Earlier this week, I saw the sign that a group of Black women painted a message to Black men.
Dear Black Men,* [Cisgender and Straight]
-While you’re busy Not fighting for us, Remember that You’re killing us too!
The hung this portion of it from an overpass on a highway. But there was more.
For Korryn Gaines.
For Skye Mockabee.
For Joyce Quaweay.
For Dee Whigham.
For all Black women and femmes.”
We hung this over the highway today to remind Black cisgender-straight men of the truth. You don’t shut shit down for us when we’re murdered by the police, by this system, or by our community. While you spend all this time justifying our deaths, don’t forget that you’re on the list of things we fear the most. The biggest threat to black women and femmes safety is not just white and non-Black people, it’s you.
We are the revolution. And you can’t silence us anymore.
This is just the beginning. This will no longer be a conversation we “keep in the house” because you can’t be trusted to hear us, protect us, humanize us, or love us. We’re dedicated to airing out all of our intra-community violence laundry until shit changes. Fuck white people hearing our problems, this isn’t about their voyeurism! This about our lives and our safety!
We ain’t fighting for y’all no more until you stop killing us and until you start centering the violence, trauma, and pain we suffer by antiblack misogynistic violence. This is a new Black future.
Shackelford wrote this letter after she noticed the lack of response from Black men during the recent killing of mother Korryn Gaines. As you know, Gaines was killed in her home during a standoff with police. Her son was somewhere in the home with her when the shooting took place and was wounded. Many dismissed Gaines as crazy or deserving of her death, even though it was a few ticket violations that led the police to her house in the first place.
Perhaps, Shackelford wasn’t just speaking about Black men as a group, perhaps she was even addressing the Black man who was in Gaines’ home when the police initially showed up. He fled the scene with her youngest child.
We don’t have to discuss the truth behind Shackelford’s words. I’ve seen and heard of countless marches dedicated to the Black men who have been killed at the hands of police. They’re widely publicized, the talking heads come out. The hashtag pops. And Black men defend the victim publicly and privately. But Korryn didn’t get that same treatment. Rekia didn’t get that same treatment. And even marches for Sandra Bland, perhaps the most well-known and well publicized death of a Black woman at the hands of police, had poor turnout.
Furthermore, when Black women try to present an issue that directly affects us in our daily lives, often at the hands of Black men, i.e. domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, we are demonized and dismissed. Much the same way the media and racists dismiss the victims of police brutality.
Like I said, I saw this story yesterday and I nodded my head. “Yup, true.” But I didn’t think to write about it until I saw it posted on a male Facebook friend’s wall.
Along with the picture, he included this caption:
“I agree with the message but the timing is bad. It wasn’t black boys matter it’s black lives matter. This is going to cause a divide during a time we need to be united. Deja Vu all over again.”
His caption immediately brought to mind Martin Luther King Jr.’s response in the Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963. If you’ll remember it was Dr. King’s peers, members of the clergy like himself who called his efforts and marches, his movement and purpose “unwise and untimely.” You’ll remember that he said the word “wait” almost always meant “never.”
And the same is true for Black women.
The relationship between America and Black folk and the relationship between Black men and Black women are strikingly similar. In the same way that Black folks birthed the American economy and built the nation, Black women have birthed and built up Black men. And the same ways in which Black folk have been seen as less than in the eyes of America; we, Black women, are seen as second class and inferior by our own people. In the same ways that Black people are questioned and even accused of being racist for expressing pride in our identity and calling for equal rights, is the same way Black women are accused of being anti-men and even anti-community for identifying themselves as feminists.
It’s preposterous to think that a group of people could be responsible for your success as a nation only to turn around and legally classify them as 3/5 human. And it’s absurd to think that the same women who have been fighting on the frontlines for Black men, from Ida B. Wells to Fannie Lou Hamer to Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, would be dismissed and told to wait for a resolution to the issues that matter to us.
How dare the people who are responsible for America’s economy, infrastructure and innovation be told to wait? How dare the very demographic who formed the movement that is fighting for Black men, be told to wait by those same Black men? It’s a slap in the face to both the public and private sacrifices Black women have made and continue to make for Black men.
And the same is true for the LGBT community. The women who founded Black Lives Matter are queer. DeRay McKesson, one of the most visible faces of the movement is openly gay. And while he has literally sacrificed his time, money and even freedom for the cause of Black Lives, straight, Black men who haven’t even done an eighth as much can’t appreciate his efforts because he’s gay. And as much as some people like to act like being gay is some type of new fad, Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, most likely, were all gay and some of the strongest advocates for our people.
It’s unbelievable. And Black women are tired of it. In the same ways people have asked America where it would be without Black folk, Black men need to ask themselves where they would be without Black women and the LGBTQ community.
Veronica Wells is the culture editor for MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of the recently released book “Bettah Days.”