Why does there tend to be a delayed response in the world’s outrage at the death of Black women? Their lives matter too.
It has been over a year since the world witnessed the horrifying video of the murder of George Floyd, at the hands of police brutality. In these months, people took to the streets across the world to protest police violence against Black people and the injustices of systemic racism. While the world demanded justice for George Floyd and stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, the protests also brought into the spotlight the names and stories of others who have died in police custody.
Breonna Taylor is one of these names. On the 13th March 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was fatally shot eight times after non-uniformed police officers served a “no-knock” warrant on her home at midnight and were met with gunfire by her boyfriend, who had mistaken them for intruders. Charges are yet to be made against the officers.
Although Breonna Taylor was killed in March, her story received little media attention until after the killing of George Floyd. Moreover, not only does her story reveal the inhumanity of systemic racism, but the delayed response to Breonna Taylor’s case, and the cases of many other Black women, exposes the intersection of race and gender. In reality, as highlighted by Michelle S. Jacobs, “there is a long-standing problem with media coverage, or the lack thereof, of crimes committed against Black women”, rendering Black women’s struggle against police violence “invisible”. It is important to recognise that more Black men are killed by police in the US each year than Black women, however Black women and girls are also vulnerable to police brutality, and more attention needs to be drawn to this.
There are several arguments which shed light onto the factors which contribute to “Black women’s invisible struggle against police violence”. The fact that some horrific cases were filmed, and broadcasted for the world to witness, is a significant factor which must be accounted for. However, Kimberlé Crenshaw highlights that “even when there have been past videos of brutality against Black women, they did not permeate the news cycle or spark a major outcry for accountability and action like we saw in Floyd’s case”.
Since 2014, the #SayHerName campaign has raised awareness about the erasure of women’s experiences of police violence against the Black community. The report, published in 2015, further contributes to the work of activists and scholars to remember the names, lives and stories of Black women who were killed, or died in police custody. It is clear from the report that a movement for racial justice must support a gender-inclusive approach, that all Black lives matter.
Similarly, whilst the UK is grappling with the epidemic of male violence and violence against women and girls, and the country has rightly been horrified by details revealed in the trial of Sarah Everard’s murderer, there have been questions on whether (and, if so, why) deaths of Black women receive less attention from the media and the police.
When you next see the hashtag #SayHerName on social media or in the press, think about why that women’s story has not been heard already. The significance of these movements, like the BLM movement and ‘Say Her Name’, for the Black female experience is remarkable, and the fight for justice for all Black lives continues. Although what has been mentioned above raises significant questions about why certain names might be heard more than others, there is much more to discuss regarding the complexity of systemic racism and the intersection of race and gender.
We at JAN Trust stand firmly against all racism. To find out more about the work that JAN Trust has done over the last 30 years to support women and young people across the UK, click here.