Connect The Dots: For Korryn Gaines, Skye Mockabee and Joyce Quaweay

Since Friday, there have been stories of three Black women killed by acts of state-sanctioned and intimate partner violence. Those are just the three we lost this weekend, that we know about, but I’m sure there are others.

On Friday in Philadelphia, Joyce Quaweay’s partner stripped her, handcuffed her, and beat her to death while his best friend watched and assisted. Her children watched, too. These two men, one a former Temple University police officer, the other a current TUPD officer, were still beating her dead body when the cops arrived. Her “crime?”: Failure to submit.

On Saturday morning, Cleveland police officers found Skye Mockabee’s body in a parking lot. She is the 17th trans person killed this year.

On Monday, Baltimore County police officers arrived at the home of Korryn Gaines to serve a warrant for failure to appear on a traffic citation. They claimed that Korryn pulled a gun on them; subsequently they shot her and her five year old son, whom she was holding, killing her and injuring her baby boy. They also suspiciously scrubbed her social media accounts during after the incident. Korryn is the 9th cisgender Black woman killed by police this year.

Can we talk for a moment about patriarchy? It’s not a word that gets used much these days. Somehow, we can see Black cis and trans women being slaughtered with every kind of violence and still not connect the dots. Why don’t we know how to talk about this?

These killings which happened basically over the course of a long weeked (Friday to Monday) represent with stunning clarity the structural precarity that shapes all Black women’s lives.

Joyce Queweay was fatally disciplined because according to her partner and his friend, she would not submit. Unless this is a BDSM scenario, it’s is not appropriate for a grown ass woman to submit to a grown ass man. I don’t care what your Bible says. The romanticization of dominance and submission kills.

Once every 19 hours a Black woman is killed by a man, usually by an intimate partner, usually with a gun. Once every 21 hours, the man killing her is a Black man. Many of us are quick to quote that statistic from the 2012 report of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, which says that every 28 hours a Black person is killed by police, security guards, or vigilantes. Yet, we are losing at least one Black woman per day to intimate partner violence in this country, and beyond sick outrage and fascination, we can’t quite figure out what to do about it.

Trans women of color have a reported life expectancy of 35 years. Skye Mockabee was only 26 years old.

Korryn Gaines has become yet another victim of a militarized police state that uses SWAT Teams to serve warrants. Why, you ask, do SWAT Teams serve warrants? They have not always done so, but my good friend, Dr. Melanye Price has explained to me, that after a decade of post-9/11 wars and the ramping up of police militarization, we have an over-abundance of highly weaponized police officers in a world where violent crime rates are falling. Add to that a context where you have declared Black urban neighborhoods war zones, and treat Black citizens who live in them like enemy combatants, you can then combat police officer boredrom by allowing them to play war games with ordinary citizens. This is why the recent, extensive new policy platform from the Movement for Black Lives calls for among other things an “End to the War on Black People.” Demilitarizing police forces and stopping fucking SWAT Teams from serving traffic warrants would be a pretty obvious beginning.

The murders of all these women on their own are appalling and incensing enough. But the problem is that we reserve most of the outrage for what happened to Korryn Gaines. Because it fits a narrative that we understand. That narrative centers around white supremacy and the enactment of state violence against Black people.

But somehow, we have a paltry analysis of patriarchy in this moment, and the ways in which both cis and trans Black women continue to be murdered on the daily by both cishetero men in intimate relationships and by police officers who are utterly unmoved by any claims to Black women’s femininity. Our womanhood does not protect us from state-based racism and misogynoir.

Misogynoir, Moya Bailey’s term for hatred of Black women, girls and femmes, is not just cultural. It’s structural.

Skye Mockabee
Skye Mockabee

Because Skye was a transwoman, her story does not galvanize marches, petitions, or broad demands from Black communities that her murderer be found and prosecuted.

Joyce Queweay
Joyce Quaweay

Because two brothers brutally beat Joyce Quaweay, we refuse to have a robust Movement conversation about the rampant nature of intimate partner violence, because we don’t want to further pathologize brothers who are already viewed as inherently criminal by the system. That these two police officers used the playbook of state violence to exacerbate their enactment of quotidian forms of male violence towards women is not a part of the conversation either.

Korryn Gaines
Korryn Gaines

Because Korryn Gaines (allegedly) had a gun and was also holding her baby, Black male mansplainers have been turnt all the way up victim blaming her for ending up dead. They did it to Sandra Bland, too. Apparently, the only armed Black folks we can be outraged for are men like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

But isn’t the logic the same though?

Submit or die.

Submit to the police or die. Submit to your intimate (cishet Black male) partner or die. The state kills Black women and all Black people who don’t submit. Think Sandra Bland. Think Eric Garner. Think Mike Brown. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile submitted and died anyway.

But then, at least once a day, brothers kill sisters who don’t submit .

