By De La Fro
Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Mike Brown. Sean Bell. Oscar Grant. All names that ring a bell for most, right? But what about Sheneque Proctor? Aiyana Stanley-Jones? Rekia Boyd? Tarika Wilson?
Oftentimes throughout the discussion of state violence, black men are centered, leaving black women almost completely erased from the narrative. People will say “Every 28 hours a black man is killed by a police officer” when really it’s “Every 28 hours a black person is killed by a police officer.” Most people fail to acknowledge or even are unaware of police brutality against black women. Not only are black women physically assaulted and murdered by police officers, black women have been sexually assaulted by police officers as well.
Even when police brutality toward black women is brought up the response is usually apathetic or watered down empathy. I’ve seen people, including black men, say that that’s taking away from the issue at hand. I’ve even seen black men say that focusing on black women being victims of state violence is “divisive” and there’s “no need to separate ourselves.” They see discussing police brutality against black women as a separate conversation instead of a part of the conversation. It’s amazing to me that if an issue isn’t centering black men, it’s almost instinctively written off as a “distraction” or “divisive” as if black men are the only black people that make up the black community. As if black men are the only ones affected by racism in the black community. As if other black people of the black community are not as valuable as cis-heterosexual black men.
There was a rally held for Rekia Boyd in New York City earlier this year and only about 50 people showed up; and that’s 50 compared to a couple hundreds, thousands, and millions worldwide who show up for black male victims. There have also been rallies held for black female victims in general and not only did few people come, few black men were in attendance too.
Black female activists feel the need to focus on black female victims of police brutality because time and time again, these victims are ignored from the overall “Black Lives Matter” narrative. There wouldn’t be a need to create a subset of the Black Lives Matter movement (Black Women’s Lives Matter) if black women’s lives were acknowledged just as much in the first place. This is not “separating” ourselves from the overall movement. This is simply us saying, “No, our black lives matter TOO.”
You can say black lives matter all you want but if you don’t believe ALL black lives matter then you’re saying “Only cis-heterosexual black men’s lives matter.” All we want is inclusivity in our own community. We just want you to fight for us like we’ve been fighting for you. That’s all.
So when you lift up Tamir, don’t forget to lift up Aiyana. When you lift up Eric, don’t forget to lift up Sheneque. When you lift up Sean, don’t forget to lift up Rekia. If you say you’re about black power then that means you have to be here for ALL black people, not just cishet black men. That means you fight for black women, black children, black elderly, and black LGBTQ. You fight for ALL of us. We can’t allow these black women’s memories to get lost along the way. Their black lives matter too.
In conjunction with Black Lives Matter’s national call to recognize the black women’s lives and trans lives lost at the hands of the police today, May 21st, this post does what many protest don’t: #SayHerName
Guest author bio: Candace Sinclaire, also known as De La Fro, is an undergrad student at UNC Greensboro, where she’s studying film. She’s a spoken word poet and mans her own film collective “Rev Films.” She also manages own blog where she shares her love for natural hair, fashion, and socio-political topics.