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

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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.

  • Val

    Yep and of course it was Black women who founded the Black Lives Matter movement to begin with.

    Great post, PJ.

    • LKNMRE

      QUEER Black women, at that!

  • Oluseyi

    The particular egregiousness of sidelining the role of black women in all struggles for black equality is that everything comes back to them: every black male brutalized is held up by mothers, wives, sisters, lovers, girlfriends, daughters; and every black woman brutalized is held up by… mothers, wives, sisters, lovers, girlfriends, daughters. They bind us all up. They bury us all. They fight for justice for us all.

    We can do better by them.

    We must do better by them.

    • DrFrantonia


    • MY BROTHER!!!!!

      • Mary Johns

        <<o. ?????:?????:?????:?????:?????:?????:?????:?????:?????:?????:::::::!bw397p:….,….

      • Holly Berwick

        <<o. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????:::::::!bw552p:….,..

    • amen.

    • Nik White

      That, my dear, was a WORD!

      • Oluseyi

        Thank you.

    • Ahmad Al Ghaithy

      No child is born a racist. Racism acquired capita people surrounding him . and racism is part of the Jewish religion.

    • Marvellous Marv

      I wish I could shake your hands. THIS is what I’m trying to convey to some knuckleheads out there.

      • Oluseyi

        It takes time to get there. It took me a looooong time to get out of my own way enough to give this credit where it’s dude—growth that, almost ironically, is directly attributable to women in my life! The only smart thing I’ve ever done is decide to listen to them. :-P

    • Bklady

      ALLLL of THISSS!!!!!

    • Bam MF Bam

      A quotable quote indeed.

  • Nice drop Panama.

  • brothaskeeper

    Y’all be WRITING! Brilliant article! Acknowledgement of Black women in our collective progress should not be overlooked. They are our greatest champions and supporters. There’s no one stronger. Behind every great Black man is a Black woman rolling her eyes and smacking her teeth, but from a place of love and edification.

  • Medium Meech

    This is the most accurate and responsible article I’ve seen dealing with this topic.

    • panamajackson

      This is high praise. Thank you.

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    I wrote that the picture above encompasses the struggle between Black people and White America.

    A Black woman in a dress, standing on her own is being rushed by two heavily armored police while dozens stand behind in a formation.

    She is wearing a DRESS, they are dressed like they are in Call of Duty.

    One person with nothing but guts and intelligence on their side against an army armed to the teeth, ready for war at any minute, and constantly crying while saying “what about me” when clearly there’s no true opposition. And then they wonder why we don’t like them, don’t respect them, and fear them.

  • Gibbous

    So I briefly went to the internet to see this MTV/BET Town Hall (I don’t have those cable channels) just in time to see Franchesca Ramsey bring up intersectionality, i.e. Black women and Black LGBTQ people in BLM. She literally got “yeah, yeah, thanks” from Charlemagne and a quick segue to another guest.

    I turned it off.

    • Val

      Same happened in the Civil Rights movement. That’s why it’s important to let the past teach us.

      • Betty’s Babygirl

        Val, have you ever heard of Bayard Rustin? He was a friend, confidante of MLK and main organizer of the March on Washington. He just happened to be openly gay. Zora Neale Hurston was sexually fluid and she’s revered.

        Resilients are the most hypocritical, homophobic people. The oppressed putting their oppressed foot fon the neck of the oppressed.

        • Val

          Yep. Not only have I heard of him but I know how he was pushed to the back of the movement because he was gay. This after he was the main architect of the March on Washington.

          • Betty’s Babygirl

            The irony of it is it wasn’t MLK’s choice to push him aside. It was his “advisors”. Him and MLK were really good friends and MLK didn’t hide their friendship.

        • Gibbous

          Can you explain “Resilients?” I feel like you’re using like a defined term, but I’m not sure of what.

          • Betty’s Babygirl

            Sure. I CHOOSE to define people of the African diaspora as Resilients. It is one of the many complimentary names that can be used to describe us. I believe in defining yourself or ourselves as opposed to allowing those who know nothing about us place labels on us.

