How Many More: On Kenneka Jenkins and The Value of Black Girls
Kenneka’s death shows that so many weeks, months, and years later since #SayHerName was first spoken, we are still no closer to uplifting and valuing the lives of Black girls, women, and femmes.
Here we are again. Far too soon. It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about the ways that violence and misogynoir against Black girls, women, and femmes are still upheld. We’ve heard the same arguments made: this pain that we feel is too familiar, the anger that is washing over us from seeing an innocent life callously stolen long before her time is seeping out. Our voices are raw, our fingertips are tired, and we’re clawing at what more we could be said, or done, to stop this predatory hunt on the lives of Black girls.
But that isn’t enough. It’s not nearly enough.
As usual, the outrage over the murder and violence directed on Kenneka Jenkins has been extended mostly from the efforts of Black women and femmes. There is an overwhelming silence from major news outlets, and those that have expressed any kind of interest in the story have hyper-focused on the details of what Kenneka went though.
This post won’t be trauma porn; I will not rehash the violence that Kenneka went through before she died. I won’t go over the details about how police were lazy and following the playbook check by check to show through their actions that Kenneka didn’t matter. I won’t do that because I’m tired; I’m exhausted and too full of rage to perform trauma porn for audiences that won’t see the humanity of the victims first.
Kenneka was a student, a daughter, a friend, a Black girl who deserved to achieve her dreams. Instead, she was betrayed, and after death has her name smeared on social media because there are those who refuse to believe that Black girls deserve the same justice and respect that anyone else does.
But instead, Kenneka didn’t stand a chance — simply because our society has deemed her Blackness and her girlhood reason enough to justify that she deserved everything that happened to her. That’s not only unacceptable — it’s reprehensible that the lives of our most vulnerable citizens are so disposable.
What I want to say is that even though I didn’t know Kenneka personally, she could have been any young Black girl in my life. She could have been my sister, she could have been any one of my cousins, she could have been me not that long ago.
The failure of justice for Kenneka falls on a society and a system that rejects the responsibility that they have to protect and uplift Black girls and femmes. The failure comes at how Black men and boys are still not held responsible for upholding the patriarchy and relying on misogynoir as part of how they stay in positions of power of those who are marginalized.
And yes, unfortunately, one of the people responsible for Kenneka’s death was a girl who Kenneka thought was a friend. But it is men that say — with their silence, “jokes”, and digital sealioning and Hotepery trying to explain that respectability politics will somehow save someone from sexual violence — that they find this behavior completely acceptable. It is the silence and the turning away from the reality of what Black girls, women, and femmes have to deal with everyday (and if they do eventually begin to speak up, it comes mostly from the realization that the Black women, girls, and femmes in their lives are not immune from this simply because of the men in their lives) that shows that they simply do not care about our lives. We are disposable and unimportant to them.
This is nothing new, but oh, does it still hurt to be met with that reality.
I’m going to be clear: Kenneka was not at fault for what happened to her. She cannot be held responsible for being the victim of such horrible violence because there are no other choices that Black girls and femmes have for survival in the face of misogynoir. Kenneka’s death shows that so many weeks, months, and years later since #SayHerName was first spoken, we are still no closer to uplifting and valuing the lives of Black girls, women, and femmes than we were before. And if that doesn’t fill you up with rage, there may not be much that can be said or done to convince you of this injustice otherwise.
Jamilah Lemieux said it best on Twitter yesterday: “Hug your Black daughter extra tight tonight, because the world outside your arms will literally discard her and then say it was her fault.”
The lives of Black girls, women, and femmes matter to me. What about you?
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