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Breonna Taylor Showed Us That Black Women are Still Invisible

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Editor's Note

If you’re Black in America, the following post could be potentially triggering.

I was raised to be seen and not heard.

My mother told me in the presence of men and boys to not talk too much so I would not intimidate them with my intelligence. I rebuked this mindset. I am a proud Black woman and I deserve to be seen and heard. There is not a space that I do not belong in. Our culture tries to erase Black women like myself — tries to say we need to obediently stand in the shadow of the Black man since he is being oppressed by the White man. This movement for racial justice cannot leave us behind like it tried to do for Breonna Taylor.

I was appalled to hear about what happened to Breonna Taylor. There were not words to describe what transpired that night and the aftermath. I feel for her family and her community. I feel for her as a sister.

All Black people are inextricably linked. There were no protests the next day after Breonna was killed. No one took notice as her family stood alone. Where was the marching? Where was the outcry?

Black women are invisible.

The work horses of our communities. When George Floyd died there was an uprising, but Breonna’s death went unnoticed. Where is Breonna’s 8.46 minute long moment of silence? Where are the signs and posters? Where is Breonna’s 2.23-mile solidarity run?

Black women are invisible.

Do you know that Black women started the #blacklivesmatter movement? They are Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Say their names. You know the women behind the Civil Rights Movement like Ida B. Wells, Septima Clark and Mary Church Terrell? No, we don’t know their names. Say their names.

Early leaders such as these spoke out for their rights as people of color and as women.

Black women are invisible

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Black women were key strategists but were often left out during the storytelling.

Black women are invisible.

One night Breonna Taylor went to bed and never again woke up. She was gunned down in her bed by three police officers — Jonathan Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove, Brett Hankinson — who had entered her home under false pretense in Louisville, Ky.

Black women are invisible.

The officers recently wrote in an email that they were the victims in all of this. That they had not violated her civil rights. That they had done nothing wrong. They had done something wrong; she was lying in her bed. She was not a threat. And yet she now lies dead. How can that not be violation of her civil rights?

We have had an awakening in this country around racial justice, and the racial trauma that racism imposed on the black community is killing us. Where is justice for Breonna? She was laid to rest back in March and the movement left her behind. It was not until later after George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery received so much attention that eyes turned to Breonna’s story. The three officers involved are still free as of September 23, 2020.

NOTE: One of the three officers was charged with wanton endangerment not because the officers killed Breonna Taylor but because his bullets also went into neighbors’ apartments.

We do not value Black women’s lives like we do others or sympathize with their plight. We believe Black women are fine on their own and do not need help.

Black women are invisible.

Movements seem to leave somebody behind. If it is not the suffrage movement leaving Black women behind, it’s the Civil Rights Movement leaving Black women behind or it’s the LGBT movement leaving trans people behind.

We cannot move together as a nation for full rights and justice for everyone if we keep leaving people behind. Our rights and our freedoms are inextricably linked. We cannot leave any body behind if we want to move forward.  

Black women are sworn to secrecy to not speak the truth about their lives, to not speak truth to power. We are just to remain silent witnesses to the brutality and the theft of our lives. It is not okay, and it is untenable and we must act as a nation to ensure that the lives of Black women are honored, valued and fought for. The myth of the strong Black woman is like shackles around our necks. We are so invisible that we cannot ask for help. We are strong but we should not have to withstand the beatings of society alone.

I will no longer be invisible. I am not invisible.

Maya Lorde

Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

Originally published: September 23, 2020
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