When I was a bright eyed African American Studies minor in undergrad, I read the autobiography of Eldridge Cleaver, the renown Black Panther Party leader. Cleaver detailed his accounts of raping black women as practice before building the confidence to venture into white neighborhoods to then rape white women.
As a black woman, it wasn’t Cleaver’s demented narrative that resonated with me or the fact that he was nonetheless held with high esteem in black history books and academia, but rather the black community’s ability to turn a blind eye to the atrocities that Cleaver inflicted upon black women. Not much has changed since then as it pertains to the black community and its collective disregard for the welfare of black women.
As I thumb through social media, I’m bombarded with rehashed stories of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and the almost forgotten Ahmaud Arbery case. I can’t even go outside without seeing #BlackLivesMatters on someone’s shirt or garnished on a store front. The narrative remains the same. The narrative being that as a black woman, my life is under immense threat by racist white men and Karens because of the color of my skin. Or as Lebron James proclaimed, as black people we are literally hunted every day and every time we walk outside our homes.
This narrative is outdated and short sighted to say the least because as a feminine mono-racial black woman in 2020, I can’t agree that I feel hunted, threatened or even uncomfortable by white men in my daily life. In actuality, I feel threatened and very uncomfortable when I interact with non-familial black men and I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember.
From living in my hometown of Boston, and later Brooklyn to St. Louis, Missouri and now as I reside in Washington D.C.; I’ve grown hyper vigilant and on guard in the presence of black men. In all honesty, why should I not feel uncomfortable? The truth is that as a black woman, a black man is a greater threat to my well-being than any member of any other demographic group in this country, never mind some nefarious white man or overzealous cop.
I’m sure I just pinched a nerve, but stick with me - if we turn off our emotions, #burnthecapes and simply face the facts, the truth is:
Fact #1: Blacks kill more blacks (7,000) in a year than the KKK did in their entire history.
Fact #2: Blacks make up only 13% of the population yet commit 50% of all murders.
Fact #3: Of the 50% of the homicides committed by blacks, they are largely committed by black men although black men only make up roughly 3% of the population, which means that black men at roughly 3% of the population account for approximately 50% of all the murders in America (just let that sink in).
Fact #4: Homicide is largely intra-racial: 89% of all black victims were killed by a black perpetrator.
Fact #5: In 2000, black women were murdered at a rate of more than 3 times higher than white women and in 2005, Black women made up 35% of all female homicide victims.
Fact #6: In 2000, more than 10 times as many black women were murdered by a man they knew than were killed by male strangers (which means, when your “homeboy” comes over to hang out, you’re 10 times more likely to be killed by him than when Officer Tod asks for your license and registration).
Fact #7: According to the CDC, black women 25-29 years old are 11 times more likely than white women in the same age group to be murdered while pregnant or in the first year after childbirth (just like Tiyquasha Simuel who was murdered while pregnant to stop from testifying in a murder case she witnessed of another black woman who was murdered in a park by a black man).
Fact #8: Black women are killed at a higher rate than any other group of women and because it’s a well-established fact that a large percentage of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners, when black women are murdered it is overwhelmingly by black men as their male partners.
Fact #9: In community samples from 2013, 34.1% to 65% of black women reported being sexually abused as a child, and 27% of those women reported being later raped during their adolescence and 42% reported being later raped as an adult. It is worth noting that for every black woman who reports a rape, at least 15 black women do not report.
So in the wise words of Hov, “men lie, women lie, numbers don’t.” Recently we’ve seen these statistics play out in real life. From Korey Johnson’s viral social media story of being followed and harassed while out on a walk to Oluwatoyin Toyin Salau’s social media posts detailing how she was sexually assaulted prior to her life tragically coming to an end. I can’t help but wonder whose black life really matters? To me, it seems like only the black lives of black men matter.
Therefore, I can’t say I feel tired per se when I see yet another black man killed by a “racist” white man. Sorry but not sorry – as a feminine black woman, I’ve learned to detach because it’s just not my fight. I’ll sit these ones out right alongside George Floyd’s fiancé. I stopped taking on societal ills of black men as my personal burden years ago. Although, I do empathize with my father and three brothers as black men in America, I just empathize with their struggle from afar and in the confines of my own heart and mind. You will not – I repeat; you will not catch me at any protest.
Amid all of the recently publicized killings of black men by “racist” white men, I learned to detach from it all from black men themselves. I’m still waiting on four black men to create a global organization with the plight of black women at the center similar to the Black Lives Matter organization, which was founded by four black women enraged by Trayvon Martin’s death. Collectively within our community, the problems facing black women does not seem to engender the same type of widespread outcry.
I’m jaded by the ongoing denigration of black women inflicted by black men that persists in silence throughout the black community. I reject the prevalent idea that the plight of black men by the dominant American society somehow directly undermines my well being as a black woman so I should “fight for the cause”, while the collective welfare of black women withers away; ignored by the very same group I’m told I should fight for. So everyone can miss me with the narrative that my life is constantly under threat by some racist rogue cop. Scroll up, read the facts, and repeat.
Bailey J. John is a twenty-something year old originally from Boston, Massachusetts with Jamaican roots. She is currently an attorney in Washington D.C., and enjoys everything girly, debating politics, and paid-for Uber rides to new restaurants. She enjoys writing, option trading and mentoring with girls in juvenile facilities in her spare time.
Black Girl Tragic, http://www.blackgirltragic.com/home
CDC: Half Of All Female Homicide Victims Are Killed By Intimate Partners, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/07/21/538518569/cdc-half-of-all-female-murder-victims-are-killed-by-intimate-partners
Intimate Partner Violence in the Black Community, https://ujimacommunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Intimate-Partner-Violence-IPV-v9.4.pdf
Larry Elder, Are Black People ‘Literally Hunted’ Every Time They Leave Their Homes?, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPkkjvANE10&t=635s
U.S. Department of Justice, “Black Victims of Violent Crime”, https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/bvvc.pdf
When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2000 Homicide Data, https://www.vpc.org/studies/dv5two.htm
Sexual Violence in the Lives of African American Women: Risk, Response, and Resilience, https://vawnet.org/material/sexual-violence-lives-african-american-women-risk-response-and-resilience