Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw Teaches America To #SayHerName

Civil rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw is in an active battle for justice that we all need to join.

Kimberle Crenshaw

The killing of men like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin fueled the fire for the Black Lives Matter movement, which has taken the world by storm. There are few places in America where the tragic stories of these men, and many young black men like them, aren’t known. The people we don’t know are young black women like Aura Rosser, Natasha McKenna, and Michelle Cusseaux. The killing of these women, along with countless others have fanned the flames for the #SayHerName campaign.

Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw is a fierce proponent of the #SayHerName campaign. Crenshaw is notable for her introduction of the term “intersectionally” in the 1980s, which speaks to the particular challenges faced by black women because of the overlapping discrimination of being a woman, and being black. As a passionate activist, Crenshaw is well-versed in the details of stories like Tanisha Anderson – who died ten days before Tamir Rice’s shooting. Anderson resisted being forced into a police van and her head was slammed against concrete pavement.

Teaming up with lawyer Andrea Ritchie, Crenshaw released a report last year detailing nearly 70 cases of unnecessary brutality against young black women. The most disheartening factor is the U.S. has no all-encompassing record of how many people have been killed by police. The story of Sandra Bland certainly shook the nation with its irrefutable video evidence, but Crenshaw has recognized a larger problem: the way these innocent women are killed. “Disability – emotional, physical and mental – is one of the biggest risk factors for being killed by the police, but it is relatively suppressed in the conversation about police violence,” she told The Guardian.

#SayHerName

The #SayHerName campaign reminds the world these women matter and their stories need to be heard and acted upon. (source)

The lives of black women and girls are written off in a way that can no longer be ignored, particularly in light of the attention and uproar elicited by the loss of black men and boys. Rekia Boyd’s family was given $4.5 million in court, but the off-duty officer who shot her was cleared of all charges. Seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed without a second thought in a raid of her grandmother’s home. The #SayHerName campaign seeks to tell these stories, while simultaneously pointing out the almost reckless state violence that black women are affected by.

Crenshaw is aware the narrative needs to change in order for these merciless killings to cease. This means taking a more critical eye to precisely what kind of victory Beyoncé’s Lemonade Project is, scrutinizing our social definition of feminism and what it means to be a feminist. “Having a monolithic view of feminism is suffocating,” she explained to The Guardian. “What worries me is when it turns vitriolic and tracks on to other ways that women are marginalised. So, to call women old and out of touch is a traditional way to silence them. Nor do you want the trope of young and unaware to travel without interrogation. We don’t want to undermine our collective voice.”

Black lives matter. Black women matter. Black girls matter. Saying these truths isn’t enough, unless there is action behind them. The #SayHerName campaign is the first of many steps in the journey to address the double discrimination black women fight through every single day in this country, and if Professor Crenshaw is any example, we have a lot more work to do to put an end to merciless police violence.

Photo source.



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