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.
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.
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.
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.