In 2015, Sandra Bland died of asphyxiation in police custody. However, her death was ruled as suicide by police authorities. Most people did not believe this and took to the streets. This was how the #SayHerName movement started.
Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Alesia Thomas, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor, Darnisha Harris, Kathryn Johnston, Kendra James, Korryn, Malissa Williams, Miriam Carrey, Pamela Turner, Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland, Shantel Davis, Shelley Frey, Shereese Francis, Tarika Wilson, Yvette Smith and many more. These are all Black women murdered by police in America. These are a few of many names that did not get the same media attention as the Black men murdered by police. I only recognize two of those names: Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor.
The HBO film Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland covers the story of Sandra Bland and the protests after her death.
Breonna Taylor was killed during a “no-knock” raid and was shot eight times. Her house was identified as part of a drug investigation but no drugs were found in her house. Because there is no video footage of her death and Sandra Bland’s death, they haven’t received the same attention as the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.
A case unrelated to police brutality is Monika Diamond’s. Monika Diamond was a transgender woman and LGBTQ activist who was shot and killed while being treated in an ambulance. The man who initially attacked her eventually murdered her while she was being treated by the paramedic staff.
As we are all enraged at the violence displayed against Black men in America, let us not forget Black women and Black transgender women. As Malcolm X said in 1962, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” This rings true today for Black women and Black transgender women all over the world.
Violence against women is the fundamental form of patriarchy. Its effects is especially seen in Black communities.
In America, domestic violence is the main cause of death for Black women between the ages of 15-34. Not only that, it took a long time for Black girls and women to be taken seriously in terms of the multiple allegations against R. Kelly. My own country, South Africa is the femicide capital of the world. What I have observed about gender based violence here is that mainly white women and middle-class women get the media attention, as seen with Reeva Steenkamp and Uyinene Mrewetyana.
The impact of the COVID-19 Lockdown
Since this lockdown, gender based violence has escalated. In the UK, an NGO called Refuge reported a 700% increase in calls from domestic abuse victims. Black women in Brazil are the ones who suffer the most under gender based violence. In South Africa, it is reported that gender based violence cases increased by 500% since the lockdown was implemented at the end of March. I cannot help but worry about the Black and Coloured women in rural areas and townships of this country that are unable to call authorities.
What about the LGBTQI+ community?
Since we are also celebrating Pride Month, let us not forget the violence against the LGBTQI+ community all over the world. South Africa is the only country in Africa where same-sex marriage is legal. Despite this, there is still violent homophobia especially against Black lesbian women. Gender reaffirming surgery is very expensive and unaffordable to most transgender people in South Africa. They are also shamed and discouraged when they go to Home Affairs to change their names. In the rest of Africa, homosexuality is taboo and sometimes punishable by death.
Be intersectional with your activism
My belief is that if you are anti-sexist, you should be anti-racist and anti-homophobic as well. You cannot want equal rights for women and not demand equal rights for Black people and LGBTQI people. Intersectionality is the only response to widespread inequality and oppression. Peace and justice is the only response to violence.
You do not have to be an expert but stay educated. Protest injustice as much as you can. Speak up as much as you can. If you are a part of a dominant culture, stop trying to control the narrative on behalf of oppressed people.
And if this final sentence applies to you, please, stop using your privilege as a weapon against historically oppressed people.
Learn more about racism and intersectionality in our campaign Antiracist Voices here.