The death of Oluwatoyin Salau shook me to my core -- I couldn’t find the words to say, and so I mourned her death in silence. Then the video of the Black Girl being thrown into a dumpster by a group of black men went viral, recording her humiliation and laughing. And at the same time, the video of a Black Girl being knocked unconscious with a skateboard by a black man went viral. And yet again, a video of a black girl being shoved into a freezer by black men went viral. And then… and then… and yet again…
What do you say when you know you’re being ignored? What do you do when your own community dehumanizes, abuses, rapes and murders you? I stopped writing for almost two weeks now because I was so numb and shocked to realize how undervalued Black Women are in the Black Community. I think what made the light go out of my heart was learning how Eldridge Cleaver, one of the leaders of the Black Panther Party, habitually raped Black Women so he could get down a technique for when he’d go to rape white women. I saw it on Twitter, and I didn’t believe it. So I bought the book myself, ‘Soul on Ice’ by Eldridge Cleaver, and in the first few chapters written in clear words, he writes,
“I became a rapist. To refine my technique and modus operandi, I started out by practicing on black girls in the ghetto-- in the black ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of a day -- and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey.”
I cried when I read this. Not because of the act itself, despite how horrid it is, but because of the men who knew and allowed him to do it. There is no way in hell his comrades didn’t know. There is no way in hell other black men didn’t know. And to know that he felt protected enough, and was protected enough, by other black men to habitually torture Black Women is sickening, heart-breaking and anxiety inducing. Because this is the exact protection that black men have now that allow them to continue to wreak havoc on Black Women.
Oluwatoyin was being sexaully abused by her own family, to only be molested and murdered by a black man while seeking refuge from her sexually abusive family.
Jamilia Stroye was murdered after exposing her mother’s boyfriend to be a pedophile.
Shana Donahue was stabbed and strangled to death by her boyfriend of ten years.
And if we’re not being murdered or abused, we’re actively being erased from the Black Lives Matter Movement. Breonna Taylor’s name has turned into a sick meme, a tired hashtag. Her murderers are still walking freely -- do I have to reiterate the fact her home was broken into by police and she was murdered in her sleep? Do I have to reiterate the fact that the police stated they were looking for a suspect they already had in custody?
Where’s the support and the rallies behind them? The Black Community rallied so hard for George Floyd that his family members are now millionaires, his murderers were arrested, and the Black Community even managed to influence the degree of murder they were charged with. Oluwatoyin couldn’t even have enough press generated about her for her story to last in the news cycle for more than a week. Tete Gully was found hanged in Portland, Oregon on May 27, 2019 with no support from the Black Community. Riah Milton and Dominique Fells, two Black Trans Women, were both murdered within 24 hours of each other, and met with no support from the Black Community. Monika Diamond, another Black Trans Woman, was also murdered, and her death was also met with silence. Just yesterday, a Black Woman, Althea Bernstein, was set on fire by white men calling her racial slurs. She now has third degree burns-- what justice will be served for her?
I’ve lost faith in the term ‘Community’. I no longer believe we’re a ‘Community’ because we support and protect each other, but because we are often subjected to the same struggles and traumatic experiences due to our skin color. The only people who really look out for one another in the Black Community is black men, and that’s why they’re able to reap endless violence upon Black Women with little to no repercussions. Black Women tend to support each other as well, but we have enough sense to discontinue the support behind one of our own if they’ve done wrong, as our support for one another is conditional, as it should be. The same cannot be said for black men.
To address any issue people may take with my singling out of Black Men, here’s my explanation: Black Women are constantly holding the movement down. We are the organizers of the marches. We are the people behind the petitions. We are on the frontlines getting shot in the head with rubber bullets and having miscarriages from the police brutality we face from protesting. Yet when Black Women need support because we are also being shot killed by police, it’s crickets. Even white people have picked up on Black Women’s role in the movement -- you see the imagery they’re pushing on their magazine covers. A black man is not the image of the movement, it is the dark-skinned Black Woman.
Black Girls, especially dark-skinned Black Girls, are conditioned to stand by and protect Black Men at the youngest of ages; I know you also saw that video of the little Black Girl screaming, ‘No Justice, No Peace!’. Yet when we tell you about the sexual abuse we face from your friends and family members, you deflect, deny and shame us. You tell us to look elsewhere for help. Asking us, ‘Why didn’t you go to the cops?’ as if the cops you’re telling us to go to aren’t the same cops we march against when one of us is murdered. You are silent on our issues, and silence is violence. Silence is aiding and abetting the crimes waged against us, you all are accomplices! And then you have the nerve to turn around and blame it on white people. Yes, internalized anti-blackness is real, but having a conscience to guide you between right and wrong is something else entirely.
And you know what gets me? In response to this, most black men will come up with reasons to defend their bigotry, misogynoir and senseless violence against Black Women instead of listening to what we’re saying, reflecting, and adjusting their behavior as needed. What discussion is to be had on the topic of, in its simplest form, respecting another human being?
Perhaps this is hitting me so hard because I actually believed there was a sense of Community within the Black Community. Black men don’t support Black Women; cishet Black men and Women don’t support the Black LGBTQIA+ Community; Light-skinned Black People are silent and benefit off of the colorism dark-skinned Black People are subjected to. And then both light-skinned black men and Women, and dark-skinned black men actively participate in maintaining and perpetuating colorism against dark-skinned Black Women. Not to mention Black People in the Differently Abled Community, as they are heavily ignored and erased from the broader conversation about Black Rights.
I’m ending this off by listing the names of other Black Women who have not received the proper support from the Black Community following their deaths or the reports of them missing. Black Women and girls go missing at the highest rates and are found at the lowest rates, please share this information about them far and wide.
Joy Lynn, Missing from Dallas, TX.
Sierra Coombs, missing from Brooklyn, NY.
Risharda Bond, missing from the Chicago Area.
Brianna Torres, missing from Miami, FL.
Chenell “Renee” Gilbert, missing from Indianapolis, IN.
Ariana Paris Ware.
Jamaria James, missing from Fort Pierce, FL.
Let's bring these girls home.