The slogan and hashtag #BlackLivesMatter shouldn’t just evoke images of Black men being cut down by police. Black women have been lost as well.
And if the death and publicizing of Black men dying so often doesn’t incite wholesale change, then the absence of coverage of Black women dying in similar circumstances should scare the pants off of all of us and compel our activism.
Last week, Sandra Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell. The jail folks said she committed suicide after a minor traffic stop for failure to signal during a lane change went really, really wrong, resulting in her arrest. She was in town preparing for a new job at Prairie View A&M University.
Kindra Chapman, just 18, was also found dead in an Alabama jail cell last week. Again, suicide was supposedly the cause of death.
The takeaway? None of us, male or female, is safe.
I read about Ms. Bland, her activism, her voice, her work as an educator. I wondered what she would have been doing in her new job at Prairie View. I wondered if we had mutual colleagues, and if they could tell me more about her. I wondered how many degrees of separation existed between us; it all felt so much more deeply personal.
I read about Ms. Chapman and how an alleged robbery landed her in that cell. I wondered at 18 what promise her life might’ve held. I wondered if she was really so lost that she could’ve taken her own life, that night, in that cell?
I wondered what really happened to both Sandra and Kindra. #saytheirnames
The cynic in me, who’s watched in horror for years now, the unfolding assault on Black lives, finds it hard all so very hard to believe. If our men can just be shot down or their backs and necks broken, then surely my sisters’ untimely deaths can be masked as suicide just as easily. And apparent suicides, for lives that seemingly matter even less than their male counterparts, rarely make news in a patriarchal society.
This time, I didn’t even talk to Hope about the death of Sandra or Kindra. I’m partly ashamed of that because I always kick it to Hope straight, and I desperately try to keep her informed about the world in which we live. But we were on an idyllic vacation, and it felt so very far away from this reality. For once I wanted to protect the privileged bubble that we enjoyed…the bubble that went to the beach, that enjoyed ice cream while watching the cute boy with the pretty eyes render Hope speechless every day, the bubble that, if only for a few days, was a different reality for us. I rationalized that, sadly, there would be time for us to talk about it when we got home.
And as the investigations begin in earnest, there is plenty of time for Hope and me to discuss the loss of more Black lives.
At what point do I get to stop having these conversations with my daughter?
At what point do I get to leave my home and not wonder how to survive if I get pulled over?
At what point do naysayers stop telling people of color to simply “obey”?
At what point will I ever feel like I can trust the people who are supposed to be sworn to protect all of us?
At what point do we stop seeing hashtags like #IfIdieinpolicecustody, which is by far one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.
I. Am. Scared.
How many names will I have to write about this stuff? How deeply will this repeated exposure to trauma affect brown and black folk? It is mentally, physically, emotionally and socially exhausting.
I’m glad that South Carolina took down the stupid confederate flag, but I’d rather the assault on Black lives cease. #priorities
So, I pray that we learn the truth about what happened to Sandra and Kindra, but in the meantime, don’t forget them or the numerous women of color who have also lost their lives at the hands of police.
Say their names and don’t forget them.