Sadness and outrage overwhelmed me as I watched the violence that erupted in Baltimore this week. The death of Freddie Gray while in police custody gave rise to an all too familiar sense of despair. As evidenced by the ongoing stream of murders publicized in the news, it is still open season on Black people in America.
I shook my head as I read tweet after tweet demonizing the residents of Baltimore because I understood, as so many of us do, that the sadness and outrage experienced by American communities that consistently bear the brunt of racist violence can easily become something more ominous and deplorable.
As a Black woman in America, I regularly battle the gamut of emotions when I hear and read about unarmed sisters and brothers being brutally murdered at the hands of those who’ve sworn an oath to serve and protect. Black women are in the vanguard of the battle against such atrocities, not because social justice is “trending” but because we continue to experience violence with little recourse. Black women are 35% more likely than their white counterparts to be victims of violence, yet makeup only 13% of the U.S. population (Center for American Progress, 2013). Approximately 40% of Black women report coercive contact of a sexual nature by age 18, an ongoing survey by Black Women’s Blueprint places that number closer to 60% (Black Women’s Blueprint, 2011). This speaks volumes about institutional redress available to Black women in America, and the pervasive message of impunity that is strengthened every time violence against a Black person goes unpunished.
How do we survive this? How do we stop the onslaught of violence against Black people? The violence that erupted in Baltimore is the result of generations of sadness and outrage, festering to a boiling point. Though violence in response to violence is reflexive, reactive violence is a dangerous diversion. We must target the root of the problem, pro-actively working towards a complete and restorative justice.
We are organizing and demonstrating. We are engaging in thoughtful dialogue to raise consciousness and accountability. We are collectively using our voices, our talents, and our outlets to galvanize people from all walks of life for the cause of social justice. We are hellbent on disrupting the status quo of unpunished excessive force and racist tactics within law enforcement and government. We are here, organizing, demonstrating, drafting legislation, and teaching because we need the violence to stop. Black people have no choice but to speak out and take action. Our lives depend upon it.
Black Women’s Blueprint works to develop a culture where African-American women are fully empowered and where gender, race, and other disparities are erased. Please visit our website for more information.