On Black Women and Erasure In The Face of Institutionalized Racism » VSB

Featured, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

On Black Women and Erasure In The Face of Institutionalized Racism

@IeshiaEvans via Twitter; photo by Jonathan Bachman


Last week, I wrote a piece about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week America was having in the aftermaths of the state-approved murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and the subsequent killings of five police officers in Dallas, Texas, amid a peaceful protest of those killings. In this piece I pointed out how Black men and boys in particular, are targets and that our bodies have been criminalized by America.

In the comments of this piece, a few people, specifically women, made it a point to note that Black women shouldn’t be erased from the conversation, but constantly are. While the preponderance of these cases of state-sanctioned murder do involve Black men (and boys), Black women are not immune from death-by-cop. Several women are among the unfortunate ranks of dealing with the police and ending up on the wrong side of the equation, i.e. Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Michelle Cusseaux, and the list goes on. While those stories remain part of the narrative and are well-known to those who are fervently involved in the fight to prove that Black lives do matter, the larger conversation centers around these deaths as a battle between the police and Black men.

It is important to note that while understandable, it is wrong to paint this ongoing tragedy as solely an epidemic facing Black men and our bodies. While nearly every person with common sense knows that isn’t the case, the way we write about it and discuss it in the media, even with the best of intentions, does lean towards an erasure of the pain and death that Black women also face in the midst of it all. The death of one Black person, man or woman, is one more than should happen in these circumstances. Thank God for video.

From where I sit, Black women are in the same boat as Black men. The way that officer in McKinney, Texas manhandled that teenaged Black girl, as an example, proves to me that, in the eyes of law enforcement, Black bodies are one and the same, no matter the gender or age. Seeing that video was jarring, not just because of what I saw, but what it represents: an institution that believes that even a little girl in a bathing suit, clearly without a weapon or ability to harm a grown man with a gun, is to be treated like a man with gun pointed at an officer. The message is loud and clear; all Black people are to be feared and treated as a potential threat to police officers.

While I, like many people, view Black men as the primary targets of the wrath and rage of the American judicial system, the fact is, if a Black woman ends up in the same situation as a Black man, and the perceived questioning of authority exists, she may very well end up being the next hashtag, simply because that police officer sees the perceived disrespect of a Black person as an affront to their state-sanctioned authority. To pretend like it’s not the case would be unfair and flat-out inaccurate.

Not giving women their due in the conversation is even more ironic considering how many Black women are at the forefront and are founders of the various movements intended to ensure that Black lives matter. Black women feel the burn of institutionalized racism just as painfully as we do. Black lives being gunned down by the power structure affects us all; it’s a public health issue that threatens our communities. If the police keep picking off members of our community, even when we’re obeying the law, what community will we have left?

We can’t expect women to be at the forefront of these movements without acknowledging that they’re not just there to support men, but because they also feel the same sting and same circumstances that we do.

The recent picture of Ieshia Evans (top of the piece), standing tall and serene while the two police officers look prepared to face off against a full scale riot, speaks truth to this power. This Black woman from New York City came down to Baton Rouge to stand against the enemy and did it in the way only a Black woman can, often silently, but as powerfully as any man. She’s there for many reasons, but mainly, because what happens to the Black community in Baton Rouge affects the community in New York City, St. Paul, Minnesota, Ferguson, Missouri, Chicago, Illinois, and anywhere else we are. The picture is powerful in that it shows the stark contrasts in demeanor and purpose. Ieshia is stoically and peacefully asserting her right to be there while the police officers are in action mode against the Black body at rest. I’d like to call it the irresistible force paradox, but we all know how this story ends. Luckily because of the circumstances, it only ends with her in jail.

Black women are front and center to this movement because they have to be for their own good. Institutional racism affects all of us. Our community can’t thrive unless Black men and women recognize and acknowledge each other in it. It’s the only way to achieve real progress.

