By: Olivia Smith
Mike Brown. Sam Dubose. Walter Scott. Oscar Grant.
These were just few of the names that were blasted on our T.V.’s, on the first page of our newspapers, and were hashtags on social media. What American, black or not, who didn’t know their names? Stop killing our boys! Little black kids are going to grow up without fathers! Protesters screamed in agony, rightfully so. Yes, stop killing our black men. Let us stop fearing for our sons and brothers. Give us the right to not have to be worried about our black men if they go outside with a hoodie on in cold weather. Our black men.
One would think that police brutality was a big problem only among black men. Black men were constantly victimized, and this was a struggle that somehow, black women didn’t have to worry about. Black women’s issues were completely separate from black men’s, and police brutality really wasn’t a war on black women.But it absolutely is.
Black women were often the unacknowledged subjects in police violence. Tragic cases like Renisha McBride’s death were struggling to get news coverage, and her protests often saw no protestors arriving to support her cause. Renisha was a 19-year-old living in Detroit at the time her car broke down. She went to go ask for help nearby by knocking on windows and doors trying to get the homeowner’s attention. Instead of getting help, she was fatally shot. Not many people could recollect this story in the tragic instances of police violence; however, you could turn on the T.V. and see Mike Brown’s face with a headline. Black women were struggling to even get awareness for their injustices, but black men case’s were spread loud and clear. They were heard.
Do black men have an advantage over black women because they are men? Or are our battles the same because our race triumphs all? This argument is common. We can’t ignore black women are still black women, and live in an intersection. Moya Bailey, a black feminist that founded Quirky Black Girls, coined the term ‘misogynoir’, specifically for black women’s junction. Just like misogyny, however directed particularly at black women alone.
Let’s think about the Spring Valley assault. A high-school black girl was attacked for not giving up her phone, or being ‘insubordinate’. After the story was reported, many viewers of the clip were apathetic, simply claiming that what happened before the video was unclear, or the girl could have been disrespecting the cop before the video was being recorded. It was classic victim blaming that we saw all the time during these types of attacks. But what was different about it? Let’s analyze the stereotypes black women typically usually have used against them—belligerent, loud, and angry.
It was automatically assumed that the girl must have done something to deserve what she’d gotten. What is her attitude? Her tone of voice? It wasn’t considered that the cop was just violent, it had to be the girl’s fault. Many viewers had the mindset that police won’t attack you if you don’t provoke them. That’s a problem.
We’ve seen this type of victim blaming towards black women specifically before—let’s take the the dashcam video of Sandra Bland for another example. Comments on social media criticized Bland for her tone of voice and her alleged attitude (even though she had every right to have one) and suggested that incidents like these wouldn’t happen if black women would just stop being so angry and belligerent all the time.
But how could our change of tone save us? Black women are perceived in a certain light before they’re even spoken to or given a chance to introduce themselves.
This isn’t a new concept—the media perpetuates it, society perpetuates it, almost everything does. But how is someone’s attitude accountable for their death?
Police officers are required to have only 8 hours in training learning how to de-esculate a situation. This means police officers are taught how to kill, fight, or defend themselves longer than calming somebody down. It means that we have a lot of dead bodies rather than a situation that could’ve been diffused in five minutes.
Our society has the tendency to think that just because someone has authority they’re always correct and always have good intentions. That’s how it’s supposed to be. Our law enforcement is supposed to do all they can to protect civilians from danger for a safer community. But many people find themselves more paranoid around the police rather than safe. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
A new demographic of people find themselves worrying about police brutality. Public school students. Resource officers in school have been more prominent due to issues such as mass school-shootings, drugs, or violent fights. In these cases, having an officer may be resourceful to keep students safe, but when a police officer becomes a means to discipline children, it become problematic.
When children in schools get arrested for minor offenses, such as pouring milk on each other, teachers are no longer required to learn how to discipline kids, neither are principals. We hand our students over to the law enforcement, where they may have something on their permanent criminal record that they may haven’t even went to the office for without officers present.
For black people, or even more specifically, black women, this can be extremely harmful. Black children get suspended five times more than their white counterparts, and with police involved, young black kids can even potentially have a higher rate of criminal records by the time they graduate than white kids. In their future, this can eventually mean that black people can’t get jobs because of their criminal record, making the poverty level statistics in the black community potentially inflate.
So what does this mean? It can mean a number of things. It means that a resource officer, specifically dealing with a black woman in a situation where she’s already seen as belligerent or aggressive can harm us in multiple ways.
Black girl students being seen as aggressive for not giving up a phone is an example of the intersectionality black girls and women (there is quite the difference) commonly have to face. Black girls are often matured and treated as though they’re adults to make decisions for themselves in situations like these, and older black women have to deal with a plethora of stereotypes that are extremely harmful in multiple facets. Police brutality is no longer an issue of being pulled over or being threatened with a crime we didn’t commit, but now it’s in our schools and is affecting young black girls’ education.
School, of all places, is supposed to shape our minds and build our social skills and education. School is not a place where we learn about the legal system and have to be in put in situations where we face a judge in court. Our police are supposed to protect our citizens, not to instill fear or intimidate citizens. Both of these two things are embossed in western society and our absolutely crucial.
Both of things are failing our black women, black men, black people in general. If we cannot trust the police, the people who ensure our well-being, and our education powerhouse, then what must black women do or trust to assure our welfare?