Race The World Inequality

Black men have been silent about Black women like me for too long

I was only a teenager walking back home from exercising at the track at my old middle school and I still recall this next moment. A group of boys in a car were mad at me because I refused to get in. After my refusal the young teenagers shouted, “Fine you ugly a** b***h!” Another one yelled, “Yea, you stupid a** hoe, no one wanted your ugly a** anyways.” I rushed home because I was terrified and extremely aggravated about what just happened.

I have been followed, whistled at, harassed, dealt with unwanted hands gripping my hips, and this was all even before I was 18. However, one thing I can always depend on, is when I do have the nerve to turn these men down, they will retaliate because they can’t no for an answer.

This week, I opened my Twitter to see tweets about a young Black woman named Tiarah Poyauwith the line Rest in Peace. Tiarah was a 22-year-old college student just like me: young, hopeful, and full of dreams. My heart dropped and then I clicked the link to find out what exactly happened.

It turns out  Poyau, went to the J’Ouvert festival in Brooklyn that night. Like any of us when we plan a night out with our friends, we expect to have fun, dance the night away, and come back safe and sound. I guarantee that Tiarah didn’t think that that rejecting the man grinding on her would then next shoot her in the face.

One of the issues that this stems from is hyper-masculinity. It’s the fact that men feel like they have private and automatic access to women’s bodies. This is what happens when we encourage men to retaliate when women put them in the “friend zone.” Or when men feel like women are obligated to give them a relationship or an ounce of their time, because they are one of the few “nice guys.” 

This is what happens when we don’t scold men for following women down the street trying to get a number. This is what happens when we tell our daughters that boys are mean and hit us, because they like us. This is what happens when we say “boys will be boys.”

This is what happens when we laugh and re-tweet shit like this not, knowing why the woman in this video refused a proposal in the first place. In the comments, people don’t even care if he treated her bad, all that mattered is that she shouldn’t have embarrassed him.

Thus, the cycle of hyper-masculinity continues, and men are left weak and fragile, refusing to take a straight no for an answer. Black women are dying at the hands of violent men looking for revenge for their bruised masculinity, and, let’s face it, lately the perpetrators have been Black men.

I clicked the hashtag and noticed that there was something missing. Most of the outrage of the recent incident was from, (you guessed it) Black women. It has been said many times that the violence Black women face in our own community is too often erased and ignored. Although violence against Black women is a #BlackLivesMatter issue the lives that are mostly publicized are mostly cis-gendered straight Black men. Ask folks to mention a Black women killed by violence and the only one they may be able to speak of is #SandraBland. Black women are being killed and our experiences are constantly ignored and erased, and not mentioned. Typically, Black women are often the movers and shakers of movements centered around Black Liberation However, when we need someone to step up for us no one is present but ourselves and our allies.

Although Tiarah is one of the most recent victims, there are so many more.

Joyce Quaweay was only 24 when she was beaten to death by her boyfriend and his friend, handcuffed naked to a bench. Joyce was the mother of two daughters and the father was her boyfriend and murderer Aaron Wright. Her babies watched closely as their mother’s life was brutally taken away. Apparently, Joyce Quaweay wasn’t “submissive” enough. Aaron Wright lost his job as a police officer at Temple University.

Or Jessica Hampton, who was only 25 when John S. Jones stabbed her, slit her throat, and torso, when she shook her head no after he asked whether she would have her baby. That day on social media, many Black men stated they wouldn’t step up themselves because they don’t want to lose their lives. Even those on the train that day watched and recorded what happened, while Jessica Hampton was brutally murdered in front of their eyes.

Mary Spears was only 27 when she was killed for telling a man that she was involved with someone.

These stories left me outraged and showed that the violence against Black women in the Black community has yet to be addressed. I have organized rallies and protests, and seen firsthand that more people show up for Black men than Black women. I’ve been a part of organizations that have not once brought up the violence and danger Black women face in our community and the outside world. I have been told off by Black men that felt as if I wasn’t organizing for their own liberation enough but they would never show up for me.

I have seen Black men that won’t call out their brothers or work with Black women to erase toxic masculinity. I have tweeted about the struggle of being both Black and woman, and Black men that follow me won’t even speak up unless I am being vocal about someone that looks and lives like them.

Why are Black women being erased from these conversations? Why are our lives being ignored? Black women deserve the same justice and momentum that Black men get when their lives are brutally taken away. Where is everyone when Black women need them the most?

Thankfully, some Black men have came together to organize in different communities, and start the conversation about gender relations and gender-based violence in the Black community.

While writing this I think of Tiarah Pouyau, Jessica Hampton, Mary Spears, and the many women that have been killed all because they told a man no.

I think of myself and how those that know me, know that there is nothing more that I love than going out and being in the middle of the dance floor with my friends around me.

I think of how many times I had to say no to a guy’s advances, and worry that the backlash would be even worse the next.

I think of Tiarah Poyau and how she could’ve been me. I think of how society constantly tells women how to dress, how to protect herself, and when and where to go out to avoid being attacked, raped, or killed.

I think of how all the pressure of preventing men’s attacks has been the burden of women. However, not once has society addressed men.

Today, I am afraid to be both Black and woman. Today, I am afraid that if I tell a man no, that he may just kill me for it.

Lastly, I am afraid because if I am killed, would my own community stand up for me? I just don’t know if I can depend on the Black man for that anymore. What I do know is that Black women must be protected at all cost. If you are silent about the violence and struggle against Black women you are not pro-black, you will never be pro-black, and you were never here for us in the first place.

By Brittany Burnam

Brittany Jenelle Burnam was born and raised in Texas but would be the first to admit that she "aint" no Southern Belle. Brittany is passionate about race, gender, education, poverty, and politics. She is currently the Secretary for the Texas Youth & College Division of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She hopes that one day she can use the power of media to give marginalized groups and their stories a platform. When she isn’t writing she's probably community organizing, dancing, or eating Blue Bell Banana Pudding Ice Cream.