When women are abused in overwhelming numbers and when survivors are not believed, we are told that our lives don’t matter.
When black people are stopped by police for no reason and when they are shot for no reason, we are told that black lives don’t matter.
Black lives matter. Women’s lives matter. Trans lives matter. Indigenous lives matter.
We need to be working to end all oppressions.
On August 9th, 2014 Michael Brown, an 18 year old black man, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson Missouri.
Since Brown’s death, many had gathered in Ferguson to protest police violence against the black community. Protesters had been asked to wait patiently for the justice system to take its course.
However, in November 2014, a grand jury (consisting of nine white and three black jurors) announced that Wilson would not face indictment (charges) for his actions.
Why does this story matter to feminists and anti-violence workers and activists?
Dani McClain wrote in The Nation about how the murder of black youth is a reproductive issue:
It seems to matter little what that body is doing at the time it’s mowed down. Approaching a stranger’s porch to ask for help, listening to music with friends, walking home from the corner store—no activity is safe from the knee jerk responses set off by racial hatred or implicit bias. Whatever the preceding action, a human being is dead and his or her parents are left to convince the public and the courts that their offspring had a right to expect another day on earth.
Grace Adeniyi Ogunyankin, writer, scholar and social justice advocate, wrote this moving poem in response to the coverage of Michael Brown’s death in mainstream and social media:
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night
I dream that you are dead
I scurry out of bed and run to your room
Then I turn on the TV and the nightmare begins again
I shudder because I can’t imagine the pain
In my mind, I begin to map out my plan for your life
But then I catch myself at the stupidity of it all
I know that it doesn’t matter what I do or you do
I can’t protect you and it hurts; society doesn’t care about you and it breaks my heart
And as much as I try, it’s hard to be optimistic
Even though I say a prayer
Reality stares me in the face
I see the flurry on social media
And I’m so sick and tired
Because nobody’s life should have to be reduced to another damn hashtag
Colourlines Magazine wrote an amazing round up of responses to Ferguson from black feminists:
While the issue of gender (beyond the policing of black masculinity and the crisis facing black men and boys) has taken a back seat in the mainstream conversation, black feminists have been keeping the intersectional analysis alive in their coverage and commentary.
Anne Thériault writes in Rabble about how the system is not broken, it was built this way:
A popular belief among progressive white people is that the system is broken, but it’s absolutely not. It was built this way; it was built to prioritize the safety and security of white people over everyone else. The way the system works is by oppressing Black people and other people of colour. As Ta-Nehisi Coates said at a recent talk that I attended, “the machine is running as intended.”
Angela Davis was interviewed by The Guardian about police violence:
She spoke about racist violence, but focused on the case of Marissa Alexander, jailed for 20 years for firing a warning shot over the head of her estranged, unharmed husband, who attacked and threatened to kill her. “Let us ask ourselves what is so threatening abut a black woman in the southern United States who attempts to defend herself against so-called domestic violence,” said Davis, as she finished her speech to rapturous applause.
Why, I ask Davis, the day after, did you focus on Alexander’s case? “We rarely hear about the women,” she replies. “Just because the majority of the prison population is male doesn’t mean we need to start with their experience.”
Read this powerful open letter from Ferguson protesters. The letter frames the protests around Michael Brown’s death as a part of larger movement to bring an end to racist violence, stating:
…until this system is dismantled, until the status quo that deems us less valuable than others is no longer acceptable or profitable, we will struggle…We march on with purpose. The work continues. This is not a moment but a movement. The movement lives on.
Ms. Magazine published a letter from Eleanor Smeal President and Founder of the Feminist Majority Foundation:
If Brown, who was an unarmed Black teenager, can’t get justice when the entire world is watching, how can any other Black person expect to receive justice if shot by a white police officer?
If this was an isolated case it would still be an atrocity, but it is not. There is a pattern and practice of police brutality against people of color in the United States, especially against Black women and men. Let us not forget the 13 Black women who were raped and sexually assaulted by an on-duty Oklahoma City police officer. In just the last two weeks, two more Black women, Tanesha Anderson and Aura Rosser, were gunned down by officers in Ohio and Michigan, respectively.