“When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.” — Ethiopian proverb
America’s Black community is not a monolith, as with any other collection of people. Black US citizens comprise male, female, gay, straight, trans, disabled, Latinx, American-born, West Indian, African, Christian, Muslim, and several other individuals. At times, however, members of the same and differing groups within this community find themselves at odds with each other. Examples include tensions between Africans and Black Americans and Black Christians who disapprove of homosexuality.
Unfortunately, intraracial tensions have made their way into discussions concerning the unjust murders and treatment of Blacks by law enforcement, as well as those who are the victims of White supremacy. On Sunday, May 31st, CNN featured a special report hosted by journalist Don Lemon titled “I Can’t Breathe — Black Men Living and Dying In America,” which was promoted via Twitter. This title offended many Black women who felt erased from the conversation, though both Black women and girls have also been victims of police brutality and White supremacy. To this point, Twitter user HoodooQueen responded, “Not watching since y’all didn’t include blk women. We always get forgotten it’s sickening.”
The title of CNN’s special was inappropriate given the reality of injustices faced by all groups within the Black community. America is a patriarchal society, which often prioritizes men over women. It is not far-fetched to believe this occurs within and impacts the Black community. As an example, Black men were allowed voting rights before their female counterparts; before all US women. Moreover, the only Black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are reportedly men.
Nevertheless, priority given to Black men in America is not always a privilege. Concerning interactions with law enforcement, research indicates that this group is at increased risk for being killed by police, more so than any other demographic in the US. Much of this has to do with historical depictions of Black men as bestial or criminal, labels that have been assigned to Black women as well. Stereotypes also contribute to incarceration rates, in which Black men lead all other groups in America. Additionally, several high-profile cases of police brutality, along with deadly White racism, aimed at Black people feature Black men being killed on video. Examples include the murders of Markeis McGlockton, Eric Garner, Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, and most recently Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
While there have been instances where Black women being harassed or killed is caught on video, such as the murder of Atatiana Jefferson, visuals most often seen in media are of Black men. Unfortunately, videos of Blacks being wrongfully killed may resonate more than stories. There is evidence that videos enhance learning and increase engagement. This, along with statistics concerning the adversities disproportionately impacting Black males, might partially explain why Black men are prioritized when incidents of police brutality and White supremacist-involved killings surface. However, outrage and coverage of these events should not take precedence over the deaths of other Black groups.
All Black life matters. All stories of Blacks being targeted and killed due to White supremacy must be shared, with the intention of bringing justice to these issues. Misogyny and bigotry are present in the Black community, as is the case with other communities. These attitudes can change with time given a concerted effort. It is imperative that Blacks stay united on one front to quell the occurrence of police brutality and death caused by White supremacy. Each group within the Black community is at risk, for racism transcends all other isms. When intersected with any other identity, race, specifically being Black, makes any marginalized identity that much worse.