A protester yells at Harrisburg police chief Thomas Carter during a June 1, 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in response to the death in police custody of George Floyd (Capital-Star photo).
In the midst of Black Lives Matter activism, we often miss the inner workings of divisiveness that exists across genders.
While racial tension is at a (documented) all time high, there is still a need to further our work in the lens we use to examine, assess, and aid black women specifically.
On the week of celebrating women’s rights and the right to vote, I find myself flipping through a Vanity Fair article with Breonna Taylor’s picture as the front cover. In normal circumstances, I should feel honored. It is not every day a brown-skinned reflection in prestigious magazines comes across my desk. But as I look at the beautifully depicted artwork, I can only feel a tremendous sense of sadness.
Malcolm X once said “the most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman”. It is a quote that is oftentimes met with opposition.
After all, #BlackGirlMagic is at an all-time high. Our favorite artists and actors are making significant headway in their respective genres and spaces, and our culture is being respected and rewarded in a way that finally feels genuine and sincere.
But what of the everyday black woman? Does she feel free? Is there room for her to extend her wings and fly freely, flawlessly zipping through the pieces of shattered glass that is seemingly shattering across ceilings nationwide in entertainment and entrepreneurship?
The answer lies in the image of young Breonna Taylor, whose story is told in a nation where speaking out loud with words of injustice for young black and brown women are still falling on deaf ears. Culturally, Breonna Taylor is getting her fair share of exposure, love, assurance for vindication, and reverence.
Her image is everywhere. The #SayHerName hashtag has seemingly adopted Breonna as its poster child for this round of activism towards highlighting women who for too long, are often dismissed in the fight for social justice.
Established in 2014 by the African-American Policy Forum and Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, the #SayHerName# campaign pushed to include the names of women, oftentimes left invisible and muted, into conversations about police violence and victimization. You can find more information here.
The idea was to both provide names to add to the overall narratives, but to also show the very real need to specifically advocate and stand behind black women in a way that for too long, has simply not been done.
Black and Brown children go missing at an alarmingly higher rate, with more than half of all missing children being of color, and specifically young women.
Black women suffer from infant mortality in spaces where disparities in healthcare continue to increase, and the number of black women killed by police continues to be drowned out of the conversations in the midst of the sea of bloodshed that as of late, seems to only include conversations and national attention for black males suffering an unfortunate fate at the hands of police.
Whether or not you agree with the details of any case, or find fault in either parties, the conversation about black women is not simply about justice for these cases, but in unpacking the idea of black women being neglected in yet another space in society.
In simpler times, the discussion about black women was condensed to interracial dating, being too independent, or suffering from being black and angry. The furtherance of this discussion extended itself into the never ending reality that while women of color are regarded for their hair, food, bodies and spunk, they are disregarded in their pain, neglect, abuse, and exploitation.
Breonna Taylor was shot in her home while her killers, police officers, have not yet been charged. She is, unfortunately, not the only case of an invisible black woman whose cries are drowned out, muted and silenced. The irony of this week, the week of celebrating women’s rights, when the biggest right and liberty afforded to us-that of life- was so recklessly taken from yet another woman.
The fact that she is a woman of color in a society that suffers from racial disparities matters. In a system designed around a patriarchal society, HER name matters. I flip through articles about Breonna Taylor and wonder how someone whose image is all over the place, continues to be amongst the many slain and abused women, seemingly invisible within our society?
How can Breonna Taylor be socially relevant, but largely muted in the one space where it matters most: the criminal justice system?
Our job is to speak on her existence and injustice until she becomes visible far beyond the trend. We must make sure our outcry for her and other women of color whose stories are often muted doesn’t get drowned out.
If we are to continue this movement, if black lives matter, we must not forget the need to rally behind black women, to advocate for the rights of women of color, and to find intentional allyship beyond #MeToo movements.
In the space of black activism, with reverence to the ongoing fight to preserve women’s rights, we must be mindful to #SayHerName.
Opinion contributor Ana White is the owner of Way With Words Consulting Services,LLC., specializing in diversity and inclusion professional development training. She also works in mental health services in the Harrisburg area. Her work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.
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