Today I declare that Black women’s lives matter.
I don’t understand how a young woman could be killed in her own home and no one be at fault. I don’t understand laws that could be interpreted in such a way that leave no one to be held accountable for her death. But what I know is that Breonna Taylor’s life mattered. As does mine, and the life of every Black woman reading this post.
That Breonna Taylor lived matters. How she died matters. The circumstances of her life and death are part of a grand narrative about the value of Black women in this society. The systems of our broader culture try to diminish Black women, but we are too great to be minimized. The systems try to erase us but we are too evident to be rendered invisible.
Black Women and the Justice System
For the longest, the narrative around police brutality and anti-black violence centered Black men. What happened and continues to happen to Black men is atrocious and we stand against such violence. At the same time, we need to bear witness to the effects of such violence on Black women. The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) launched the #SayHerName site in 2015 in an effort to raise awareness for Black female victims of police brutality and anti-Black violence in the United States. #SayHerName aims to highlight the gender-specific ways in which Black women are disproportionately affected by fatal acts of racial injustice.
Here are the names mentioned in the updated version of the #SayHerName report.
- Breonna Taylor – killed by police in her bed on March 13, 2020
- Shooting of Atatiana Jefferson – killed by police on October 12, 2019
- Charleena Chavon Lyles – killed by police on June 18, 2017
- Korryn Gaines – Killed by police on August 1, 2016
- India Kager – Killed by police in her car on September 5, 2015
- Sandra Bland – Died in police custody on July 13, 2015
- Alexia Christian – Killed by police on April 30, 2015
- Mya Hall – Killed by police on March 30, 2015
- Meagan Hockaday – Killed by police on March 28, 2015
- Janisha Fonville – Killed by police on February 18, 2015
- Natasha McKenna – Died of police-induced trauma on February 8, 2015
- Tanisha Anderson – Killed by police on November 13, 2014
- Aura Rosser – Killed by police on November 9, 2014
- Sheneque Proctor – Died in police custody on November 1, 2014
- Michelle Cusseaux – Killed by police on August 13, 2014
- Pearlie Golden – Killed by police on May 7, 2014
- Gabriella Nevarez – Killed by police on March 2, 2014
- Yvette Smith – Killed by police on February 16, 2014
- Murder of Renisha McBride – Killed By a White supremacist On November 3, 2013
- Miriam Carey – Killed by federal agents on October 3, 2013
- Kyam Livingston – Died in police custody on July 24, 2013
- Kayla Moore – Killed by police on February 12, 2013
- Shelly Frey – Killed by police on December 6, 2012
- Malissa Williams – Killed by police on November 29, 2012
- Shulena Weldon – Died After Being ran over by a car by police On August 9, 2012
- Alesia Thomas – Killed by police on July 22, 2012
- Shantel Davis – Killed by police on June 14, 2012
- Sharmel Edwards – Killed by police on April 21, 2012
- Rekia Boyd – Killed by police on March 21, 2012
- Shereese Francis – Killed by police on March 15, 2012
- Aiyana Stanley-Jones – Killed by police on May 16, 2010
- Tarika Wilson – Killed by police on January 4, 2008
- Kathryn Johnston – Killed by police on November 21, 2006
- Alberta Spruill – Died of police-induced trauma on May 16, 2003
- Kendra James – Killed by police on May 5, 2003
- LaTanya Haggerty – Killed by police on June 4, 1999
- Margaret LaVerne Mitchell – Killed by police on May 21, 1999
- Tyisha Miller – Killed by police on December 28, 1998
- Danette Daniels – Killed by police on June 8, 1997
- Frankie Ann Perkins – Killed by police on March 22, 1997
- Sonji Taylor – Killed by police on December 16, 1993
- Eleanor Bumpurs – Killed by police on October 29, 1984
Breonna Taylor’s killing is not an isolated incident, but part of a growing pattern of violence against Black women. All of these Black women’s lives mattered. Let not another young Black woman die at the hands of police or a White supremacist and there be no justice.
Black Women and the Health System
Another place in which we must lift up the value of Black womens’ lives is in the health care system. The disparities in health care for Black women are pronounced and costs the lives or dreams of scores of Black women at disproportionate rates. According to Dr. Piraye Yurttas Beim, “Black women are underrepresented in data sets and have worse health outcomes. We have to do better.”
- Maternal mortality and injury rates are higher for Black females, irrespective of income or education level.
- Black women experience disparities in infertility rates, stigmatization, and access to fertility care.
- Health conditions that disproportionately impact Black women, such as uterine fibroids, receive very little government research funding.
- Black women are underrepresented in clinical trials that require consent and are overrepresented in studies that do not.
- Black women are significantly underrepresented in key biomedical research datasets, including genomic data repositories and related analyses.
Health practices are important indicators of a person’s ability to thrive. The disparities in health indicators for Black women affect our lives. These disparities (and there are more) reflect another type of violence, a violence embedded within the very structures of our health care system.
Black Women and the Workplace
One final area (for today) that is particularly relevant to the work I do, is the narrative around Black women in the workplace, and in leadership specifically. With the corporate focus on advancement of women in the workplace over the past two decades, Black women have not benefitted as greatly from these initiatives as we could have.
According to Dr. Avis A. Jones-Deweever, author of “How Exceptional Black Women Lead”:
- “Black women are the most likely of all women to work.”
- “Black women are three times more likely as White women to aspire to professional leadership positions and more than twice as likely to already serve as leaders in our communities, yet we remain exceeding rare at the top.”
In a Center for Talent Innovation Study Dr. Avis cites:
- “Black women are much more likely to express confidence in our ability to successfully lead, yet more likely to feel stalled in our careers.”
- “Nearly half of Black women indicate that our ideas routinely go unheard of or fail to be acknowledged at all. “
As Dr. Jones-DeWeever summarizes:
“Clearly, it seems that even when we exhibit an overabundance of qualifications, ability, and the willingness to lead, our ambitions are still met with a dearth of opportunities.”
I’ll stop here (for now).
It’s time to change the narrative around Black women and our value.
Black Women Matter
Black women matter first and foremost to God. We, too, are created in God’s image. As image bearers of the Divine, our lives are sacred and matter to God.
Black women matter to our families.
Black women matter to our communities.
Black women matter to our churches and communities of faith.
Black women matter to our companies.
Black women matter to our schools.
And Black women should matter to you. Our lives matter.
Introducing Our New Series
Over the summer, my team and I posted a series of articles, reviews and videos on anti-racism. To truly be anti-racist, each of us has to understand and recognize the virulent forms of racism Black women fight.
So, we’ve planned for the Fall, a series focused on the intersection of race and gender. We will lift up issues related to Black women as we unpack concepts such as intersectionality, misogynoir, barriers to Black women’s advancements, etc. We’ll also celebrate Black women’s successes and highlight our resilience. Our aim is to educate, raise awareness and encourage all of us to appreciate Black women, to understand the pernicious brand of racism/sexism Black women face and to do something about it!
Join us as we shift the narrative around the value of Black women and as we both proclaim and live out the truth of the value of Black women’s lives.
A special thanks goes Rev. Dr. Karen E. Mosby for the picture that starts this post. Dr. Mosby had posted this pic on Twitter. It resonated with me immediately, I asked if I could use it and who I should cite. She responded:
This is a pic of a sign I created several years ago for a rally I was attending. I have to believe it was the Spirit at work b/c every year I have a reason to post it again. If it helps, use it.
It helps, Dr Mosby. It helps!