Because some cops may be gunning for Black men, but a Black woman will do.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • MissMiamiHeatNation

    We have to be FRONT AND CENTER. One day those men being killed could be our sons, brothers, cousins, and uncles.

  • DBoySlim

    She has been referred to as the new ‘Tank Man’. I feel nothing but pride.

    • ChokeOnThisTea

      If ever there were a pic to capture this movement, this is it. This one will go down in the history books.

      • brothaskeeper

        Which history books, though? Unfortunately, that’s a question that needs to be asked.

        • Our books. Don’t act like you didn’t get history from those funeral calendars!

          • brothaskeeper

            Still got some!

        • Hammster

          Definitely mine

      • grownandsexy2

        Imma hang this on my wall in a frame.

        • Kas

          It is an amazing picture. But just to be a wet blanket, the photographer will make a lot more money off of it than she will.

      • Janelle Doe

        Agreed. Between this and the Black woman who took down the confederate flag last summer, my daughters have no reason to not be inspired. None at all

        • Gibbous

          Bree Newsom – “The Lord is my light and my salvation”

    • miss t-lee

      I got chills looking at her photo, just like the Tank Man all those years ago.
      Iconic photos.

      • Val
        • miss t-lee

          Yup. I remember seeing this on the news when it happened.
          Bout that life.

        • Freebird

          Hardest man ever.

        • Brooklyn_Bruin

          See if you can find the full picture that shows the huge column of tanks he’s facing down. It’s unreal. *My desktop background for many years*

          • Val

            I saw that when I searched for this photo. Size constraints caused me to use this edited version.

            • He climbed that bidge and yelled down the peep hole too, all the while holding traders Joe’s

          • Cheech

            It was 4 tanks, if I recall.

            • Brooklyn_Bruin
              • Cheech

                Damn. Thanks for that reminder.
                Memories fade. (I am, after all, Kas’ age.)

                • Brooklyn_Bruin

                  Most people have only seen the one with four. It’s a really ill photo when you see the scale

                • ChokeOnThisTea

                  *snickering* @ the Kas shade

                  • Kas

                    I knew you back when you didn’t have a man. Might, want to wipe that smile off your face. :)

                    • ChokeOnThisTea

                      Lmao!!! So, in other words you knew me like a week or so ago. Ninjas ain’t sh it. Always wanna bring up the past. Lol

                    • Kas

                      You know we cool like a fan. And we both know I’m old. But mostly we know I ain’t ish.

                    • ChokeOnThisTea

                      This is true. Luh u, Kas!! Lol

                    • NonyaB

                      *Sighs in realization* You really are that messy uncle at family gatherings, ready to pour out errybody’s binness even before the liquor hits your high notes!

                    • Kas

                      I’m really quite a nice fellow once you get to know me. But yeah I pretty much file all information for use as ammunition later. Shrug

                    • NonyaB

                      *Adds your name to the “sounds like the Feds” list*

                    • Kas

                      Handbook said “nice fellow” was a sure in. Oh well.

                    • NonyaB

                      Handbook also said”try to resist being the sh*tstirrer” but here you are, lighting up these comments with your matchsticks. ?

                • Kas

                  Imma let that slide.

        • Mid to late 80’s?

          • Cheech

            89. Those tanks were on their way to Tianenmen Square.

            • Yeah…I remember watching it on the world news all day

    • Beauty In Truth

      There is another woman who was arrested in New York while speaking to reporters.

  • ChokeOnThisTea

    Great and necessary article, P.

  • Skegeeaces

    That’s a beautiful Black woman, head to toe and inside and out. Breath-taking.

  • NoGames

    Seeing those imagines and video was jarring, not just because of what I saw, but what it represents: an institution that believes that even a little girl in a bathing suit, clearly without a weapon or ability to harm a grown man with a gun, is to be treated like a man with gun pointed at an officer. The message is loud and clear; all Black people are to be feared and treated as a potential threat to police officers.

