Dear Black Men: Black Women’s Lives Matter, Too
Black Lives Matter stands for little if anything if its subtext is, “Except for Black girls and women.”
This past Monday, August 1, Korryn Gaines became the most recent addition to the long list of hashtags dedicated to the growing list of Black victims of police brutality. Gaines, whose life was sniped out by Baltimore police in a shoot-out over petty criminal misdemeanors, was just 23 years old. She was the mother of a five-year-old boy. She was a professional in the field of cosmetology. She was trying to make Lemonade as a Black woman doing her damndest to navigate her way through a country whose very being was made possible through the physical and emotional abuse of black women.
However, three days before that, in Germantown, Pennsylvania, the life of another Black woman was cut short. Her name was Joyce Quaweay.
She, too, was extremely young at the time of her death, only 24. She, too, was a mother. She had two daughters, one two years old, the other 10 months. She was also, according to reports, killed by “the state,” of sorts. Her murderers, Aaron Wright and Marquis Robinson, are former and active police officers.
But here’s the thing. Not too many people are talking about it. Not too many people are having that discussion. By that discussion, I mean the motivating factor behind the murder of Quaweay. Inquiring minds — well, at least my own — are curious about why.
Let’s start with the fact that there’s another crucial element to the death of Joyce Quaweay. See, Wright was not only a police officer. He was interpersonally involved with Quaweay; he was her domestic partner. Robinson was, for his part, as described here, a “close friend” of Wright.
This same report writes that Wright killed Quaweay “for not submitting to his authority.” Loyal to his “close friend” to the end, Robinson helped him carry out the killing.
Unlike Gaines, Quaweay was murdered for resisting a different kind of state — a state which makes the exercise of power specific to THE STATE possible: patriarchy. She was not killed in a public space, but in her home. In these quarters, the enforcer of laws is the black man who expected Quaweay to submit to his misogynistic will. Trouble followed the moment she opted to resist.
Using their fists and a police baton, Wright and Robinson beat Quaweay to a pulp. But apparently that wasn’t good enough, for immediately after she died, the two men went to work defacing her corpse. Helpless, Quaweay’s daughters, along with Wright’s children from a previous relationship, looked on as their mother took her last breath.
The ruthless behavior of these two men isn’t just signs or the logical conclusion of an out-of-control police state. It doesn’t merely speak to the manifestation of a propensity toward anti-blackness. It’s symptomatic of a nation still ensnared in a form of misogyny committed to ritually abuse the bodies of black women.
While Black women continue to lead the frontlines in exposing the sadistic horrors of police brutality on the bodies of black men, the specific issues faced by black women at the hands of a patriarchally-driven black masculine culture continue to take a back seat.
That’s because, as one writer puts it, domestic violence in Black families is a “family secret.” Black women, who make up only 8 percent of the American population, comprise 22 percent of victims who report experiencing violence that results from a domestic and intimate partner (DP/IPV) situation.
Aside from Quaweay, the story of the death of Crystal Hamilton at the hands of her husband is another emblematic example of our tendency to backburn the issue of domestic violence against black women in the black lives matter movement.
The specific trials faced by black trans women have consequences that are equally morbid and bleak.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) (cited in this SPLC report), the majority of the 30 transgender women “slain with fists, knives, guns and hate,” since 2013 have been women of color, lending statistical credence to this Mother Jones writer’s thesis that it is “incredibly scary” to be a transgender woman of color in this period.
Hear me, Black men: We ignore this infection of patriarchy, misogynoir and transphobia in the movement for Black Lives at own peril. Black Lives Matter stands for little, if anything at all, if the subtext is, except for Black girls and women, except for Black trans women, and except for Black queer women.
As one writer in these pages forcefully concluded last month:
As men living in a world that really hates Black women, we have to show our love, not just tell it. We have to reduce the amount of emotional labor that we ask of the Black women in our lives. We need to stop regurgitating Black women’s words online and abusing Black women at home.