Black women don’t matter enough in Black Lives Matter movement

#BlackLivesMatter March on Seattle in solidarity with Baltimore and Freddie Gray on May. 9. (Photo by Jama Abdirahman)
#BlackLivesMatter March on Seattle in solidarity with Baltimore and Freddie Gray on May. 9. (Photo by Jama Abdirahman)

“The movement is very male-centered. Nobody does a mass protest when a black women or black trans woman is a victim of police brutality,” says 20-year-old Ardo Hersi.

She’s right. When you think of the Black Lives Matter movement, you probably picture black heterosexual males affected by police brutality — people like Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Oscar Grant.

What about Yvette Smith, Tyisha Miller, Miriam Carey and countless other black women who have been victims of police brutality? How often have you heard their names raised?

This isn’t a new problem, says Na’Quel Walker, 22, and a University of Washington student and activist.

“Our whole lives, we’ve constantly heard about the men who fought for black liberation,” Walker says. “We hear about Martin Luther King, but not the countless number of unnamed black women who made things happen before, during, and after MLK.”

There have been hundreds of marches and rallies under the #BlackLivesMatter banner in recent months — with dozens here in the Northwest.

Walker explains that a lot of people talk about the movement in terms of needing a leader — and when we think of leaders for movements the typical ideal is a man.

But in fact, it was three women — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi —who co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement.

Through peaceful protests, unifying actions, and productive dialogues, local groups like Women of Color for Systematic Change are tackling the issue of police accountability.

Still, many black women here in the Northwest say they feel excluded from the movement.

When the publicized faces of black victims of police brutality are only males, that conveys a message: that black female victims of police brutality matter less — or not at all. People take to the streets for Mike Brown, but not for Rekia Boyd. That’s a problem.

There’s always been so much focus on black men as opposed to black women. The public at large is accustomed to thinking about black men,” states Julia Ismail, 38, and founding board member of Africatown Center for Education & Innovation, located in Seattle’s Central District.

Black women put their very safety and lives on the line for black men who have been victimized, being a constant presence in demonstrations, and almost always leading them, as far as I can see. 

This was certainly the case at a protest and march in downtown Seattle last month in solidarity with Baltimore and Freddie Gray. Black women were leading the march with a huge banner that said “Black Women’s Lives Matter.”

“What I would love to see is black men standing up for black women’s lives,” Ismail says. “Of course it’s happening, but one area that I’m looking forward to seeing is black men being more vocal in the ‘Black Women’s Lives Matter’ movement.

“Women have come so far in the past hundred years, but at the same time, we really haven’t come that far,” states Maya Milton, 19, Seattle Central College student and local artist. “We’re still fighting to get equal rights. Women are treated very unfairly,”

She says it’s unfair that women created the Black Lives Matter movement, only to see it overshadowed by men.

Hersi, who is a youth organizer with YUIR (Youth Undoing Institutional Racism) says that if you don’t go out of your way to follow Black female activists on Twitter or on Facebook, you won’t be exposed to them at all.

Mainstream media has literally silenced Black women’s, and Black trans women’s voices. To Walker, that erasure happens at least partially due to stereotypes that marginalize black women’s perspectives as angry or unreasonable.

“People continue to say ‘there’s a right way to go about it, there’s a constructive way,’” explains Walker, “but as a Black woman I know that there’s never a ‘right’ way to say something. As long as I’m a black woman, what I say and how I say it will forever be labeled as angry regardless.”

“You know what? I am angry, and I have a right to be angry.” 

Some high-profile cases of black women and one girl killed by police:

Yvette Smith, 47, just north of Bastrop, Texas, 2014

Miriam Carey, 34, in Washington, D.C., 2013

Shereese Francis, 30, in Queens, New York, N.Y., 2012 

Shantel Davis, 23, in Brooklyn, New York, N.Y., 2012

Sharmel Edwards, 49, in Las Vegas, Nev., 2012

Rekia Boyd, 22, in Chicago, Ill. in 2012

Aiyana Jones, 7, in Detroit, Mich., 2010

Tarika Wilson, 26, in Lima, Ohio, 2008

Tyisha Miller, 19, in Riverside, Calif., 1998

6 Comments

  1. White women lives matter more to black men than black women’s lives. Some black men will support a white woman who just attended a lynching of a black man’s hanging over a black woman who scrub floors to support their lazy, whining ass. Black women are forced to be strong because black men are so weak and beholding to white men for their total survival and self-worth. Racism to them is lack of the white men loving them. So homo-erotic. White women are sloppy seconds. Black women are fools to be used by black men in any movement that they are too weak to organize and run only and participated in only as men doing something with their own lives in a positive way. And for God sake stop killing one another, something they can do quite well, making Black Lives Matter the biggest lie ever told by blacks. Thank God more and more black women see the light and leaving black men in the dust. They won’t be used as the black man’s sucker bait. Black women must depend on the white man to deal with their issues. They have power of white supremacy.

  2. What a breath of fresh air to hear a black woman paying attention to what is really going on. Black men are so busy trying to prove their worth by hooking up with white women that they are pathetic looking creatures to me. Just walk past one in the Walmart with their white women and they just want to make sure you see them. That self hatred is so deep that even while chasing after a white women to have babies with “good hair” they hardly realize how pitiful a picture they are painting.
    Black women truly need to wake up and see what’s going on. We’re out there supporting the brothers but no one is out there supporting us or desiring us for that matter. When Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Ice Cube, etc., etc., etc., hook up with white women, we need to see that for what it is. I don’t support anything they are involved in. My answer is F them just like they say F us. We need to start our own movement and identify those so called “brothers” who want our adoration and financial support but won’t consider us when it comes to choosing a mate. Our swooning and applauding these jackass idiots makes us ridiculous and we need to stop it. The better approach would be to identify them and put them in the same place they put us, non existent.
    Help me start a serious movement. I am not much on a lot of rhetoric. I seem action. That’s the only thing that gets attention.

    1. Sister, look up Breukelen Bleu on YoutTube and watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tD8owaT-FaM. Trust me she will change your life. So many BW are getting on board and saying it’s time to divest once and for all. It’s a long overdue movement. I don’t think BM will take issue with the idea, since according to dre we’re all b’s and beat several black women (I mention that since you brought up ice-cube, another lowlife BM). The BM needs to be left alone to self-destruct. It is fate and BW need to let nature take its course with them.

    2. What’s really going on? You mean like how a white man is almost 8 times as likely to be killed by police as a black woman? Is that what’s going on that she’s attention to? Look I get it, black women want attention to their problems whether or nto those problems are orders of magnitude less serious than men’s problems. But please keep making police brutality about race instead of abuse of power, I’m sure it won’t backfire by painting whites as all racist regardless of what they actualy feel. I’m sure you can do without the potential allies in the Men’s Rights Movement too. Hell I’m sure you can even do without the anti-government “right” wingers who trust you even less than they do they cops because you constantly call for them to be disarmed. Yeah go ahead leftist, keep burning those bridges, I’m sure it won’t bite you in the ass.

  3. “Nobody does a mass protest when a black women or black trans woman is a victim of police brutality”

    Perhaps this is because black males are killed by police at 12 times the rate of black women. In fact, white men are killed by police at 4 times the rate of black women. The movement could be called “Male Lives Matter”– at least that would be more appropriate per the stats than “black lives matter.”

    The numbers clearly show black women are not systemically oppressed by police violence. Check your privilege black sistas.

    1. YES! Someone else finally gets it, although check your math if I’m not mistake the WM rate is closer to 8 times the BF rate.

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