By Samantha Master
During the era of legalized, extra-judicial lynchings of Black people, there are almost 150 documented cases of Black women being lynched. Their crimes ranged from registering to vote to being the daughter or partner of someone accused of murder.
While the United States is still processing the murders—and subsequent acts of resistance—following the deaths of young Black men like Michael Brown and Freddie Gray at the hands of law enforcement, Black women are left wondering why when the similar fates befalls us, there is all-but-silence.
In the face of continued state and law enforcement violence via death, physical and sexual assault, Black women—who have largely catalyzed and organized movement strategy and actions in the aftermath of these tragedies—are declaring that our lives are valuable and sacred and our names deserve to be spoken alongside our fallen brethren.
To date, 11 known cisgender women—assigned female at birth and identifying as women—and at least 1 transgender woman has been killed by law enforcement. Black women are most likely to be victims of police sexual assault. Almost 40% of Black transgender people who had encounters with police reported harassment. Black girls are suspended six times the rates of white girls in primary and secondary schools.
State and law enforcement violence have created a state of emergency for Black women and girls, and we cannot sit idly by while our sisters are being—to quote Kimberle Crenshaw—“pushed out, over policed and under protected.” All of the women are not white. All of the Blacks are not men. And some of us are still brave.
It is not enough to simply know and speak the names of our sisters, we must commit to ending the racist, hetero-cis-patriarchal policies and practices that endanger our lives and our communities. We must commit to centering Black women, girls and femmes in our analyses by ensuring that our anti-racism is not sexist, our feminisms are not cis-sexist, and our work is inclusive of the whole of Black experiences.
Black women birthed intersectionality, and we need their brilliance now, more than ever, if we are to ever be free.
Black women and girls have existed—invisibilized and ignored—at the margins of narratives and organizing against state and law enforcement violence for far too long. Today, we say, “No more.”
In honor of:
Mary Turner, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair, Assata Shakur, Tyisha Miller, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Miriam Carey, Rekia Boyd, Yvette Smith, Tyra Hunter, Anna Brown, Sheneque Proctor, Renisha McBride, Tanisha Anderson, Nuwnah Laroche, Mya Hall, Yuvette Henderson, Natasha McKenna, Janisha Fonville, Monique Deckard, Megan Hockaday, Alexia Christian, and so many more whose names may escape our tongue but whose stories live within our hearts, we #SpeakHerName.
Samantha Master is a writer based in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Rekia Boyd/Sandra Khalifa