Originally Published in African American News & Issues
With the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, once again the plight of Black males in America has been brought back into attention.
People are right to protest when something is unjustly done, but what about when something like this happens to a Black woman or girl? Do people exert the same amount of outcry and mobilization when a woman encounters the same killing, brutality, and injustices that their male counterparts face?
Reality Check: Black women and girls are constantly expressing how they wish more people, especially men, would exhibit the same, if not more, thrust of outrage when they are victimized. They want to see the same amount of attention given in the streets, on social media, blogs, and talk shows to their plight.
Contrary to popular belief and misinformation, Black women and girls are not exempt from the same violent encounters with police, being railroaded by the criminal justice system or being outright shot down by outside White vigilantes or within their own communities. This is all coupled with being labeled as angry, the bombardment of distorted images in Hollywood and the overall assault against them.
Just ask the families of Renisha McBride, Rekia Boyd, Oriana Ferrell, Hadiya Pendleton, Miriam Carey, Marlene Pinnock, Marissa Alexander, Alesia Thomas and countless more we know and don’t know about.
White convicted murderer Ted Wafer shot the unarmed Ms. McBride in a Detroit suburb. He shot the 19-year-old woman in the face while on his front porch hours after she was involved in a nearby car accident and went seeking assistance.
While standing unarmed in a Chicago park, Ms. Boyd, 22, was shot in the head by a police officer. Although the firing officer claimed self-defense, the city of Chicago awarded the family a $4.5 million settlement.
Alleged gang members in Chicago shot Ms. Pendleton to death a week after she performed at the Presidential inauguration.
Arizona state troopers pursued Ms. Ferrell for a traffic violation. In a video that went viral online, the troopers could be seen bashing in her windows and even firing a show at her van while her children were strapped inside.
Ms. Carey was shot dead after leading Washington police on a car chase near the White House. The autopsy revealed that the 34-year-old woman was struck from behind by five bullets. The family is planning to sue the government.
Ms. Thomas was kicked seven times in the groin, abdomen and upper thigh during an arrest by a Los Angeles officer in which she ultimately died after going into cardiac arrest. The officer was charged with assault.
In Florida, Ms. Alexander could face 60 years in prison after firing a warning shot into a ceiling in hopes of stopping her abusive husband from another attack. Her conviction was overturned and she was granted a new trial. Her legal team filed for a Stand Your Ground hearing but was denied. Interestingly, reports have found that in Stand Your Ground states, White women are far more likely than Black women to be found justified and not even charged by prosecutors when using deadly force against a Black attacker.
Ms. Pinnock, a grandmother, feared for her life as California Highway Patrolman Daniel L. Andrew was caught on video beating her nearly to death on the side of a freeway. She has filed a civil rights lawsuit.
According to the study, “Black Women in the United States, 2014”, released this year by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation Black Women’s Roundtable, “Black women are especially likely to be a victim of violence in America. In fact, no woman is more likely to be murdered in America today than a Black woman. No woman is more likely to be raped than a Black woman. And no woman is more likely to be beaten, either by a stranger or by someone she loves and trusts than a Black woman. Black women remain more likely than any other group of women in America today to go to prison.”
“As is the case across virtually every issue examined throughout this report, in many respects, it is as if Black women experience an entirely different America than that in which they share with their White counterparts,” wrote Dr. Avis A. Jones-DeWeever, who contributed to the study.
“That difference is rarely more stark, more jarring, or more potentially life-threatening than when it is ensnarled within the issues of violence against women and America’s on-going cultural and economic investment in the prison industrial complex,” he noted.
The report paints an even gloomier picture:
- Though overall homicide rates for Black women have decreased since 1980, Black women remain over 3 times more likely to become a victim of homicide than do White women.
- While Black men are far and away the most likely of all Americans to fall victim to homicide, among women, Black women’s homicide rate not only more than triples that of White women but also eclipses that of White men as well.
- Black women’s homicide rate so outpaces that of White women, that the current homicide rate of Black women still roughly doubles that of White women’s more than twenty years prior.
- Black women are more than twice as likely as White women to become a victim of violent crimes.
- Black women also face roughly twice the likelihood of White women of experiencing a robbery or aggravated assault. Even worse, Black women are nearly three times as likely as their White counterpart, to be a victim of simple assault.
- As it relates to the crime of rape, Black women are significantly more likely than White women to experience a rape or sexual assault at the hands of a stranger
- Although Black women have experienced declining incarceration rates since 2000, they remain overrepresented as part of the female inmate population. In 2010 in fact, Black women still experienced an incarceration rate 2.8 times that of White women.
- Just like Black men, Black women are leading in many other negative statistics in education, health, economics and unemployment.
According to a fact sheet, “Did You Know? The Plight of Black Women and Girls in America,” published by the African American Policy Forum:
- Black girls’ suspension and expulsion rates were higher than any other group of girls and higher than White and Hispanic boys.
- Black women have the highest rates of HIV among women, are more likely than non-Black women to die from breast cancer despite lower incidence overall, and face high rates of being uninsured even where employed.
- Black women ages 18-24 have the highest unemployment rate amongst women nationwide.
- The homicide rate among Black girls and women ages 10-24 was higher than for any other group of females. Black females 18-24 have the highest rate of unemployment nationwide.
- Black girls have higher incidence of emotional difficulties than other girls, including signs of depression. A survey found that 67% of Black girls indicated that they felt sad or hopeless for two or more weeks straight, compared to 31% of White girls and 40% of Latina girls.
- Black women earn only 64 cents per dollar earned by a White man, compared to 78 cents on the dollar earned by White women.
- Single Black women have the lowest net worth among all racial and gender groups, only $100 compared to $7,900 for single Black men, $41,500 for single White women, and $43,800 for single White men.
Black women and girl’s lives should matter more to the community and the greater society. However, the reality is the value of their lives is often diminished in the face of blatant institutional racist structures that leave their plight overlooked, underrepresented, and underreported. Their condition and cases are met with underserved silence from the tweets to the streets and this must change.
It starts with knowing their stories, knowing their names, speaking their stories, speaking their names, spreading their stories, and mobilize for them the same way it’s done for Black men and boys.
Black women and girl’s lives matter, but who really cares?