‘We Are Black Women’: A Story of Injustices in America and Holding Power Accountable
When I was 16, I came home from school on the bus and 20 minutes later heard a loud knock on my door followed by the bellows of, “POLICE!” OPEN UP! Home alone and unsure of what to do, I answered the door. I had been accused by my neighbor of running her mailbox over, despite the fact that I did not have a license at the time, and I had just walked home from the bus stop.
The police were on my front porch saying I fit the description and that it just had to be me! My neighbor, the police, and even my parents all seemed to believe I was at fault because of what one Caucasian woman said.
It didn’t matter that I had been on the bus. It didn’t matter that I did not drive at the time. It did not matter that I repeatedly said it was not me that did it. The only thing that appeared to matter was that I was a Black woman, and I must be at fault. Knowing that my own family would believe a police officer over their own daughter made me feel very discouraged and detached from my family.
I wish I could tell you that this has only happened to me once.
But that’s not my story.
Time and again, I’ve been faced with racial profiling.
A year after the mailbox incident, I was in my car driving to Zaxby’s and noticed I was being followed by a police officer. I was not doing anything illegal, but my heart still dropped because it was nighttime, and I was driving alone.
A year after that, I got pulled over by a sheriff for speeding. I could not help but think about the countless police encounters that ended in Black people being shot and killed simply because police feel threatened simply by looking at a skin color.
Whether it was me in Rocky Mount, NC, Eleanor Bumpurs in the Bronx, LaTanya Haggerty in Chicago, or Rosann Miller in Brooklyn, it is evident that Black women have been racially and sexually profiled at rates that surpass that of our white counterparts, and yet we hear very little of this in the media.
The organization Black Lives Matter was created by Black women who stood in solidarity with Black men who have been victims of police brutality and killings, but it seems that Black women can never receive the same treatment when it comes to their encounters with the police. Each time I am walking, driving, or just enjoying myself and happen to see a police car, I always get an eerie feeling in my heart. Sometimes I wonder, will I be the next traffic stop gone wrong? Will my friends and I have a tragic interaction with the police that gets minimized because we are Black women?
As a Black woman, I have two choices in today’s America: speak out and take action or do nothing, and I decided long ago to take action. I joined the organization Common Cause NC as the only fellow representing Bennett College. During my fellowship, I hosted events that aimed and targeted the people in power, ranging from politicians to police officers. Today, I am a scholar earning a master’s degree in English and African American literature so that I can use my writing abilities to illuminate the stories of Black women that have been attempted to be suppressed.
You can educate yourself about the rates at which Black and brown women are targeted in interactions with the police and why they never make the media headlines like our male counterparts. You can learn what microaggressions are and how they disproportionately affect Black and brown women. You can learn how to address situations of racial profiling, even if you are not at the receiving end. And most importantly, you can always rise up, use your voices, and please, please speak out! Your voice can inspire others to take a stand against injustices in this world.
Together, we can hold power accountable!