“Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak.”- Audre Lorde
My heart is saddened by the murder of Trayvon Martin-a child. My heart is also saddened at the subsequent media frenzy around his death because I know in every part of my body that when black women and girls are raped and murdered, not a damn thing happens-there is no rally or CNN coverage, but instead an instant blame game or mitigation of the facts. This post is about the inherent value of black women and black girls. If once you read “Trayvon Martin”, you thought this post would be about how white supremacist ideologies define black males as inherently “suspicious” and “dangerous” and, thus, black men and boys need our support- this is not the post for you. Luckily, almost every other blog has posted analyses very similar to this that you can read and comment on. I have no interest in doing so-not because the criminalization of black men and boys doesn’t enrage me but because I believe that the black women and girls are just as valuable. Not to mention that the ways we are inherently criminalized and stigmatized must continue to be unpacked. I write this because NO ONE comes to our defense or sees us as worthy of marching behind, and I will bear witness to this.
We invisibilize black women when we narrowly equate black men as representative of black people; when we focus on the criminalization of black men as if this is the only narrative of criminalization; and when we enable or participate in the collective amnesia that most black women NOT ONLY die as a result of the deadly combination of gender and racial profiling at the hands of private citizens and law enforcement agencies, but also from the hands of our black partners and family members. The black female body, including black trans women, is perceived as inherently sexually deviant and, thus, worthless. We DO DIE just walking down the street-whether we are profiled as a sex worker and raped and killed or, much like Trayvon Martin, just standing there. We also die at the hands of law enforcement-because to be black and woman, or to be perceived as possessing feminine characteristics, is to be unsafe in a world where you can be raped and/or murdered-by your partner, your neighbor, or police precinct # 9 AND to live with the knowledge that no one will come to your defense. But UNLIKE black men, we also die when we rely on law enforcement in the aftermath of interpersonal violence or sexual violence.
As soon as I heard of Trayvon’s murder and the outrage popping up in my emails and on my twitter timeline, I immediately thought:
- Why don’t we interrogate racial profiling when it occurs on the bodies of black women and girls?
- Why aren’t these same people outraged when black women are raped and murdered for just being themselves?
- Where are my black feminists-what are we doing at this critical moment to hold the humanity of black men next to the value and visibility of black women?
- What names will I get called if I speak about this?
- Why do we know-thanks to indie media and black mainstream media (Mike Baisden, Steve Harvey, Roland Martin, Tom Joyner, etc) who Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Troy Davis, Oscar Grant, Wendell Allen are?
- Do we know who Phylicia Barnes, Kathryn Johnston, Tarika Wilson, Aiyana Stanley Jones, Crystal Mangum, Brenting Dolliole, or LeAndra Jackson are? If not, why don’t we?
- What about Remember Me-a Baltimore-based group centered on documenting the murders and/or disappearances of black women and girls? What resources are being allocated to them to increase their capacity to bear witness?
- Why was so much media attention centered on the Jena 6 when almost no one knows, or seems to care, who the New Jersey 7 were?
- Do we even know who Jeremy Sweat and Dustin Evans are, since we like to focus on individuals like George Zimmerman instead of systems?
Now here’s the part where people (including “good white allies” who co-sign anything to seem less racist- even when it marginalizes black women, which in turn allows white supremacy to grow and prosper) start saying dumb shit because they can’t deal with the fact that- GASP- they are willfully invisibilizing black women, and so they get defensive:- “well, those women were lesbians!” or “she was a stripper!” or “they thought she was a prostitute and that is why they killed her and it’s not ok to kill any innocent person, but this is more understandable” or “it’s just not the same!” Lemme just remind people of how quickly they checked and side-eyed those who pointed out irrelevant facts like “technically, Trayvon didn’t live there, but was visiting his stepmom and dad” or “well, he was suspended from school, so clearly he had criminal tendencies.” We were right to call them out, but let us also rally behind black women and girls unconditionally. It’s not like we believe there is a justification for violence against black women and girls, do we? Because that would make us fucked up and complicit with white supremacy, right? Oh shit-maybe we are.