Black men’s lack of solidarity in this moment, tells us something about how deeply invested many Black men are in narratives of dominance and submission. Even though Black men often accuse Black women of colluding with the state against them, which is often why we don’t call the cops when they are beating us to death, what is more true, is that Black men are the colluders. The one thing that state based agencies and many, many brothers agree on is the blame of Black mothers, for the terrible things that happen to Black children. Korryn Gaines was holding and protecting her son from state-based terrorists with guns. That they thought he was an acceptable casualty in order to apprehend her is a failure of their logic not hers. Too many brothers are deeply invested in a narrative of patriarchal submission, even as they balk at and die under the state’s violent mandate that they (and all Black people) do the same.

But when we pursue a social analysis that fails to robustly consider patriarchy alongside challenges to white supremacy and capitalism, we’ll miss the convergence of violent logics.

And I’m going to say this, too. One of the things I credit online feminist and queer activism, and the Movement for Black Lives for doing is, making clear to us the structural precarity of trans Black women’s lives. Every single year we see an epidemic of murders of trans folks, and our collective response is nothing short of anemic.

But let us not get it twisted that cis Black women are doing well in this system. We are not. Let me be clear – cis privilege is real. Cis Black women are frequently violent, vile, and transphobic towards trans Black women. Cis Black women are often dangerously invested in gender categories that we had to struggle for access to, and those categories don’t protect any of us at the end of the day.

But what Joyce, Skye, and Korryn teach us together, in the space of a violent long weekend, is that all Black women’s lives are shaped in the context of multiple kinds of state-based and intimate jeopardies, and in the end, neither the state, nor (unevolved) cishetero Black men are a respecter of persons when it comes to whom they’ll slaughter. These sisters, taken together, teach us Black women are more often victims of lethal state and intimate violence, than perpetrators. In this moment, we need better analysis of how patriarchy shapes the life conditions of Black womenfolk, trans and cis, included, because we dying in these streets. (We are sophisticated enough to come up with an analysis that does not let Black ciswomen off the hook for transphobia, but that also does not gloss over the intensity and pervasiveness of state and communal forms of violence against all sisters. Black feminism been teaching us for 100 years that the femaleness that constitutes most forms of Black womanhood is a site of extreme violence, domination and cruelty. We can, should, and will ride for the right of our trans and gnc sibs to live and thrive, without succumbing to an inadequate analysis of structural violence against all Black femme-identified folk.)

So even as we march, wail, organize, and bring the revolution we so desperately need, let’s keep our Black feminist weight up. Let’s keep our theorizations of patriarchy tight. Let’s keep connecting the dots. Let’s think more robustly about jeopardy, intersectionality, and simultaneous oppressions, than we have been. We owe it to Black women and Black people to do so.

 

Feel free to call the names of Black women victims of state and intimate partner violence in the comments section. And feel free to share your thoughts as well.

29 thoughts on “Connect The Dots: For Korryn Gaines, Skye Mockabee and Joyce Quaweay

  1. Powerfully and inclusively written! Thank you for connecting these patriarchal, transphobic, racism and sexism dots. I look forward to sharing this and inviting others to think critically and give voice to not only the reasons for the murders but also the response to them.

  2. One thing to add is that Korryn Gaines had lead poisoning and was disabled!!!

    We cannot keep ignoring that the majority of police violence against us is against DISABLED black folx.

    1. Yes, I saw that information after I posted this morning. It’s the convergence of many things — disability, poverty, housing discrimination, militarism, patriarchy, and white supremacy, all on the body of a 23yr old Black woman/girl (and her baby). It’s soul crushing. One of my friends said, “the state been killing her since childhood.”

  3. While you raise so good points, you’ve built your argument on the false narrative that a swat team was sent to serve Ms Gaines with a warrant. In fact the standard warrant squad was sent to Ms Gaines residence with a single non swat police officer which is common practice. I know that the rule of three makes for a more compelling essay, but in this case it seriously dilutes what could have been a stronger more engaging piece. It’s important when taking on an important subject to research before you write. The fact that a warrant team and not a swat team has been all over the media and to include unfactual information leaves the reader to infer that it’s either a lazy author or worse someone weaving an intentional false narrative.

  4. 1.) Video clearly shows SWAT officers at her door. From what I understand, state law typically mandates that failures to appear on traffic citations are handled by suspending the person’s license, not showing up at their house with a “warrant squad.” Second, in cities all over this country, SWAT Teams are often sent to serve warrants, and sending any “squads” to serve warrants on non-violent offenses is patently absurd and is evidence of militarized over policing.

    2.) So when we have a 23 yr old Black woman dead and her 5 year old baby with bullet wounds over a traffic citation, dilution isn’t the word. Go away.

    1. The #KorrynGaines story is difficult in that they are reporting two people in the household had warrants. No reports I’ve read have detailed what charges were against the male occupant.

