The Black Lives Matter movement does not exist without black women

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Police brutality in the United States has come to a disturbing rivalry recently with protesters nationwide. Marching, chanting and fighting for the recognition, respect and rights of black people, protesters have been on an unstoppable roll to dismantle the system that so blatantly disregards black people.

The Black Lives Matter movement was created to revitalize the American black community into standing up and saying “enough is enough” once and for all. BLM not only stands against police brutality, but against every and all injustices committed against black Americans.

However, I’ve noticed an unsettling trend progress as both an activist and a black woman. For years, the movement has found itself focused on the injustices and voices of black men — completely disregarding black women. It’s truly disheartening to have a movement that is meant to unify a group of people turned into something quite divisive and male-centered.

What’s baffling is the fact that BLM was actually created by three educated and exceptional black women. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi first founded BLM in 2013, following the outrage of the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. 

These three women are epitomes of excellence. They are unapologetically black and have sparked one of the largest movements of our generation. Together, they returned the power of black protesting to its rightful status through a modern-day civil rights movement. The only difference: These women are not asking for civil rights, and they are not asking to be treated with a bit of decency. No. They are demanding to receive their rightful equal rights.

So, imagine my disappointment when I find most people are actually quite oblivious to the power of these three women. Most people don’t even know their names. I don’t see anyone forgetting Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X. And they never should be forgotten. However, the same needs to be said for Garza, Cullors and Tometi. They should never be forgotten because they are now a part of history.

The unfortunate reality is this: Black women are so frequently overlooked by society, that we’ve almost gotten used to it. Our intersectionality makes it extremely difficult to determine where we fit. Black men don’t respect us because we’re women and white women don’t respect us because we’re black. 

Throughout history, black women have been nothing short of revolutionary. We are your history.

Harriet Tubman. Maya Angelou. Rosa Parks. Angela Davis. Beyonce. Michelle Obama. My mother. If I tried to list the names of every black woman who has shaped me into the person I am today, this story would take up our entire site.

Breonna Taylor. That is one name all of us are now familiar with. While the recognition of her name and story is welcomed, yet again, the timing is a afterthought; an addition to the movement after George Floyd’s murder, even though she was murdered two months prior. Taylor did not spark as much outrage with the community until Floyd became a conversation. Even in death, black women are put on the backburner as men become the focus of the conversation.

#SayHerName has now become a trending topic. Black women have banded together and begun demanding the respect they deserve from all aisles of the conversation. Black lives don’t matter if black women are not included in the motto.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a professor of law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, found that black women actually have the highest rate of homicide cases in the United States. As sad as it is to admit, that does not surprise me. Black women are constantly being hypersexualized and villainized. Violence against them is nothing new. 

Black women are no strangers to danger everywhere they go — including their homes. The National Center for Victims of Crime reported in 2017 that 53.8% of black women experience psychological abuse and 41.2% experience physical abuse.

This country and the global society are failing black girls and women on an unbelievable scale. It is simply unacceptable to continue ignoring the vandalization and disrespect of black female lives. 

Every protest I’ve been to thus far has been led by black women. We have led chants, spoken out, directed marches and put our hearts on the line. 

Black women have built families, homes and this nation and never once asked for a thank you. In return, we have been disregarded and sidelined, constantly utilized as toys and told our lives serve as second place stories. Black women are the backbone of everything. Start treating us as such.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you! As a divorced women and mother of two daughter, it is frightening because there are not protections for black women. I’m sure this may sound like, blah, blah, blah, but think about it, who stands up for black women and girls? Black girls are kidnapped, sexually, physically and mentally abused and literally know one cares.

    When I grew up black men protected black women and girls but since black men no longer value black women there are not protections. As a result abuses against black women and girls is pervasive and accepted.

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