Erica Garner, the weathering theory, and what white women need to do to prevent more Black women from dying…
When I think about a person who dies from a broken heart, I think of a twenty-seven year old Black woman who fought to avenge her father’s murder until her heart stopped. Do you?
Three months after giving birth to her second child, mother, activist, and community leader, Erica Garner died after an asthma-induced heart attack. She was only twenty-seven.
When Eric Garner was publicly murdered by an NYPD officer, Erica stood up to America and made us question, fight, and destroy the power. She had to balance grieving for her father, dodging viral clips of his death, ingesting verbal assaults to his character, and carrying a child to term.
“…In the more than 200 stories of African-American mothers that ProPublica and NPR have collected over the past year, the feeling of being devalued and disrespected by medical providers was a constant theme. The young Florida mother-to-be whose breathing problems were blamed on obesity when in fact her lungs were filling with fluid and her heart was failing. The Arizona mother whose anesthesiologist assumed she smoked marijuana because of the way she did her hair. The Chicago-area businesswoman with a high-risk pregnancy who was so upset at her doctor’s attitude that she changed OB-GYNs in her seventh month, only to suffer a fatal postpartum stroke.” - ProPublica
Weathering describes the physical and emotional consequences associated with living on earth as a Black woman. Symptoms of weathering include high blood pressure, miscarriage, childbirth complications, depression, low self-worth, and your heart stopping at the age of twenty-seven.
Erica Garner had her first heart attack three months before her death, shortly after giving birth. Many assume that the reason why Black women are prone to maternal mortality is because they come from low-income backgrounds and can’t afford good ob/gyn care. ProPublica reported that maternal mortality was affecting Black women regardless of their financial background.
Childbirth and maternal mortality is just one symptom of weathering — albeit the worst. Black women are drowning on dry American land, trying to fight off mental illness, heart disease, domestic violence, HIV contraction, the American judicial system, and constant life-altering bigotry. These stresses cause major havoc on our quality-of-life and well-being.
The death of Erica Garner is a “huh… pity” moment for most white people. For Black people — for Black women, it’s another crushing blow. Erica’s death is a reminder of why we never got over her father’s death. American apathy.
White feminists are going to hashtag ‘remember her name’, point fingers at the judicial system, the American media, and all the things that allow them to avoid the truth: your failure to claim Erica Garner as your sister killed her. White women are quick to blame white supremacy for Erica’s death, but slow to connect the dots from their detachment from Erica to what’s happening to us. America’s refusal to take its foot off the neck of Black American women has eulogized too many of us before we get a full chance to live, leaving many of us to wonder, How much time do I have left?
This moment is a true test for any white woman who identify themselves as an intersectional feminist. What is your response to the fatal broken heart of your Black American sisters? Are you going to continue taking selfies in your pussy hat, or are you going to start advocating for hospitals to have a stocked hemorrhage toolkits in every delivery room, like they’re doing in California? Are you going to continue picking on other white women you believe are more racist than you, or are you going to log off and lock arms with Black women? You need to:
- Identify the crises that plague every woman of color as your own.
- Talk about the maternal mortality crisis among Black women to everyone and anyone until day turns into night. When the sun rises, repeat.
- Identify with every woman of color as your sister. Even the ones who don’t walk, talk, or vote like you (actually, vote like us, because we do it WAY better).
- Get all your white friends that you have those postcard, LulaLemon parties with and put your white girl power to good use.
- Stop playing around, roll up your sleeves, and fight for our lives.
- Take a seat and have a good cry for the life and death of Erica Garner. Weep for the two children who are going to grow up with two gaping voids in their legacies. If that doesn’t make you cry, that’s a part of your fucking problem.
Tamela J. Gordon is a writer, intersectional feminist, and creator of the women’s empowerment group, Sisters with Aspiration, as well as SWA’s Intersectional Book Club. You can gift books for readers or send Tamela a monetary gift here: To contact Tamela for speaking engagements or creating your own women’s empowerment group, email email@example.com