Why Am I Passionate About This Topic?
While thinking about the life of an African American in the United States, my initial thought brings me to police brutality, given that black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by the police when compared to white people in this country. In today’s world, police brutality is usually linked to not only blacks in general but black men, such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice.
Yes, no life lost is more significant than another, but every life lost should be given the same recognition. Which leads to the question of the day, what about the stories of the African American women killed and brutalized by the police? There have been multiple scenarios where the lives of women have been covered up in relation to police brutality. Not all of these police encounters resulted in death, but, every encounter is one worth raising awareness. While it is beneficial to hear the names of these African American men on the news as their unjust stories are being told, it is now time to shed light on Miriam Carey, Shelly Frey, Darnisha Harris, Malissa Williams, and many more unheard names of these forgotten African American women. These names can be blatantly excluded from headliners or not recognized even at all. There was an example of this in chapter 5 of the amazing book entitled, Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw.
Kimberlé introduces us to 2012 Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report (MXGM). Operation Ghetto Storm revealed that police, security guards, and vigilantes killed about 313 Black people in the year of 2012, resulting in an African American’s death every 28 hours. The case of which is cited by Operation Ghetto Storm explicitly include Black people of all genders. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report took it upon themselves to change the premise to “a black man is killed every 28 hours” as they deliberately excluded the lives of the female victims. They went on to explain that they did this so it would impact America’s view of police brutality and how they are killing our innocent hard working black men. Now not only is this gender exclusion of women but they are now justifying it with the hegemonic view of men. And, rather when they see a woman they see a woman in need of constraint because she is angry and out of control. To say that these men are getting recognition because their lives were worth and full of more opportunity to live is dehumanizing and degrading towards females.
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw uses her book as well as her #SAYHERNAME campaign to raise awareness of female victims. Her passion for this topic is as strong as mine as it is evident that her campaign is helping propose and honor the intentions of the #BlackLivesMatter movement to uplift the intrinsic value of all Black Lives Matter.
Do you know her name?
These three women were victims of police brutality. Police brutality is a form of misconduct by police members involving undue violence. In this country, Black and Hispanic men are in the constant limelight of the excessive use of force by authorities, but today this will change.
On February 16, 2014, Yvette Smith, 47, of Bastrop, Texas was shot and killed by Bastrop County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Willis. The officer was responding to a 911 call about a fight between several men at a residence. Willis ordered Smith to come out of the house and as she proceeded to do so she was shot twice when she stepped through the doorway. An original statement that claimed Smith was armed was retracted by police officials.
Rekia Boyd, 22, of Chicago was unarmed when she was shot in the back of the head by Chicago Police Detective Dante Servin, who was off-duty at the time. While Servin was driving home he slowed his car down and began a conversation with four “suspicious” people walking outside. As he proceeded to drive he then noticed out of his rear view that one of the people in the group pull out a gun and point it in his direction. Servin fired five rounds over his left shoulder through his car window, striking the man in the hand and Boyd in the back of the head. It was later announced it was a phone taken out of the man’s pocket not a gun.
On November 15, 2015, Tanisha Anderson, 37, of Cleveland, stopped breathing during a police encounter in from of her home. Her death was ruled a homicide with the cause listed as “sudden death in association with physical restraint in a prone position in association with ischemic heart disease and bipolar disorder with agitation”.
Her death was just 10 days prior to the death of Tamir Rice.
Men aren’t the only ones dealing with these traumatizing and life-threatening encounters with the police force. While researching it was apparent that police brutality isn’t always when someone is shot and killed. “In 2006, a police officer in Pennsylvania raped a woman after responding to a domestic violence call. The survivor later said “He had his police uniform on, his gun, his nightstick…I had no choice but to do what he asked me to do.” When it comes to women authorities take advantage of not only their bodies but their vulnerability. While they are also experiencing gunshot wounds and death.
Fist Sky High Club
At my high school, Hamden Hall Country Day School there is a club opened strictly to African American males. This club is called “Fist Sky High” and it was created by a close friend of mine, Jason Gill. Jason shows passion in the mistreatment of black men as well as the constant stereotypical view society has on them.This club provides young black men with different ways to handle difficult encounters, such as police encounters. Recently there has been the main focus on police brutality and how it has been affecting African American men. I want this club and Jason to realize that just because they are men of the minority they aren’t necessarily experiencing societal inequality and judgment alone. Women have also lost their lives at the hands-on police so my question to him and the club is, what makes the wrongful death of black men more significant than the lost lives of black females due to police brutality?
