Updated: Dec 21, 2020
Malcolm X famously said, that “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman.”
America has made that a legacy that endures.
If you are absolutely still and you listen closely, you can hear the silence surrounding the violent deaths of Black women around the world.
Black women are killed by their partners.
Black women are killed by the police.
Black women are killed by murderers.
All of it rarely makes a ripple in our day.
The “Say Her Name” movement was born out of the need to bring attention to the murders of Black women by law enforcement.
In between the murderers of Black men, “Arrest the killers of Breonna Taylor” has become a mantra for many.
Breonna was gunned down by Louisville, Kentucky police after they performed a “no-knock” warrant on the wrong address. Breonna was an Emergency Medical Technician in Louisville with no criminal record. Breonna was asleep in her bed, in her home.
Breonna was killed in March. It’s September and her killers remain free.
Although Taylor's family received a $12 million settlement (the largest of its kind for the City of Louisville), only one of the officers involved in her death was charged. His charge was not of murder, but of wanton endangerment for placing her neighbors at risk. None of the other officers were charged.
Nearly 14 years before Breonna was murdered as the result of a “no-knock” warrant in Atlanta, Georgia, 92-year-old Kathyrn Johnston was murdered. Like Breonna, Johnston was asleep when a "no-knock” warrant was executed in her Atlanta home. Ms. Johnston fired one shot and was killed and framed for drugs. Fortunately, the officers in the Johnston case were prosecuted and sentenced to state and federal time.
There was no warrant, or traffic stop in Fort Worth, Texas when Atatiana Jefferson was murdered in her home. In fact, it was supposed to be a wellness check. A neighbor called the police because he noticed that the front door was open and all the lights were on. Atatiana’s mom was ill and she moved home to help care for her. Atatiana was playing video games with her eight-year old nephew when a cop responding to a possible burglary in progress shot her through the window. Aaron Dean never even identified himself as an officer before firing his weapon.
In Detroit, Michigan, seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was also killed in a “no-knock” warrant when in a whirl of confusion, an officer bumped into her grandmother and accidentally shot Aiyana in the neck.
With the exception of demonstrations for Breonna Taylor, the silence surrounding the deaths and absence of Black women is deafening.
The murders of Black women are not sexy or sensational. It's not a political policy point for any official, there are no special task forces. The invisibility of our deaths only further illustrates the perceived value of our lives.
In the midst of protests surrounding the murders of unarmed Black people, 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau was murdered by someone who offered her a ride from a bus stop.
When white women are murdered or missing it’s a big deal. No stone is left unturned in providing news coverage and cracking the case. Who can forget Natalee Holloway (RIP Patrice O'Neal)? Natalee was killed in Aruba and for months the coverage of her disappearance and murder were relentless.
What about six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey? Years, movies and documentaries later, these murders are still talked about at length. In contrast, in instances of murders of Black women, where the killer is known and the killing unjust, there is very little information, slow arrests (if any) and almost no visibility.
Could it be that melanated girls are less valuable than the Natalees of the world? If our lives are that insignificant in death, how should we live our lives with purpose?
Where race and gender intersect, Black women receive the short end of the stick. Although the deaths of Black women are rarely recorded, neither are the deaths of their white counterparts.
One can only imagine that the invisibility we endure is rooted in a need to undermine our worth. As if saying our names publicly, acknowledging our murders, we will somehow rise to world dominance (and Lord knows that can't happen). Maybe the neglect is rooted in not wanting to shed light at the bold ways our lives are considered disposable and irrelevant.
Whatever the reason, the problem is an indicator of how we are anything but equal.
I did some digging, and unfortunately, it's not just Black women, it's not just cop violence, and it's not just America.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), more than137 women are killed globally each day. In March of 2020, millions of Mexican women protested gender-based violence. Recent data shows that more than 10 women a day are killed in Mexico. If that's true, that means that almost 10 percent of global femicides are happening in Mexico. While women in Africa are at greatest risk of being killed by an intimate partner, in 2017 Asia had the highest reported killings of women at 20,000.
If a nation can rise no higher than its women, and its women are being slaughtered, what is our future?
Unfortunately, I believe the numbers are actually higher, the problem more extensive.
Much like police brutality and killings are systemically rooted, so are the murders of women.
Our murders are rooted in the way we are viewed by the world. Universally, women are not seen as the masters of themselves, but rather an extension of men. For that reason, patriarchy assumes dominance over every aspect of our being. Our womb, whom we love, how we earn and how much money we earn, are all in the bosom of male control and perspective.
The solution is rooted in economic and political overhauls. Women can birth babies, hold offices, run businesses and nations and still be deemed disposable. Repurposing and defining the value of women for some means a dreaded departure with tradition. In the same way that women are no longer an archaic vessel for a man to acquire her father’s property, our value and contribution to society has evolved.
The powers that be (patriarchy) must woefully acknowledge the changing times by rewriting its perspective.
In 2020, we should not feel celebratory about the ”first” Black woman of anything.
Women in non-traditional spaces should be normalized and respected. In 2020, there is no room for the “Good Ol’ Boy” and “Boys Club” culture to be the loudest voice in the room. We must shed the antiquated ways of our origins and move with fluidity aligned with our progress.
Women are respected and remembered in death through seeing the true value in a woman. After acknowledging the strength, beauty and uniqueness of a woman, she is lifted through strong policies, stable economies and opportunities. Romantic steps, but steps nonetheless. We expand on the romance by shifting into pragmatic solutions that entail salary equality and abandoning roles and identities that no longer serve.