January 29, 2015 at 4:00 pm EST | by Lateefah Williams
Black women’s lives matter, too
Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, MCC, Justice for All March, Darlene Garner, Candy Holmes, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of Metropolitan Community Church of Washington joined in the National March against Police Brutality on Dec. 13, 2014. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

As we prepare to start celebrating Black History Month, it is important that we continue to push for equality. While some diminish the obstacles that marginalized groups face by pretending that societal ills such as racism and homophobia no longer exist, it’s vital to listen to residents who have first-hand experience. It is of particular importance to include voices that are marginalized within minority communities.

The Black Lives Matter movement was spurred by recent high-profile killings of African Americans by law enforcement. The movement has been a rallying cry to get people around the nation to notice that blacks are being unjustly targeted and killed by law enforcement officers. However, as the movement progressed, something became painstakingly clear. The all-inclusive Black Lives Matter somehow became Black Men’s Lives Matter.

Initially, the sole focus on high-profile cases in which black men were killed seemed justified. While I was disappointed that the black community never seems to rally around black women who are unjustly killed, be it by police brutality or domestic violence, I believed it was not the time or place to express those sentiments. After all, I too have participated in rallies and marches for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. In the late 1990s, I was devastated by and protested the murder of Amadou Diallo and the unspeakable brutality against Abner Louima.

For me, the turning point in deciding that it’s necessary to speak up specifically for the lives of black women came when watching the National March against Police Brutality convened by Al Sharpton last month here in Washington, D.C. Relatives of high-profile black male victims spoke. Then, relatives of lesser-known or unknown black male victims spoke. While I was happy to see some of these lesser-known cases get attention, it was stunning that in an event for a movement called Black Lives Matter, where rally participants were educated about several unknown cases, none of the cases where black women were unjustly killed by law enforcement were highlighted. This is of particular importance to lesbian and bisexual black women, as many gender non-conforming women in our community are profiled similarly to black men, but do not receive the community support afterwards.

Lakisha Watson-Moore, creator of the popular blog, Bougie Black Girl, has been on the forefront of speaking about the erasure of black women in the police brutality narrative. Watson-Moore penned the blog posting, “Black women and girls killed by the police. Speak their names, see their faces and know their stories,” which highlights black women and girls killed by law enforcement. Similar to the high-profile cases of black men, these women were unjustly killed by law enforcement officers and were often targeted because of their race or marginalized because of their race and gender. Where is the outrage?

Watson-Moore believes that the black community ignores police brutality against black women and girls because “the media, social justice organizations and we, the public, have inherently racist, sexist and limited views of blackness.”

My frustration at the exclusion of black women does not mean that I’m not deeply concerned about the unjustified killing of black men. Because I am. They are our brothers, sons, partners, fathers, cousins, uncles and friends. But, we, as black women, are always the first ones willing to organize rallies and march for them, but no one galvanizes to march for us.

When I mention some of the black women killed by law enforcement, such as Miriam Carey, an unarmed mother and dental hygienist, with no criminal history who was killed here in D.C. by Secret Service and Capitol Police, I get justification about how she did not behave perfectly, even though supervisors, colleagues and friends speak glowingly about her. Yet, with black men, perfect behavior is never the criteria and it shouldn’t be. Watson-Moore opined that “negative antebellum racist stereotypes,” such as “the angry, loud, and sassy Sapphire Black woman justifies in some people’s mind the use of police violence” against black women.

Regardless of the reasoning for ignoring violence against black women, our lives matter and it is imperative that law enforcement makes every effort to deescalate a situation before using deadly force. Black Lives Matter means ALL Black Lives Matter. For those who are thinking, “Why not All Lives Matter,” while I believe with all my heart that all lives matter equally, to use All Lives Matter as a slogan diminishes the focus of highlighting and preventing the unjustified and disproportionate police brutality against black people, as well as the resulting indifference from most of society.

The world ignoring the terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Nigerians during the same week that it collectively mourned 17 people killed by terrorists in Paris illustrates why the Black Lives Matter movement is important. Simply put, the world does not see us, so we must highlight our own struggle. Let’s ensure that we are not engaging in the same behavior against black women that much of society does against the black community as a whole.

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