Babara Arnwine, The Coalition of Civil Rights Organizations on Police Reform
Kimberlé Crenshaw, Director of AAPF and CISPS
Andrea Ritchie, Police Misconduct Attorney and Organizer
Priscilla Ocen, Professor of Law at UCLA
Moderated by Janine Jackson, FAIR
Although Black women are killed, raped and beaten by law enforcement officials and subjected to abusive prison conditions, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in the narrative surrounding state violence and the New Jim Crow.
Their relative absence from the discourse leads to an incomplete understanding of the various intersectional challenges Black communities face in the age of mass incarceration and police violence, making it all the more urgent that the movement build a gender-inclusive lens through which to frame the issue.
Including Black women in the narrative broadens the scope of the debate. In so doing, it enhances our understanding of the structural relationship between Black communities and law enforcement; to get at the root causes of this dynamic we must consider and illuminate all the ways in which Black people are perpetual targets of state violence. Acknowledging and analyzing the connections between anti-Black violence against Black men, women and trans people reveals systemic realities that go unnoticed when we focus only on a monolithic set of cases. When we include all Black people, the scope of the issue broadens to include the myriad ways in which Black communities experiences oppressive conditions at the hands of the state, from sexual violence to police killings to lack of reproductive health care in prisons.
Moreover, including Black women and girls in this discourse sends the powerful message that indeed all Black lives matter. If our collective outrage around cases of police violence is meant to serve as a warning to the state that its agents cannot kill without consequence, our silence around the cases of Black women and girls sends the message that certain deaths do not merit repercussions.
As the African American Policy Forum prepares to release its forthcoming brief on Black women and law enforcement violence, please join us in our efforts to advance a gender-inclusive narrative in the movement for Black lives.
Story: Rekia Boyd
On March 21, 2012, off-duty Chicago police detective Dante Servin fatally shot 22-year-old Rekia Boyd in the back of the head. Boyd was hanging out with friends in a park, and the group was walking to the corner store when Servin approached the group. He got into a verbal altercation with one of Boyd’s friends, and then fired five rounds at them while remaining in his unmarked car. Servin shot Boyd in the back of the head, and she died within 24 hours. Servin continued to work on duty for the Chicago Police department until he was officially charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm and reckless conduct on November 25, 2013. His trial has been set for April 2015. In 2014, the City of Chicago awarded Boyd's family a $4.5 million wrongful death settlement.
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding her death and the rare police trial set for her killer, Rekia’s story has received little public attention or outcry. Martinez Sutton, Rekia’s brother, believes the lack of concern stems from her gender: “It’s like when something happens to a woman, from brutality, to death, to domestic violence, it’s like it’s just passed over. It may be said, ‘oh, Rekia Boyd was shot,’ and then they may go to a Bulls game, and say, ‘oh, but the Bulls won.’... I guess [with Rekia] it’s like, there’s nothing there for them to bite on, it’s not as juicy as them finding a male shot by the police.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
Building the Capacity to Create Change
Join AAPF in elevating the crisis facing Black women! Contact us if you would like to partner on any of the following:
Host a town hall in your community. Watch a preview of AAPF’s town hall series here.
Organize focus groups to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges facing Black women and girls and other women and girls of color in your community.
Is your city an MBK city? Find out here. Work with AAPF to demand your local leaders re-align local MBK implementation to ensure it is inclusive and comprehensive in its vision of racial justice.
Know the issue. Understand the political environment:
Research the stories of Black women killed by the police. Gather a few friends/family members and ask them to quickly list 5 names of Black people who have been killed by the police. Were any of them women? Discuss stories several women who have been killed by the police with the group and considering ways of ensuring that their experiences shape our police accountability agenda. Encourage them to conduct this same exercise with other friends and family.
Share a photo and the story of a Black woman who has been killed by the police online, using the hashtags #SayHerName and #HerDreamDeferred.
Organize a “know your rights” training specific to women's experiences of policing for 10 Black women you know. Use these resources as a guide:
Prepare Yourself to be an Advocate:
Call your local police department and ask them if they have a policy specifically addressing sexual assault of members of public by police officers, and if not, why not. Share the answers you get with us!
Write, call or email the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services Department and urge them to adopt and fully implement the recommendations of the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing around development of model policies for local law enforcement agencies on profiling and sexual harassment and assault by police, and interactions and processing of LGBTQ people in police custody. Ask them to condition federal funding to local law enforcement agencies on adoption and effective implementation of the model policies. Contact info is available here
Creating Public Will:
Organize an event in your community to highlight Black women's experiences of policing - it can be a rally, a vigil, a community forum, or a creative direct action to raise visibility of the issue. Or, you can join in local organizing around policing issues and ensure that Black women's experiences are reflected in signs, banners, speakers, and demands.
For more organizing ideas, check out INCITE!'s Organizer's Toolkit on Law Enforcement Violence Against Women of Color and Trans People of Color: (http://incite-national.org/page/stop-law-enforcement-violence-toolkit) and the palmcards and brochures available here: (http://incite-national.org/sites/default/files/incite_files/resource_docs/3397_lev-infocard.pdf) and here: (http://incite-national.org/sites/default/files/incite_files/resource_docs/5341_pv-brochure-download.pdf). You can order copies from: http://incite-national.org/page/contact-us
Invisible Betrayal: Police Violence and the Rapes of Black Women in the United States, Black Women’s Blueprint, September 2014
Police Kill Black Women All The Time, Too — We Just Don't Hear About It, Evette Dionne, Bustle, 12.8.2014
Can We Talk About How Black Women Are Treated as Threats, Too?, The Root, Josie Pickens, 8.24.2014
For Black Women, Domestic Violence and State Violence Go Hand in Hand, Tasasha Henderson, Truthout, 10.9.2014