Last night in Minnesota, a four year old girl comforted her mother, Diamond Lavish Reynolds, in the car as her partner, Philando Castile, laid bloodied and dying next to her, having been shot four timed by the cops who pulled him over for a broken tail light while he was retrieving the license they asked him get.
She comforted her mother who, in the face of her partner’s murderer, stayed calm and asked the officer why he did what he did, asked if he was dead, why they shot him, dear god, why, did her best to document the violence and make sure it did not repeat itself.
And before that, in Louisiana, a wife and a mother, Quinyetta McMillon, got on the news and kept a straight face as she spoke about the murder of her husband, Alton Sterling and her 14 year old wailed and wailed and wailed for his slain father.
My heart hurts for them. As a fellow Black woman, I cannot watch their pain and suffering without feeling it deep within me as well, without feeling their hopelessness and that immense sadness and lost, and wishing it would end, hoping they have someone who sees them in these times and doesn’t just see them as the partners of victims but as victims as well.
Early, early, too fucking early, Black women, trans Black women included, learn to carry the hurt and the suffering of their mothers, their brothers, their younger siblings, their fathers, their uncles, their elders, their friends and family, of non-Black people, white people, all while they’re fed stories of their “strength” and capability, the NEED for them to soldier on. They are taught to see themselves as secondary victims, as only experiencing the collateral damage of the harm that the cis men are the prime victims of. They learn to see and endure the most inconceivable violence and hurt both from outside the community and within and still keep “strong” and calm though it all, keep everyone together though the storms of terrorism, through the reality that is being Black in America. They learn not to focus or prioritize themselves, that they’re fine, they’re fine, they’re fine. They learn to tell other people’s stories, to identify other people’s hurt, but to ignore their own.
They also learn to be the ones to carry the torch of this suffering and demand for justice, making sure the tales of their people stays visible and alive. The mothers of victims of police violence are the ones who stay in the fight, who organize, who you see on the news, who hold the portraits of their slaughtered friends, family and children with a silent, dignified resilience, because we are not allowed to show or be anything else.
Everyone depends on and trusts them and yet they have so few they can depend on and trust in return.
And the truth is we so sorely need people to depend on & trust. Black women, queers & trans folk, especially Black trans women, experience harassment, violation, rape, assault, death at the hands of the police, the state, & others too, within our communities, at the hands of white and non-Black people. #SayHerName was a hashtag & a movement within the BLM movement created so everyone would realize this fact and, most importantly, say and acknowledge the names and lives of these women and folks. Historically and now, we are the ones who carry the movement and the brunt of the pain, who try to hold together fractured and colonized communities and create and foster joy and love nonetheless.
The time of using us as mules and mammies for everyone needs to end. The time for healing is now.
So please think twice before you share Black straight cis male-centric narratives of our suffering. There is so much that is misunderstood, erased, shoved away in favor of reducing all state and anti-Black violence to “Cop shoots Black man” when not only do we experience the ravages and harms and trauma of those experience but are directly assaulted and murdered as well. There is so much fear, doubt, vulnerability, that you do not see or know. As you stand on the shoulders of Black women, do not say we are not there, hurting, exhausted, crying for justice.
Listen to Black women and femmes today, become attuned to what we need and how we express hurt and mourn and the often traumatized, hidden, scarred and repressed ways we do so. Elevate our words. Send us positive text messages or videos of huskies. Ask us what we need or give us space if we’re obviously not able or ready to engage. Look out for and take care of us at healing circles or actions. Buy us food, ask if we need a sitter or a place to stay for a night or two, a shoulder to cry on, a person to rant to, anything.
Most importantly, start committing to fight not against us or even with us, but for us too.