Long faded are the voices of the women at Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 fighting for women's rights, and long past are the reiterative pleas of Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells of the Black Women's Suffrage Movements who fought to have women of color included in the Women's Rights Movements in America.
Now, new voices emerge.
#SayHerName, a movement started by the African American Policy Forum in response to the death of Black Activist Sandra Bland who died in police custody in Waller County, Texas after a routine traffic stop and other women who died in police presence. What started out as a vigil commemorating black women lost to police brutality has emerged into a prevalent social media movement sparking a discussion on police brutality against women in the United States.
Black men in the United States have had a long, well-known history of having to warn their sons about the dangers of "Driving While Black" and the probability of being racially profiled and harassed by police.
Largely, daughters have been left out of the discussion, but high profile cases like the death of Sandra Bland and Natasha McKenna are forcing examination of whether the brutality against women is being appropriately included into larger discussion of lives mattering.
Brutality against women in the United States and worldwide is not a new phenomenon. It is an issue that has been an ongoing problem within individual communities and families. And in order to force those in authority to stop brutality against black women, as in #SayHerName, an examination of women's rights within communities and families is needed.
"Seventy percent of women have experienced physical/ and or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime," according to the European Agency for Fundamental Rights. Globally, it is estimated that almost half of women victims of homicide were killed by intimate partners or family members compared to less than six percent of men victims of homicide in that same year, according to 2014 data from United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Women of all colors face gender discrimination and violence, which can offer insight into why women of color are sometimes powerless in combating brutality, considering the intersections of racial inequality and gender discrimination.
Extra barriers make women of color more vulnerable to brutality and limit their ability to speak against such treatment. "For women of color, high rates of poverty, poor education, limit job resources, language barriers, and fear of deportation increase difficulty finding help and support services," according to the Women's Institute for Leadership Development for Human Rights.
Specifically, black women are estimated to have a higher rate of domestic violence than white females and are less likely to utilize services available to them when encountering domestic violence, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation's Choice Campus Campaign. Adding to this caution to speak out against intimate partner brutality is the mistrust of police due to racism against black women, religious beliefs and the stereotypes surrounding black women that exist in society-- the angry black woman, oversexualized image, and being seen as less educated, to name a few. The mistrust for acting against brutality can be seen in Marissa Alexander's case where she spent three years in jail and was threatened a lengthy prison sentence for firing a warning shot against her domestic abuser. Many other women face similar plights as survivors of domestic violence.
The recent conviction of former police officer Daniel Holtzclaw for the rape of more 13 women further highlights the vulnerabilities black women face in terms being victims of brutality. Holtzclaw played on the vulnerabilities of various black women with hopes of escaping consequences based on known societal, community, and familial biases related to black women from lower socio economic backgrounds with criminal records.
#SayHerName provides needed discussion regarding police brutality against black women in the United States; however, addressing police brutality against women in the United States will take an array of voices--voices of every color reiterating that women's lives are valuable nationally and globally. Until women's lives begin to matter, black women in the United States will surely continue to be brutalized by figures of authority: police, family, or domestic partners. New voices will also need to emerge--one that builds on the foundations of the past, collectively demanding more awareness and consequences for violence against women, no matter the perpetrator.