My Black Womanist Perspective on Police Brutality, Civil Rights, & Ferguson
Even though it seems like you’d have to have been living under a rock to escape the tragedy that has happened to Michael Brown and the city of Ferguson, MO, I was determined not to write about it for a number of reasons. First, it was widely covered, and I didn’t want to be another blogger writing a story about an over saturated issue. Although I thought it was important, I didn’t want to spend my time writing something only for people to overlook it because it had already been written about, countless times. I’m a blogger, so forgive me for wanting to write things that people would actually read instead of passing over and making assumptions based on the title. Secondly, I didn’t want to write on it because the story was too painful.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am very passionate about the plight of the Black community–the entire Black community, even those who are decidedly different from me. I see us as inseparable. As such, when tragedy affects one part of us, it should affect all of us. This case, however, has drummed up some intense feelings that I have only barely addressed in public but have spoken about with family and friends on numerous occasions. It is the feeling that no one cares about what happens to Black girls/women.
Let me be clear on a few things. I believe that what happened to Mike Brown was a senseless tragedy, and I do not believe that the law enforcement agencies have handled the case nor the protesters correctly, to put it mildly. Additionally, it seems as if the law enforcement agencies have attempted to vilify the victim (Mike Brown) and the protesters in an effort to divert the attention from their terrible actions involving this case.
I do, however, have a deeper concern, a concern that I have been hesitant to address for fear of seeming angry or unsupportive. In reading all of the social media commentary and blogs and watching media coverage of this tragedy, everyone keeps referring to a war on Black boys and Black men. While I do believe that America has had a history of enacting laws, policies, and procedures that have detrimentally affect Black men and boys alike, I often wonder where is the same concern for Black women and girls in this historic narrative.
There have been countless cases of Black women senselessly murdered at the hands of police officers, and we have not rallied as a community. But when it happened to Shawn Bell, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Mike Brown, we have united as a community in solidarity against this violence. But what about the Black women? Are their deaths in the same manner by the same institutions not as important?
It just bothered me to no end that if the same fate were to befall my husband and I, only the death of one of us, my husband’s, would raise concern for the community. I felt angry, hurt, and betrayed as a Black woman who, with other Black women have stood in solidarity through multiple campaigns, speaking against violence enacted upon our Black brothers only to feel the deafening silence from the Black community when similar issues have befallen our sisters.
Believe me when I say that I’m taking a leap of faith in even writing this article. Many have told me to be quiet, to not speak on it because it’s the wrong time in the wake of this recent tragedy. To them I would say that tragedies are not convenient. While I understand that there needs to be justice for Mike Brown, I would argue that there is no “right time” to address these matters. Countless numbers of Black women have died, and no one is speaking up, yet you have the audacity to tell me to be quiet, sit back, and wait?!!!
This sit back and wait approach regarding injustices done to Black women has been a practice within the Black community, even during the Civil Rights Movement. When the leaders wanted to legitimize the struggle, it was done by using the Rosa Parks case. In fact, several women were just as influential to the Civil Rights movement, but when it was time for the March on Washington, these women were told that they could not stand with their brothers on stage. In fact, the women weren’t even allowed to walk down the same street as the men, even though they were arrested, beaten, and discriminated against right along with them.
Knowing this history and the continued support that Black women have consistently given to issues affecting the Black community, only to be passed over, is what made the movement surrounding this case something that was hard for me to handle. I began to think, “If Mike Brown was Michelle Brown, would we even be having any of this—the marches, lootings, the protests, or the federal investigations?” Heck, two law enforcement officers in two different cases and states were caught on film punching Black women in the face multiple times, and Al Sharpton didn’t even condemn their actions on his show on MSNBC, one of the most liberal news networks in the nation!
All of this was starting to make me bitter and angry, and I searched frantically for evidence that would make me view this situation differently. Although I stand firmly by my beliefs about Black women’s issues being neglected by the community, I am on a crusade for unity, and one cannot unify by vilifying another member of the same group. So I started posting data about police brutality and Black women, and I started to notice a trend. I was receiving support from Black people, both men and women. Additionally, many of the men commented on how they had never heard of these cases, which led me to my epiphany. It is quite possible that Black men (and the Black community at large) is not purposely ignoring the plight of Black women; they are simply not aware because these stories aren’t covered en masse.
Coming to this possible conclusion has helped me to see the light at the end of the tunnel and renewed my fight for unity within the Black community. I must say, however, that these opinions do not include people like Rev. Sharpton, who are fully aware of these cases and issues, yet only seem to address matters that get lots of media attention. I don’t have respect for those types because it’s seems like they are just media whores, and not interested in full-scale change.
Having said that, I feel renewed to fight another day. I can’t tell the future, and I don’t know when we’ll protest issues that affect Black women with the same vigor in which we have fought for our brothers. But I feel the winds of change, and I believe that our time is coming soon.
Until Then…Much Love,