America Doesn’t Care About Black Women And Girls

By Ijeoma Oluo

Aiyana Stanley-Jones (Credit: Flickr, Ted Eytan)
While black men are feared, exploited, hunted and hated, black women are nothing — nothing at all. We are completely ignored, left to suffer in silence.

On October 26, 2015, a student at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina recorded the brutal assault of a black female student by a white male police officer. To many, it’s shocking to see the officer throw the silent girl out of her seat onto the ground and drag her across the floor by her leg. To many, it’s shocking to see the teacher and school administrator stand by silently while one of their students is assaulted.

But this isn’t shocking to black women in America.

Black women face substantially higher rates of abuse, poverty, incarceration, rape and murder than white women. We are far more likely to die in childbirth — and so are our babies. For every dollar a white man makes, we bring home only 63 cents. While infection for others across the country has drastically declined, HIV/AIDS is now the leading cause of death for black women age 25–34. Right now there are 64,000 missing black women in America.

And for all of this, America has stood by silently.

Rekia Boyd, Natasha McKenna, Kathryn Johnston, Adaisha Miller, Kindra Chapman, Sandra Bland, Aiyana Jones, Kimberlee Randall, Eleanor Bumpurs, Tarika Wilson, Shelly Frey, Tanisha Anderson, Renisha McBride, Mackala Ross. Do you know who these women are? Have you marched for them?

While black men are feared, exploited, hunted and hated, black women are nothing — nothing at all. We are completely ignored, left to suffer in silence. Squashed like a bug if we become bothersome. There is no beauty to exploit, no power to fear, no outrage to spin. We don’t matter.

Our black girls are never children to be adored and protected. Our black women are never adults to be respected and admired. We are missing from film and books. We are missing from magazines. Our skin is too dark, our hair is too coarse, our butts are too big, our lips are too plush, our noses are too wide, our refinement is lacking, our nature is too wild, our names are too unique. None of these things are despised, just undesirable. We are outdated machines of slavery. Broodmares that can no longer be bred.

What you see in that video is not an officer full of anger or fear or hatred. What you see is a man annoyed that he has to spend any time dealing with something as insignificant as a black girl. What you see is a man throwing out a bag of trash that just happens to be a person. This is the way in which black women in America have been treated throughout history.

And yet we’re still here. We’re still fighting to survive every day. We’re fighting to raise our children with less resources. We’re fighting to provide on less pay. We’re fighting to heal from our wounds with less care. You will never see anything stronger than a black woman, if you see us at all.

Those of us who are black women, those of us who love black women, those of us who depend on black women for survival — we beg of you: see us. See us and our humanity. Care about our suffering. Care about our success. Stand with our women and girls. Be outraged at our rape, our murder, our neglect. Be heartbroken at our loss. Be inspired by our resilience. Be awed by our creativity. Be stunned by our beauty.

And then do something.

Fight police brutality that assaults our black women. Reform a medical system that neglects our black women. Demand economic justice from employers that exploit black women. Fire teachers who refuse to educate black women. Jail men who beat and rape black women. Boycott networks that refuse to show black women. Repeal laws that oppress black women. Protect black women. Protect their children. Protect their families.

We exist, and we are just as worthy of love and compassion as anybody else.

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