It's not easy, but we need to talk about #SayHerName
While the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice have captured headlines and inspired days-long protests, we can’t forget that law enforcement-driven discrimination against Black people also disproportionately affects Black women. This disturbing trend — which resulted in the deaths of five black women in jail cells this month alone — is what inspired the rise of the #SayHerName movement in late May.
“Including Black women and girls in this discourse sends the powerful message that, indeed, all Black lives do matter,” wrote the African American Policy Forum in a #SayHerName report reissued this month. “If our collective outrage is meant to warn the state that its agents cannot kill Black men and boys with impunity, then our silence around the killing of Black women and girls sends the message that their deaths are acceptable and do not merit repercussions.”
In keeping with that, here’s why everyone — regardless of race or gender — should pay attention to the movement and its motives, and lend their voice to #SayHerName.
Black women are stopped by police at the same rate as black men.
According to the African American Policy Forum report, in 2013, 53.4% of women stopped by the police in New York City were Black, compared to 13.4% who were white, and 27.5% who were Latina. That’s exactly in line with the number of Black men (55.7%) who were stopped by the police compared to their white (10.9%) and Latino (29.3%) counterparts. Keep in mind, Black people only make up 27% of the New York City population.
The movement goes beyond police violence and includes violence against transgender women.
Despite growing acceptance of transgender individuals, violence against transgender women remains woefully underreported. So far, 11 transgender women have been murdered as a result of transphobia in 2015, the majority of them being women of color. As Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely soberly pointed out, “It’s telling that the closest thing the trans community has to a long-running Pride event is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day of mourning for victims of violence.” In that vein, #SayHerName has made protecting Black women of all sexual and gender identities a priority.
The lack of visibility for certain Black women when it comes to Black liberation goes way back.
As far back as the Civil Rights movement, in fact: As Natasha Lennard of Fusion writes, Claudette Colvin, the first Black woman arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery bus, was herself a victim of discrimination within the movement:
#SayHerName aims to nip this unsettling trend in the bud, focusing on all Black women who’ve faced police violence regardless of their backgrounds, income levels, skin color, or age.
Black women who fall into police custody have more than excessive violence to worry about . . .
According to the Cato Institute, a public policy think tank, sexual misconduct is the second most reported form of police misconduct after excessive force, with 419 victims reporting in 2010 that they had faced sexual assault, rape, sexual battery, or molestation while in police custody.
Including the fact that they’ll be perceived as prostitutes.
Black women comprise 94% of all women arrested for, “loitering for the purposes of prostitution.”
Black women are arrested and detained for a number of reasons, many of them based on stereotypes or driven by factors beyond the victims’ control.
According to the AAPF, Black women are being arrested and subsequently killed for the same reasons as Black men whether that be routine traffic stops gone wrong, as in the case of Sandra Bland and Samuel Dubose, or police overreaction to mental illness as in the case of Tanisha Anderson and Jason Harrison. Black women deserve the same visibility. #SayHerName aims to do just that, to make their lives — and deaths — more visible, more salient, more significant in the context of the wider #BlackLivesMatter movement. To support #SayHerName is to support all efforts to end police violence against minorities.
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