    But don’t you know Black people are MAGIC and therefore capable of ANYTHING! Or at least that’s what seems to be the prevailing sentiment from the police offers who always feel “threatened” by little Black girls and Black Boys (Tamir). If you fear our children so much our grown men and women have ZERO chance at survival!

  • ChokeOnThisTea

    I can’t stop staring at the picture. It perfectly sums up a lot of our encounters with the police– we’re outnumbered & not resisting and they’re overly guarded and hasty.

    • Mochasister

      Why do they look like Robo Cop?

      • Oluseyi

        Total sidebar, but RoboCop (the original) bears re-watching. It’s like a horrifyingly accurate prophetic document: corporatization of city hall and the police, militarization of law enforcement, rampant consumerism allowing the haves to sit comfortably in their (metaphorically, and sometimes literally) walled-off enclaves…

        Secretly, it’s one of Verhoeven’s best films.

  • posted this on our black owned discussion forum in the womens section. another great article http://www.theblack-board.com/forum/index.php?threads/on-black-women-and-the-erasure-in-the-face-of-institutionalized-racism-vsb.746/

  • Phil GoBeGreat

    She is simply everything #BlackGirlMagic encompasses. Iconic Photo…

  • Oddly enough, I pay more attention to the cops in this image. I’m not intentionally trying to detract from her, but they are approaching her in FULL RIOT GEAR as if they are about to do the worst to her. I couldn’t help but clench my teeth and fists when I first saw that image. I’da been ready to jump of the top turnbuckle on them had I been there. It’s no less a powerful image, and her poise is extraordinary, but that’s they way my brain is set up.

    • Phil GoBeGreat

      And therein lies the power of the photo…. she rocks no gear no shields… just her black skin, and she is the one who looks calm and unafraid and they appear tepid and hesitant.

    • Their stance:
      In all fairness, her watch was ticking “suspiciously loud.”

      • :
        The print in her dress looked like it read ISIS

    • Tee

      Real talk, I had no idea this photo was snapped in THIS COUNTRY. It legit looks like a scene out of Robocop.

      • The Baton Rogue police were on that BS too. Arresting reporters, talmbout outside agitators and such.

        • Cheech

          “They call us agitators. You know what an agitator is, right? It’s that thing in the washing machine that gets out the dirt. That’s what we’re doing, we’re getting out the dirt.”

          –Thurgood Marshall

  • miss t-lee

    The photo above reminded me of another one of my faves.

    I’m glad you wrote this PJack.

    We’ve always been fighting for the same exact things, with strength and grace to boot.

    • She’s my spirit animal.

      • miss t-lee


    • DBoySlim

      She wasn’t having it. She looks like she uses the word ‘chirren’.

      • miss t-lee

        She’s still here. Gloria Richardson.
        “Gone on with ya little bayonet, boy.”

        • DBoySlim

          Gangsta. That’s up there with the hippies putting flowers in the rifle barrels.

      • Her look was sharper than that bayonet.

    • brothaskeeper

      Woman: “Play ’round if you wanna…Otis, get dis muthafukka!”
      Man in hat and sunglasses: “Ole fat shrunken helmet wearing azz! Ima slap the s#!+ outta you!” *his boys hold him back*

      • miss t-lee

        Fa sho.

    • NonyaB

      Side-eye for days! Delivered by and for the people.

      • miss t-lee


    • Boafoa Offei-Darko

      That woman, Gloria Richardson, was the only woman booked to talk at the March on Washington, but she had the mic snatched from her after greeting the audience… smh. Things never change.

    • PDL – Cape Girl Shero

      Dontcha just love how folks have a lot of power behind a gun, whips, ropes and hoses? Black folks have pretty much fought unarmed most of this warfare. We been taking sticks to gunfights. Bet if they didn’t have such ammo a LOT would have been different. It ain’t never been a fair fight.

      • miss t-lee

        You just said a word. Never been a fair fight, indeed.

More Like This