      Her mental health doesn’t greatly influence this situation. I have a MSW, and mental disabilities can make people act irrationally. Most people in society, not just Black women, are asked to submit and comply with officers. When you don’t, you’re opening the door for confrontation.

      She didn’t just happen to be in possession of weapon, she aimed the weapon at the officers. While there are cases where White people do the same and aren’t killed, they are plenty where White people do the same and are killed.

      It’s hard to separate the fear many Black people may have in response to officers and our right to Protect ourselves. She may indeed been fearful or in protective mode, but her mental illness may have exacerbated her reaction beyond an average citizen which played a factor to this awful situation.

      Yes, there are many things wrong with the police system and their militarization that I’m sure made this situation worse.

      I’m all for BlackLivesMatter, systematic change in our criminal justice system etc.., but we also have to acknowledge some Black folks engage in criminal or problematic activities (whether mentally ill or not). Driving without your tags is illegal. Not showing up for court leads to warrants for your arrest.

      Once again, I’m not justifying her murder as I don’t know all police protocols. I believe they should not act as state sanctioned executioners.

      Every time a Black person dies at the hands of a police officer may not warrant a rallying cry.

      1. Why not? Without a rallying cry most of us would be unaware of the patterns and trends happening across the nation at alarming rates. Without a rallying cry black women’s deaths are invisible, illegible, and ignored, like when black girls go missing. Crunktastic uses this platform to insist that we grapple with the complexity of black women and girls lives and deaths.

      2. There were two stories out this week in Virginia and Oklahoma, where white men shot at and jumped on the cops, respectively, and somehow both these men lived. I want all police to practice the same de-escalation tactics for Black folks as they manage to practice for white men having mental issues or being unduly aggressive each and every day. Nothing short of outrage is warranted here.

      3. A traffic violation is not punishable by death. And, as the video showed, Ms. Gaines had a legitimate fear (based on her previous engagements with them) that the police were there to kill her and her family. Her mental state probably contributed to this belief, but whatever caused it, she truly feared for her life and the life of her child. That is the legal definition of self defense. I think that if the cops can use that definition to defend themselves against charges of murder for shooting a child with a plastic gun, Ms.Gaines has no less right to that defense. What the argument comes down to is that we need to start holding the police to a HIGHER standard than the community at large is held to. They do not have the right to be judge, jury, and executioner. Ever. Most traffic violations and failure to appear warrants are sent in the mail, not an armed “squad.” The state’s overreaction to the situation are what caused her death and the shooting of a five year old. When the government STOPS thinking that PoCs and poor people are the enemy, then we will no longer see situations like this.

  5. Excellent! Now, how do we get the message to the misogynoirs and misogynists? For these men to have been hired by the Temple University Police department means they were fairly educated but probably never took a women’s or gender studies course. Maybe, we ought to raise our voices and call for WGS courses to be required for graduation.

  6. Thank you. As an intersex, assigned female at birth, genderqueer Black disabled Aspie who’s queer as fuck, this is by far the only BLM article that feels truly inclusive without letting anyone off the hook.

    Misogynoir.

  7. OMG! Finally the article I’ve been waiting to read, though I’ve been saying this for years. As a Black Trans Woman, out for 25 years I have never been so fearful as I’ve been lately. Black we’ve got to come together, Male Patriarchy sits above white supremacy in my mind and we cannot disrupt one without addressing the other. Phenomenal Women, Rise!

  8. Thank you for writing this thoughtful piece. I shared it with my network in the hopes that they be reminded of the same points you raised, rallies and emotional responses (anger, sadness, denial) not only be reserved for black men who die at the hands of the police force. Black women (cis and trans) are too often left out of the conversation because its as if this violence, by intimate partners specifically, is expected to occur. As if domestic violence is inherently part of black culture. I’d like to learn/be informed more about this topic, thanks for reminding me and for calling out complacency.

  9. The heavy use of euphenism (intimate partner violence, repeat…) in this article to avoid saying, quite simply, that black men are killing black women at a genocidal rate says everything about the state of the black community in America and of the inability for black people to respond to it in the brutally honest terms it so desperately needs.

    Black men are killing black women at a genocidal rate. Black men are killing black women at a genocidal rate.

    That this article is far more confident in calling out black women who are ‘mean and vile’ to trans women but can’t quite muster the same outrage for the black men who are killing all black women says everything. The writer’s point about black women not been protected by their womanhood came across as tepid and an unconvincing against the calling out of so-called cisgendered black woman priviledge. Cis-gendered women aren’t benefitting from any woman priviledge within the black community because we aren’t seen as authentic women, one may say that transwomen are collateral damage in this degenerate black male ‘s lashing out that they cannot occupy and perform patriarchy (what you’re all calling white supermacy) as they see white men do.

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