Why is your club strictly comprised of males?
Takeaway: Throughout Gender Studies, we have learned the stereotypic views of what masculinity is. In my opinion, Jason’s reasoning for having a club comprised of mostly hegemonic views of what a man is. When Jason states that men feel more comfortable breaking down in front of one another rather than females this is a form of emotional detachment, and, African American men are more of a target for police brutality because the officer and the victim are trying to broadcast who’s more “masculine” with the use of aggression and physical strength, it isolates these women victims.
I began to think maybe these men show a sense of aggression because they are retaliating towards unjust behavior. Women have the right and have acted up the right to stand up for what they believe is right and wrong. African American men and women face just as many struggles together as they do separately. I believe the Black youth of the same gender can work together to not only raise awareness for this problem together but also learn how to deal with these encounters.
Do you feel like including females in your club would make less of an impact on counter police brutality?
Takeaway: Throughout this segment of the interview, Jason struggled to formulate an answer. This to me is a prime example of why the exclusion of females in this club is a bit obnoxious. If this club is an area designed for black individuals to talk about what our race experiences on a regular basis why exclude the people who share that identity? His justification of not wanting to feel judged by females is something that is immature, as you can be judged by an individual on a given day. It is time for us African American girls and boys, men and women, to work together and raise awareness for female victims of police brutality as well.
After asking Jason these two questions, I wanted to bring up female victims names to see if he recognized any. Once I got to the fifth name of the bunch he was only familiar with one name: Sandra Bland.
After receiving Jason’s responses via video, he approached me the next day asking for the full list of names. As I handed him the list, I noticed a change in his facial expression. I then asked:
Would you consider making your club gender inclusive?
Later that day, he sent me this email:
Takeaway: Exposing people to things they don’t know is the key to raising awareness. It takes facts to get a point across and once I provided Jason with this list of poorly recognized female victims he knew then realized it was time for a change. Starting May 8, 2018, Fist Sky High will be welcome males and females to their group. The Black Women’s Lives Matter awareness starts here.
Call to action: After reading through my page I hope you feel the frustration that I do when it comes to this topic. The lack of recognition given to women of color is dehumanizing as it infers their lives aren’t as important than black men. I want you all to realize the impact police brutality has on African Americans in general as well as women. My hope for a co-ed club for black students to come and learn more about police brutality has become a reality. I want you all to share this information with your friends. I would love to know if some of your peers know little or a lot about black female victims.
The television network HBO premiered a documentary on April 16, 2018, titled, Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, and I hope you all will watch. It will tell the untold truths of the case as it is explained in the book Invisible No More: Police Violence against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie. Throughout chapter 2, Andrea J. speaks about the most prevalent police brutality female victim– Sandra Bland. While explaining Sandra ‘s fatal encounter with authorities, Andrea makes us aware that yes, her death was publicized, but not because she lost her life. But rather published because of the false accusations regarding the arrest and the excessive force used. Sandra Bland’s life was forgotten and what is remembered is the incorrect societal justifications of how her life came to an end. So now not only are the lives of black women undermined but now they are being covered up by other information pertaining to justice for police.
I encourage all of you to watch this documentary to hear the life of a forgotten African American female victim. Please click on my Padlet below and join #BLACKWOMENSLIVESMATTER
Crenshaw, KimberleÌ. Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality against Black Women. African American Policy Forum, Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, Columbia Law School, 2015.
Ritchie, Andrea J. Invisible No More: Police Violence against Black Women and Women of Color. Beacon Press, 2017.
Osorio/AP, Carlos. “It’s Time to Talk About the Female Victims of Police Brutality.” The Cut, Alex Ronan
Abbey-Lambertz, Kate. “15 Black Women Whose Lives Mattered, Too.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 7 Dec. 2017
John, Monique. “#SayHerName: A Look At The Black Female Victims Of Police Brutality And Neglect.” HelloBeautiful, HelloBeautiful, 6 Aug. 2015
OdysseyNetworks. “Kimberlé Crenshaw On #SayHerName.” YouTube, YouTube, 23 Nov. 2016