By SUSAN K. SMITH
Crazy Faith Ministries
There is a lot of attention – rightfully so – about the killing of Black boys and men, many because of extrajudicial murders by law enforcement, and too many the result of street violence. The “Black Lives Matter” mantra notwithstanding, the truth that we see and live on a daily basis says otherwise.
But as I sat in the funeral of Ma’Khia Bryant last week, I found myself wondering about our girls – Black and Brown girls specifically, and our women, who are the victims of police, street and gender-based violence but nobody really seems to care.
There are a lot of cases we just sort of gloss over or mention only marginally. There was the 14-year-old Black girl who was beaten by police in 2018 for “resisting arrest,” according to The Root. A girl accused of being “disruptive” was viciously beaten by an officer in 2020, Vox reported. A school resource officer yanked a Black girl from her desk earlier this year and video footage showed that he threw her to the ground, noted The Daily Beast.
There was, of course, Breonna Taylor, whose mother was at the funeral of Bryant in Ohio, and Sandra Bland. Too often, we do not hear of their attacks and they are not named. In 2020, 247 women were shot and 48 of them were Black. Some of them were killed by police, others, by partners, mates or boyfriends, the Black Burn Center revealed.
The #SayHerName Project is driving attention to these tragic murders of Black women by police. Kimberlé Crenshaw, professor of law and the executive director of the African American Policy Forum says that Black women “have the highest homicide rates in the country,” according to the Black Burn Center, but we don’t talk about that much, not as a race, and not as a country.
Black trans women suffer even more violence.
Our girls not only experience violence that too often leads to death, but they see it as well. The Rev. Dionne Boissiere, the Chaplain for the Church Center of the United Nations, is working to draw attention to the prevalence of gender-based violence; she wants people to see it, think about it, and talk about it as the problem it is. Her “Thursdays in Black” project brings the problem front and center once a week. Yet, she says, so much more needs to be done.
While statistics bear out that it is primarily White police officers who accost Black women in their performance of their duties as law enforcement officers, it is Black men who accost and kill Black women in their private lives. One out of three Black women experience domestic violence, and Black women are 2.5 times more likely to be killed than White women because of domestic violence, the Black Burn Center noted. In a study conducted in 2014-2015, statistics showed that although Black people make up 12% of the total population, they were 25% more likely to be killed by police than White people, according to News@Northeastern.
Bryant, it seems, was experiencing domestic violence when she was shot and killed by a police officer. How much violence had she, at age 16, already experienced in her young life? What kind of pain and fear was she carrying – not only of police, but of the people with whom she lived?
Where do the Black girls go to process the violence they see and experience? Who is talking about what needs to be done on police forces so officers see Black women as human beings and not rag dolls to be tossed, flipped over or jumped on, and ultimately, killed?
White supremacy is a toxic reality, which allows its believers to be racist, sexist and misogynistic and not worry about it. While it affects all people adversely, however, its affects on Black girls and women goes hardly noticed or mentioned. Like many Black females, MaKhia unfortunately was not safe in her home, nor could she expect to be protected by those who have sworn to “protect and serve.”
We do not know all the details of her death, but we should stop and think about the fact that she was surrounded by violence rendered against her not because she was a female, but in spite of it. While some women are honored and cherished, it seems that Black women are not yet in that category. Who sees and cares about Black girls and women? Who empathizes with them, or helps them navigate the violence, which they face in every aspect of their lives?
There is no definitive answer. And that should make everyone uncomfortable.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith is the founder and director of Crazy Faith Ministries. She is available for speaking. Her latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some: The Bible, the Constitution, and Racism in America is available at all booksellers. Contact her at email@example.com.