Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith and Shereese Francis were all black women killed by police officers and yet their deaths did not receive the same attention as Michael Brown, Tamir Rice or Eric Garner.
Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza founded the #BlackLivesMatter organization to advocate for dignity, justice and respect of all black Americans according to blacklivesmatter.com. However, black female victims often remain in the shadows of the better-known male victims.
“It is unfortunate that, as the saying goes, ‘all the blacks are male and all the women are white,’” University of Nebraska at Omaha professor Dr. Cynthia Robinson said. “If you did not know any better, you would think the Black Lives Matter movement was started by black men instead of black women.
“It’s another example of how black women’s voices are often overshadowed or silenced, even when we are fighting for or are in support of black men’s struggles.”
According to the Black and Missing Foundation 64,000 women of color have been reported missing since 2010. According to Ivie Ani, who wrote about the Black Lives Matter movement for the New York Times, when the group rallied for black female victims of police brutality, like unarmed 22-year-old Rekia Boyd who was shot and killed by Chicago police officer Dante Servin, there was very little media attention and public outcry. Servin was acquitted of all charges.
Event coordinators estimate 50 to 100 protestors at the rally.
“The names of black women killed by police are seldom archived alongside names that ring bells in public memory — names like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray,” Ani said.
Artist and activist Synead Nichols of the Millions March NYC said, “There is most definitely more of a focus on male police brutality victims because we live in a patriarchal society… you cannot expect a group of people who have been taught that ‘men come first’ or that everything starts with ‘the man’ to perpetuate anything different.”
Garza wrote a “Herstory” for the Feminist Wire, expanding on her disappointments with the erasing of the group’s black queer women origins.
According to Garza, the catalyst for Black Lives Matter was in 2012 after the announcement of the posthumous trial of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin after his murder by George Zimmerman, who was not convicted for the act. Garza said this demonstrated how racism impacts our response to these police brutality and social justice movements.
Garza calls the media frenzy and adaptations that followed the creation of the organization a form of flattery, but flattery that served to perpetuate the “theft of black queer women’s work.”
“Perhaps if we were the charismatic black men many are rallying around these days, it would have been a different story, but being black queer women in this society and apparently within these movements tends to equal invisibility and non-relevancy,” Garza wrote.
After seeing groups changing the Black Lives Matter slogan to “All Lives Matter, Brown Lives Matter,” and more, Garza said “keeping straight cis black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all” is not representative of the entire movements’ work, which Garza said needs to extend beyond the media spotlight of black male murder in the police eye.
“We have put our sweat equity and love for black people into creating a political project–taking the hashtag off of social media and into the streets,” Garza wrote. “The call for black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL black lives striving for liberation.”