            Re·sil·ient –
            (of a person or animal) able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
            synonyms: strong, tough, hardy; flexible, pliable, supple;

            • Gibbous

              Thanks. I think it’s important to be able to define ourselves how we see fit, however, I am cautious of that term, because our seeming resilience (or really our own expectation to be strong) can keep us from getting the help that we need, when we need it, especially in terms of mental & physical health.
              Used in “mixed company” I feel that it can add to the perception that we feel less pain, physically & emotionally.
              See: AMA articles on racial disparities in pain management and our own prejudices against depression.

              • Betty’s Babygirl

                To the contrary being resilient exemplifies that although you can bounce back from difficult circumstances, it doesn’t mean you’re impenetrable to physical or mental pain. To me it states we WILL heal from whatever is attempting to harm or destroy us. Being resilient and seeking/needing help are not mutually exclusive.

                I have no care about how non-Resilients think about us. We are not required to make them feel comfortable in our presence. We must keep an eye on them for our own protection whether in the workplace and daily life. I’m far more concerned about how we feel, treat and view other Resilients.

    • Like she did to killer mike when he was talking? A lot of people are using this in order to push their own agenda…

      • Gibbous

        She didn’t cut him off, she just shook her head no, that she wouldn’t be checking out of the election.

        • I never said otherwise, we are all in this together straight, gay, trans to those who hate us all they see is black. There are always people trying to create division to advance their own agenda.

    • MostlyMax

      You got to witness one of the few times she didn’t get ignored or talked over for an interview with Dan from Gossip Girl and Sam White the Kappa who is now the goto for all things white ally related. Charlemagne was trash as a host and Chesca should’ve been front and center.

      • I’ve never been a fan of Charlemagne from the Wendy Williams days. Still, between him and his old boss, they’re on that BS lately.

        • MostlyMax

          Listen. He came outta that goat faced mess of a woman’s tutelage so I never saw it for him from jump. Both of them have always been ignorant for ignorance sake.

        • I’m warming up to him. He is pretty clever. I just avoided him for years because he has a really stupid name.

        • Julian Green

          I’ve been a fan of Charlemagne since High School, when he was on Hot 103.9 in Columbia, SC. That said, he does talk a lot of sh*t, but I can roll with it because he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously.

      • Gibbous

        I think she’s brilliant and I was mad on her behalf.

  • Tee

    What’s bothering me more about this picture are the people in the background (in front of the large tree) just gawking and staring and not coming to her aid.


    • Phil GoBeGreat

      from what i’ve read it was a very peaceful arrest. The photo captures a moment, but the photographer said she didnt resist and they werent strongarming her etc. So no need to come to her aid, she made a statement saying she was going to be arrested.

      • Tee

        Sorry, peaceful arrest sounds like a oxymoron to me. If I see a woman being arrested I’m going to help and not standby and watch. Call me a fool. I don’t like to see women being manhandled and arrested by police.

        • Phil GoBeGreat

          well there are compliant and non-confrontational arrests… they occur.
          Again, from what I have read she wasn’t manhandled or harmed in any way.
          She made a choice and a decision to be arrested and I applaud her for that.

          • Tee

            What I am struggling with is the fact that black and brown bodies are continuously being arrested for pure bs and that troubles me. I’m tired of seeing black folks arrested for fighting for our lives in this country. I’m trying to separate my emotion from this but it is hard to do so. I struggle with how cops don’t see many black women as actual “women”.

            ETA: the fact that she wasn’t manhandled or harmed does NOT make her arrest OK.

            • Kas

              Sometimes getting arrested is part of the point being made.

              • Negro Libre

                Lets keep it real, some people understand that more than others:



                Lol jk. Getting arrested and forcing the police to erupt in violence has always been a political strategy, even during the civil rights movement, they didn’t mess with cities that had police departments that knew what they were doing.

        • I see your point, but for a protest like that, it isn’t like being arrested is some great shock. It was what it was.

          • Tee

            I don’t feel good about it, Todd.

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    That’s Sandra Bland’s last video.

    She had all this hope and encouragement to give to all of us even when she was feeling defeated herself.

    This is why I know Black women deserve more than our respect. They bleed like us. They cry more for us. They are the first ones out there marching.

    No point in saying we need to do better. We just will. That’s it.

  • Phil GoBeGreat

    I’ve always thought this image was powerful, and it is, but her image is so much more.

    • I’m letting lil man drive me home after happy hour. He ain’t here for the shiggidy.

    • Julian Green

      It gives off chills, especially when you learn the context behind it.

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