Women Engaged joins in the collective relief of the verdict finding Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts for the murder of George Floyd. The fact that many of us were anxiously hesitant that there would be a guilty verdict is telling of a justice system that routinely denies accountability to the harm done to Black people in America. We are satisfied that George Floyd’s family -- and the national community that has fought for accountability since last year -- can experience some closure now that the man who murdered their loved one will face consequences for his actions.
For some, the verdict may feel like a possible turning point, ushering in overdue measures of accountability to police violence against Black communities. But this is simply not the case when less than two weeks ago, not far from the courthouse, Duante Wright was murdered by another officer. And, in mere moments before the verdict was announced, Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old girl in Columbus, OH, was shot and killed by police, exposing the horrifying deep roots of systemic racist violence central to policing.
The murder of Ma’Khia Bryant is deeply felt within the Women Engaged community, as a team of Black women, we work every day with young Black women just slightly older than Ma’Khia to develop their civic and political leadership. Remember, it was young Black women, along with all Gen Z Black Georgia voters, who saved our democracy. They not only demonstrated to end police violence against Black people, but they also educated, registered, and organized their peers to vote, and showed up in record numbers to cast their vote in both the 2020 Presidential and the 2021 Senate run-off elections during a pandemic that shored up a victory for progressive change -- a change that is now allowing grandparents to reunite with their grandchildren all over this country for the first time in over a year!
Yet, instead of being appreciated for their meaningful work, like the broad praise and support given to the mostly white “March for Our Lives” youth organizers, they are instead reminded daily that their right to live freely is threatened by police because they are Black children. Their right to grow up and be teenagers, make mistakes, and reach out for help is met with, at minimum, resent-filled dismissiveness, and at most, as was in the case of Ma’Khia Bryant, murder just steps from her home.
While painful to write, the truth is too many of us as Black women remember, and too many of our Black girls are now, unfortunately, being faced with, the harmful intersectional effects of adultification, over-sexualization, anti-Black racism, classism, and misogynoir culminating in continued violence against us. Black women historically have been, disproportionately targeted by white domestic terrorism -- terrorism and gender-based violence that society often avoids acknowledging or justifies by scapegoating us--especially Black mothers--for our communities' structural vulnerability. Popular narratives that create us as the aggressor and enjoy pathologizing our lives to silence and shame us while rendering our humanity invisible, bodies subjected to disproportionate pain and lives expendable.
Just like other communities, it is not uncommon to have to protect ourselves from violence within our communities. Yet, we are not afforded the same opportunities as our white counterparts to seek help, be believed, and receive the care that we deserve. Ma’Khia Bryant does not need to be a “perfect” victim to deserve protection or for all of us to fight for her justice.
Yet, when it comes to white domestic terrorists who commit mass killings, acts of insurrection, or armed political intimidation, law enforcement apprehend them unharmed and the mainstream media rushes to humanize them with pseudo-psychological analysis of a white male who is a troubled loner and victim of his own impulses. This was illuminated just last month, here in Atlanta, when the white man who perpetrated the unspeakable, targeted killing of 8 people with 6 being AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) women was not only taken into custody alive but during the press conference soon after he killed 8 people, one of the lead law enforcement officers attempted to explain away the motive of this murderous hate crime as the perpetrator having “a sex addiction,” and the day spas being the site of “temptation” he needed to eliminate. Each instance of police violence or white domestic terrorism is often viewed as the depraved actions of one bad apple or lone wolf. While the brutality in our communities is seen as circumstantial misfortune. Yet what we know as Black women leaders is that we are our own best advocates as these are systemic issues that demand intersectionality in the analysis, and justice-centered solutions with measures of accountability to ensure effectiveness and change.
At Women Engaged, our unique position as a human rights and political power-building organization is that we use a Black feminist lens to center the human right of Black women, femmes, and girls at the intersection of integrated voter engagement and reproductive justice. As Black women we use the cutting-edge intellectual, political, and activist theories and lived experiences of Black women to engage, organize, and develop the leadership of our communities based on the issues of importance to us. In other words, we know that we are the leaders we seek. We stand side by side our freedom-fighting ancestors helping to clear our path and steady our resolve to win.
As part of a new majority in this country, we are creating and demanding transformative solutions to systemic failures, and the work of Women Engaged centers on Black dignity, bodily integrity in an inclusive democracy. We are calling for active truth-telling that begins with justice and reparations for Black people before this nation can ask for reconciliation. In our summer newsletter, I concluded by mentioning bell hooks’ thoughts on how our self-love as Black people was always at the center of the Black liberation struggle. She offers that love and power work in tandem with self-determination and that love is central to Black freedom. And this is why at Women Engaged we conclude that reproductive justice for Black women requires reparations and we are centering it in our work. Stay connected with us to learn how to support this effort. Finally, we feel and understand the deep sadness and horror of this current moment. So at Women Engaged we are actively protecting our right to rest and prioritize our care and we encourage all of you -- members of our community and supporters -- to do the same.