At the outset of this blog, let me first say you do not get to “not all” and “not me” your way out of it. I am not speaking about one White woman. I am talking about White Women collectively. If you are still stuck on, not me, and not all, your name never should have been signed to any letter.
When the Listen to Black Women letter came across my social media feed, I struggled to connect with its authenticity. I couldn’t reconcile that many White women were finally deciding to listen to Black women when Black women have been screaming for decades. For a while, I thought perhaps White women did not hear us. Maybe we weren’t loud enough. So we shouted even louder. We wrote more articles. We gave keynote addresses and served on panels. We shared our stories on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We educated, and we consulted. We wore our pain on our sleeves, and still, nothing changed.
Finally, it dawned on me; it wasn’t that White women were not listening to Black women. I believe White women were indifferent to the suffering of Black women. Essentially, White women didn’t care.
In reading the Listen To Black Women letter, I would have liked to see 2000 White women not look to Mayor Greg Fischer or even Attorney General Daniel Cameron, however, go inwardly and look at themselves. It is easy to point outwardly; it is challenging but much more rewarding when you point inwardly. It is essential for White women to understand how they have benefited from, contributed to, and have been co-conspirators when it comes to White Supremacy and the oppression of Black people-historically and currently. You cannot say, “The silence of the majority of white people, including white women, on the issue of racial injustice, allows race-based inequity and violence to continue with devastating consequences.” And then say, “As white women, we refuse to be silent.”
The truth is, White women, you have been silent. White women in Kentucky have been quiet for far too long. The tragic murder of Breonna Taylor was just the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. There were many opportunities for White women to Listen to Black Women, yet you remained silent. You were silent as Black people were removed from their homes so their communities could be gentrified. You were silent while Black people were overpoliced in their communities. You were silent during the crack epidemic, which decimated Black families for generations. You were silent when Gynnya McMillen was found dead in a juvenile detention center. You were silent when Black girls had to fight for the right to wear their natural hair or braids to school. You were silent as Black children were expelled from JCPS at an alarming rate. You were silent as grocery stores were removed from Black communities. You were silent when Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones were murdered at Kroger simply for Shopping While Black. You were silent as this city quarantined Black people beyond 9th Street. You were silent when a Black legislator attempted to pass a law so Black women could wear their natural hair and not face discrimination. You were silent when Tae-Ahn Lea was racially profiled for Driving While Black. You were silent when this state passed a law to allow armed officers in every school, knowing full well how Black youth are treated within the school system. You were silent when this city passed the Gang Bill that will undoubtedly impact Black people. You were silent when business leaders blamed downtown revenue losses on the ongoing protests and not a pandemic. And your silence extends well beyond the bluegrass of Kentucky.
Do not tell me today that you will no longer remain silent before you stand in a mirror and ask yourself, “Why didn’t I care then? Why didn’t I speak up then? Why wasn’t I listening to Black women then? Why did I remain silent? How have I been a co-conspirator in White supremacy? How have I personally benefitted from White supremacy? Why did it take me so long to pay attention to Black women? How do I have the audacity to ask anyone to listen to Black women, when my actions have shown that I have listened to Black women and disregarded everything they have said? Have I held myself accountable? Have I spoken to Black women about the harm they have faced in their community, often at my hands? Why should Black women trust me?” Ask yourself those questions and be truthful with the answers. Rest in that reality for a minute. Often White women make statements as if Black people’s oppression does not sit squarely at their feet. It is not everyone else. It is you too.
Secondly, the trauma this city has inflicted on Black women is almost indescribable. While certainly existing well before the last six months, the previous six months have shown me where Louisville stands when it comes to Black women. In six months, either myself and/or many Black women have been teargassed, shot with rubber bullets, and arrested for saying no justice, no peace. We have been wrestled to the ground and handcuffed. We have been met by police dressed in riot gear, assault rifles, and carrying batons, all while we carried bottled water and signs demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. In my community, I faced a police line and was told that I would be arrested if I walked in an area in my neighborhood. I have watched my partner have a police officer point an assault rifle at them.
The weight of the last six months has taken a toll on me physically and mentally. Anytime someone says Breonna’s name, I have to ask them, “Do you mean my daughter Brianna or Breonna Taylor?” My daughter has dreams of being killed by the police during a traffic stop. I have been plagued with nightmares. I cannot sleep. I have been sent death threats. Louisville has harmed Black women, and still, we have stood fighting to make this city a better place- a city that many of us have realized will never love us the way we love it. Before White women write another letter to anyone else, White women need to write a letter to Black women for the harm inflicted on us and the damage your longstanding silence has caused. Quite frankly, I am struggling to decide if I can trust White women. Nothing White women have done historically or presently have shown Black women that we can trust you and your actions. No matter how many trendy hashtags White women share online, inevitably, and overwhelmingly, White women have always stood by, supported, and contributed to White supremacy. This is a very long road we are traveling towards justice. If we are to travel it together, there needs to be some healing that takes place, and that healing starts with White women acknowledging their role in the harm inflicted on Black women and offering Black women an apology.
Finally, the Listen to Black Women’s letter centers White women. This isn’t a story about 2000 White women. This is a story about a 26-year-old Black woman that was murdered in her home by the police. This is a story of racism. This is a story of injustice. This is a story of oppression. This is not a time to center your voices or your signatures. This is a moment to elevate Black women’s voices and opinions that have been and will continue to be in this fight. Should there be any letter addressing the Louisville community, Black women should author the letter, and 2000 White women can support the message that Black women put forward. Black women do not need any more performative acts of justice. Black women need real justice that is fueled by listening and action.Center Black women and stand behind us with your full support, as we lead.