to unique experiences of oppression informed by the intersecting identities of race, class and gender. Black women’s lives are adversely impacted by critical intersecting issues that result from the pathologies and practices of oppression. Kimberlè Crenshaw, thought leader and scholar coined the term intersectionality to explain how Black women are marginalized from both feminist theory and antiracist politics. When race, class, and gender intersect, African American women’s experiences of exploitation, discrimination, and abuse are excluded and far too often ignored. This issue of state violence against Black women remains in the margins and on the side-lines of movements for social justice. As a result, police brutality of African American women occurs with impunity while white mainstream feminists remain silent regarding racialized violence against Black women.
Mainstream feminists surmise that racial issues have no direct relationship to their own experiences as women. However, this reasoning is faulty at best and deadly at worst. Any man, law enforcement agent or otherwise, who uses physical brute force to unjustly harm or murder any woman, is a threat to all women. Not only are mainstream feminists movements complicit in police brutality against Black women, racial justice movements are often criticized for centering only Black men in the fight against police abuse. These movements have failed to prioritize or make visible African American women and children that are victimized by state violence. The focused attention of racial justice movements is overwhelming centered on the police violence against Black men. Crenshaw states that “failure to highlight and demand accountability for the countless Black women killed by police…leaves Black women unnamed and thus under protected in the face of their continued vulnerability to racialized police violence.”
The #SayHerName movement created by Kimberlee Crenshaw provides visibility into unnamed victims of police violence by exposing their cases for public awareness in an effort to hold perpetrating officers accountable. These cases illustrate how race, gender, sex and class work in unison with racial stereotypes to inform violent responses to Black women from law enforcement agents. I have personally been admonished, chastised, and threatened by white male police officers for being a “strong” Black woman. Crenshaw argues that just as officers are not held accountable for killing innocent Black men, they are not being held accountable for killing Black women and children; however, the difference is in visibility of the victims. Black women are written off as collateral damage and the officers involved are neither held accountable nor convicted of any crime; case in point, Rukiya Boyd, Korryn Gaines, Sandra Bland, Atatiana Jefferson, and Breonna Taylor just to name more than a few. The Say Her Name Report, created by the African American Policy Forum provides an extensive listing of all the names and faces of Black women who have lost their lives to police violence in an effort to make visible their names and narratives in the fight to end state violence against Black women.
That report can be found at:
Both mainstream feminist and black anti-racist discourse evade the intersectional dynamics of race, class, and gender. However, it is precisely at this intersection that Black women’s bodies are subjected to terror and abuse. Antiracist politics are organized around what happens to Black men and mainstream feminist theory around white happens to white women. As such, black women are marginalized in the very movements they adamantly support for political, economic, and social change. Failure to analyze, address, and expose the consciousness and historical roots of violence against Black women allows for the pathology of abuse to continue, hence, making elusive opportunities for real solutions.
I am calling for a holistic view of the police brutality epidemic in Black communities, which is mandatory to expose this issue on a larger scale and not confine it to Black men. Casting a wider net in which to explore state sanctioned violence against both Black men and women will reveal how law enforcement officers are trained to serve and protect white supremacy. Furthermore, I advocate for creating autonomous communities in an effort to divest from oppressive state systems and lessen the dependency on state provided resources. Creating communal frameworks in which to self-govern and police is a powerful solution to eradicate state violence. I was first introduced to the concept of autonomous communities by community activist Paula X. Rojas in her discourse, Are the Cops in our Heads and Hearts. She states that “revolution is about the process of making power and creating autonomous communities that divest from the state. And as these autonomy movements build they can become large enough to contest state power. Movements defined by building autonomous communities are rooted in spiritual frameworks that promotes power as the respect for self and the humanity of all people.
Black Women’s Lives Matter Too as they are our mothers, community leaders, business owners, politicians, nurturers, teachers, nurses, doctors, healers, and most important the life bearers of future generations of Black lives.