The Recent Resurgence of #ProtectBlackWomen
If you’ve been active on any digital platform over the last several months, it’s highly likely that you’ve come across the tragic stories surrounding Breonna Taylor and Megan Thee Stallion. Both women were victims of gun violence this year, yet neither have been treated with the care and dignity that other Black women feel they deserve/d. So while Breonna and Megan’s stories weren’t the starting points of the #ProtectBlackWomen movement, their stories have been catalysts for the resurgence of calls to #ProtectBlackWomen as of late. And, though the hashtag has now garnered a combined total of 100k+ posts on Instagram and Facebook, Black women everywhere are hoping that efforts go further than a post. More on how allies can do their part to help effect change later. But first, we’d like to share a synopsis of Breonna and Megan’s story in case anyone is unfamiliar...
Breonna was a medical worker who was fatally shot by police in her home. Accounts vary, but it’s been reported that she didn’t receive any attention (medical or otherwise) until 27 mins after being shot. The involved officers have not been charged for causing Breonna’s death. It should also be noted that Breonna’s case was not immediately met with the same worldwide attention that surrounded George Floyd’s murder, and at points it was even eclipsed by George’s murder. We don’t mention that to take away from what happened to George because that was tragic in its own right. Rather, we mention it to demonstrate how violence pertaining Black women is oftentimes dismissed by the public.
Megan is a prominent rapper who was allegedly shot by Tory Lanez, another musician. After the news broke, and even after Megan told her side of the story, she was met with scrutiny, ridicule, and skepticism. Other entertainers, as well as the general public were slow to express support for Megan -- Another unfortunate instance of a Black woman being dismissed.
The juxtaposition of Breonna, Megan and other Black women’s stories reinforce the idea that it doesn’t matter what your status or circumstances are; Black women from all walks of life have felt the devastation of intersectionality since before we had the words or hashtags to express it.
Why Black Women Need Protecting: A Deep Dive
Black women have endured and overcome A LOT, extending from slavery to modern day practices of oppression and discrimination. So while it’s understandable how and why “The Strong Black Woman” archetype was created, it is vital that society does not dehumanize or hold Black women to unrealistic standards. As with all humans, Black women possess complexities, duality, and a full range of emotions. So, yes, Black women have (and continue to) demonstrate strength, but we are also the most vulnerable group in society. Further, our vulnerability extends across many subpopulations and categories, as summarized below:
Black Trans Women
We’d be remiss not to include Black trans women in the conversation or acknowledge that these women face their own unique set of challenges and abuse.
“This summer, six Black trans women, all under the age of 32, were murdered in the span of nine days. Their deaths are part of a horrifying pattern; hate crimes against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have been on the rise for years, with the number of murders in 2020 already almost surpassing that of 2019. Of the 26 victims so far this year and the 27 victims last year, the majority have been Black trans women under the age of 30” (Forestiere, 2020)
“The inequities and prejudice Black trans women face don’t just take the form of outright violence. A study by the National LGBTQ Task Force indicates that Black trans people have a 26% unemployment rate. That’s twice as high as the unemployment rate for transgender people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, and four times as high as the unemployment rate in the general population” (Forestiere, 2020)
“In short, being a Black trans woman in America means you’re far more likely than most other people to experience serious roadblocks and harms, in the form of everything from extreme poverty to violent murder” (Forestiere, 2020)
Sexuality and Sexual Abuse
“More than 20 percent of black women are raped during their lifetimes — a higher share than among women overall” (Barlow, 2020)
“A recent Georgetown Law study showed that adults view Black girls as more adult-like and less innocent than White girls, starting as early as the age of 5” (Brown, 2020)
“Since 2015, Black women have accounted for less than 1 percent of the overall fatal shootings in cases where race was known. But within this small subset, Black women, who are 13 percent of the female population, account for 20 percent of the women shot and killed and 28 percent of the unarmed deaths” (Lati, Jenkins, and Brugal, 2020)
“Black women are fatally shot at rates higher than women of other races” (Lati, Jenkins, and Brugal, 2020)
“More than four in ten Black women experience physical violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes. White women, Latinas, and Asian/Pacific Islander women report lower rates” (Green, 2017)
“Black women face a particularly high risk of being killed at the hands of a man. A 2015 Violence Policy Center study finds that Black women were two and a half times more likely to be murdered by men than their White counterparts. More than nine in ten Black female victims knew their killers” (Green, 2017)
“Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women – and this disparity increases with age” (cdc.gov, 2019)
“A 2016 study found that nearly half of first and second year medical students believed that Black people have thicker skin than white people, and perceived Black people as experiencing less pain than white people, an idea born from 19th century experiments that were conducted by a physician named Thomas Hamilton” (Rao, 2020)
“When Zendaya wore Locks on the red carpet, she was denigrated by a style guru on the E! channel, but when Kendall Jenner wears Locks on a runway, the style is chic and fashion-forward. In the real world, this can translate to a Black woman wearing her hair naturally, only for it to be called ‘unprofessional,’ ‘ghetto,’ or ‘too ethnic,’ Adelaja [diversity and inclusion expert] said, then when a white person does it, it's lauded as cool and edgy” (Dodgson, 2020)
Workplace and Pay Gap
“Black women had to work all of 2019 and this far into 2020 to earn what white men earned last year alone—four months longer than white women had to work to accomplish the same goal. Over the course of a Black woman’s career, the pay gap accounts for almost $1 million in lost income” (Saddler and Thomas, 2020)
“Black women are less likely to have managers advocate for them” (Saddler and Thomas, 2020)
“For every 100 entry-level men promoted to manager, only 58 Black women get the same recognition” (Saddler and Thomas, 2020)
“They’re [Black women] more than twice as likely as men to be mistaken for someone at a much lower level” (Saddler and Thomas, 2020)
“Black influencers lead trends and dominate conversations online - from beauty and hair tutorials to style hauls. Yet with a quick Google search of the highest paid social media influencers, for the most part, there are not many faces of color featured by top brands” (Reid, 2019)
“There are numerous influencers and content creators of color who are doing amazing things in this space, yet many of them are overlooked and underpaid” (Reid, 2019)
“Ajayi [senior talent and partnerships lead at AGM Talent] realized Black influencers were being low-balled more than most, or being offered gifts for promotions rather than a paycheque” (Dodgson, 2020)
“It's not all about the money, either. Being consistently degraded in this way has long-term emotional and psychological impacts on someone, which can derail their entire career” (Dodgson, 2020)
* The above are direct quotes from various sources. As such, any spelling and grammatical errors that may appear were not changed in order to maintain the integrity of the writers' work.
How Allies Can Help #ProtectBlackWomen
All things considered, Black women are rallying behind the #ProtectBlackWomen movement. But, ultimately it’s counterproductive for efforts to subvert the race and gender oppression that Black women face to start and end with the community being afflicted. So, we’ve used the sources linked in this post, along with some of our own thoughts on what could be done, and compiled a list of some ways that allies can help #ProtectBlackWomen. These are summarized below:
Educated yourself on the inequalities that exist
Support organizations that support Black women
Believe and nurture Black women who are victims or in pain
Hold the people (officers or civilians) who harm Black women accountable and call for others to do the same
Credit Black women for their professional and cultural contributions to society
Ensure that Black women are properly represented across all industries
Hire/promote Black women. And, don’t just pay them the same as their white or male counterparts, pay them the full extend of what they’re worth
Invest in Black women - Back their ideas and dreams
And, in the words of (arguably) one of the most famous Black female influencers, Rihanna herself, we leave you with these final words: “Pull up.”
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