Somehow the outcries and pain of black women are mistaken for theatrics and drama. Their words are then filtered and unlikely to receive consideration.
The historical patriarchy is partially to blame for the social status of black women. White men had rights first, then black men. Even when the movement for women’s rights sparked, black women were not considered during the planning.
Malcolm X’s words reign true decades later: the most unprotected, disrespected and neglected person in America is the black woman.
Breonna Taylor, 26-year-old EMT, was murdered while she was asleep by three undercover cops who broke into the wrong apartment. A week later, the video of George Floyd’s murder, also by the hands of police, was released reigniting the Black Lives Matter movement. Although Floyd’s death is what predominantly drove the movement, Taylor’s had to be reminded of.
The only way justice was brought to Breonna and her grieving family was with the expulsion of one out of the three cops involved with her murder. By the blank incident report of her death, there was a clear pause in the effort to arrest those responsible.
From every angle, black women are hushed and belittled when they express their anger, but no one ever asks them what’s wrong. Rapper J Cole advised rapper Noname in his song that she should help black men “get up to speed” instead of denouncing their lack of action in the movement.
The backlash Cole received not only resulted from his bad timing but reinforced the normalization of black women not being given proper attention. He fell short of recognizing that black women consistently use their knowledge to educate, uplift and bring awareness to grievances. Unfortunately, with the slightest hint of passion in their tone, they are ignored or silenced.
Oluwatoyin Salau, 19 years old, was raped by two black men then murdered by one of them. When she tried to speak up, she was ignored. While fighting for her life and the lives of her brothers, she was violated. When our own men demonstrated their disregard for us, our point persists: no one cares about black women.
#SayHerName is for Breonna, Oluwatoyin and any other black woman whose life has been disregarded and voice quieted. They have their own list of deaths and kidnappings going unpublicized as frequently as they occur. We’ve had to create agency and support for ourselves.
You cannot fight for black women while pardoning your friend’s sexual assault case. You cannot you love them while condoning negative messages toward them in the media. You cannot say “Protect Black Women” while failing to follow with action.
We will continue fighting for the lives of our black men, but when will everyone else fight for the lives of black women?