A Violent Truth: Black Women and Police Violence
For decades, mainstream media has attempted to discuss violence against women, but they make the mistake of combining the experiences of Asian women, Native women, Latinas, and Black women into one category called “women of color.” Black women have a very explicit history with law enforcement that is not replicated in other women’s communities, and it is that unique piece of the puzzle that calls for attention.
Black women are murdered by the police. They are raped and beaten by the police. They are arrested unlawfully by the police. They are tried, convicted, and incarcerated then jailed in abusive prison conditions. The near absence of their experiences proves an incomplete understanding of inter-sectional challenges that Black women face.
Thirteen states have laws authorizing no-knock warrants and in twenty additional states, no-knock warrants are regularly granted. They are issued by a judge and allows law enforcement to enter a property without having to ring the doorbell or knock.
On March 13, Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were sleeping when they heard a loud banging at the door. They called out, asking who was there, but heard no response. Kenneth fires a warning shot but minutes later, Breonna was dead. She had been shot eight times by plainclothes officers, after the execution of a “no-knock” search warrant of her apartment. Conveniently, there is no body camera footage.
The even more disturbing part of this is the investigation was centered on two men suspected of selling drugs more than 10 miles from Breonna’s apartment. The search warrant that officers executed did not even include her home. So, how did they end up there? Police suspected her apartment was being used to receive drugs; a false suspicion.
Between 2003 and 2014, 15 Black women were killed by police – half of them in 2012 alone. The majority of their stories never garnered much media attention. In only one case, a police officer was charged and convicted.
In 2015, at least six Black women were killed by state violence. In March of that year, police officers shot and killed Meagan Hockaday – mother of three – within 20 seconds of entering her home in response to a domestic disturbance. The next month, Alexia Christian was shot and killed while being handcuffed in the back of a police car.
July 10, 2015, Sandra Bland, the 28-year old Black woman from Naperville, Illinois who was arrested during a traffic stop in Waller County, Texas was found dead in a jail cell three days later.
The hashtag #SayHerName began to flood social media in honor of Sandra, as well as to call attention to the violence against Black women in the United States. Say Her Name is intended to serve as a resource for the media, organizers, policy makers, and others to better understand and address Black women’s experiences of profiling and policing.
Dream Hampton, writer, filmmaker, and activist had this to say: “The reason why it’s important to center girls and women in this conversation is because the other narrative, and it’s not a competing narrative, but it’s just not a complete narrative, is that this only happens to black boys and men,” Hampton said. “We have always only framed this as a black male problem, and it is time to tell the entire truth about who police violence and terrorism happens to.”
On Friday, hundreds of people gathered in downtown Louisville, Kentucky to voice their frustrations over Breonna Taylor’s case. Officials say they have yet to determine who is responsible. Louisville mayor Greg Fischer announced that no-knock warrants have been suspended indefinitely, and there will be “more scrutiny, transparency, and accountability,” including body cameras always being worn during the execution of search warrants.
Mayor Fischer fired the LMPD police chief on Monday and today ordered a “comprehensive, top-to-bottom” review of the city’s police department. Steps taken - but not big enough.
BLACK WOMEN'S LIVES MATTER. It’s not enough to just say it, or put a hashtag to it. Let’s be clear: Black women do not have the same rights of White women. In the United States, Black women who may be poor, or have criminal records when they reacted to save their own lives and violated some bull crap standard established for women—remain on the outside looking in at feminist advocacy.
These are the very women who need the help and support of a national women’s movement. But if they are not even valued as women, there will never be space created for them. It’s the responsibility of all women to work towards the elimination of police violence against Black women. Ignoring such would be a failure for all women’s movements.