I have been nothing short of consumed by the events in Ferguson, Missouri since August 9.
In the days that have followed the gut-wrenching announcement that a grand jury chose not to indict officer Darren Wilson, the killer of teenager Michael Brown, we have witnessed a worldwide display of resistance both online and on the front lines. We’ve memorialized Black people killed via extrajudicial execution. We carry them with us; writing their names on the walls of buildings and on signs, shouting them on the streets, sharing their stories, painfully, with the hope that they won’t fade into obscurity.
But for every dedication to Black people killed by police every 28 hours, there lies an inherent risk of erasing an entire demographic.
I recently asked a relative over the phone if the thought of having Black daughters ever scared them; if they wondered whether or not their daughters would make it home after being stopped by police. They said to me, “I figured if I had Black girls they would have a better chance.”
Those words, while honest and rooted in fright, reflect a larger, flawed perspective taught within the Black community – that immunity from police brutality is granted to Black people who don’t identify as cisgender and male. It’s understandable that Black people outside of this identity remain in the margins for lack of knowing.
I have to vehemently express this because so many of our peers, parents and generations past did the best they could with what they knew. Historically, from lynchings to extrajudicial executions via police shootings, the presumed victims have been cisgender Black men. Black victim has been falsely equated with Black male.
However, understanding a flawed cultural perspective does not make the resulting erasure acceptable.
Cisgender Black boys are often told that if they keep their hands out of their pockets, avoid covering their heads with hoodies whenever possible, and memorize the information on their licenses so they won’t have to reach for them, they might live. We exercise coping mechanisms with the understanding that an officer of the law can and will fire their weapon if they feel so inclined. When these children are targeted, harassed, abused and killed anyway, they are memorialized and continuously referenced as the sole victims. Many ask themselves how they can protect their Black sons, unintentionally continuing the erasure.
We need to recognize Ezell Ford, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and a list of victims that grows every day. This list includes Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Rekia Boyd, Eleanor Bumpurs, Yvette Smith, Tarika Wilson and many more. We need justice for Black people – cisgender, transgender, and gender non-conforming.
We have been wrongfully charged with the task of remaining on guard against all forms of violence, knowing that our abuse often goes unrecognized by the masses. While remaining vigilant, we must collectively acknowledge that our perspectives are limited and do not wholly reflect the demographic of Black people victimized by police brutality every day.