It’s a phrase that doesn’t mention a specific gender but automatically evokes anger and frustration about the recent string of young Black men who have been killed by the hands of police officers.
Many have taken to social media to point out the injustices that young Black men face in America and how they are often targeted by law enforcement.
But while images of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Staten Island father Eric Garner and even 12-year-old Tamir Rice are plastered on protesters’ signs across the country, some can’t help but notice the absence of faces like Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Yvette Smith and Tanisha Anderson.
All of these Black women were also killed by police officers who were meant to serve and protect them.
Rekia Boyd was fatally shot after an off-duty Chicago officer recklessly opened fire over his shoulder at a crowd of at least four people.
Aiyana Stanley-Jones was the 7-year-old Detroit girl who was fatally shot during a police raid back in 2010.
Yvette Smith was shot twice earlier this year after answering the door for police who were responding to a disturbance at her Texas home.
Most recently, Tanisha Anderson, a mentally ill woman, was killed after officers handcuffed her and slammed her down on the pavement.
Anderson’s family called 911 to get an ambulance and obtain medical and mental-health assistance for Anderson but instead the aggressive officers showed up and abused the beloved 37-year-old woman.
The families of these women have struggled to see justice served as none of the officers responsible for the killings have served time behind bars so far, although some were at least charged and are on trial.
The deaths of many unarmed Black men deserve all the national attention they have received, but Kali Nicole Gross just hopes that Black women who are slain by police officers won’t be forgotten as the nation chants “Black lives matter.”
It could be the only way to put an end to the media blackout surrounding the case of 13 Black women who were allegedly assaulted by a police officer in Oklahmona City.
“The women have testified that they were subjected to rape, forcible sodomy and sexual battery,” Gross, an Associate Professor and Associate Chair of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote in a Huffington Post blog entry. “These are among the 36 felony charges leveled against Daniel Holtzclaw.”
DNA of the one of the youngest victims, a girl only 17 years old, was found inside the officer’s pants but he still remains out on bail and his victims’ names are missing from headlines as the nation pushes for an end to police brutality and a lack of accountability within the force.
While Holtzclaw is still out on bail and just as a grand jury announced that Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson would not be charged in Brown’s death, Marissa Alexander was preparing to spend more time behind bars for defending herself against an abusive ex-husband.
Alexander, the Black Florida woman who fired warning shots into the ceiling of her own home after being threatened by her ex, who had an extensive history of violence, has already spent three years in jail.
The deal was made to keep Alexander from possibly facing six decades in jail.
Firing a bullet into a ceiling was punishable by up to 60 years in jail while firing into an unarmed Black teenager, an unarmed black 12-year-old or an unarmed Black 7-year-old is apparently punishable by nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
There was a time that Alexander’s name circulated on social media as users pointed out the injustices in the case, but that social media movement seemed to come and go like an insignificant breeze just passing by.
The justice system is not only allowing Black men to be gunned down by officers, but it is also allowing for the death of young Black women and the incarceration of a battered Black woman who feared for her life—the same claim that officers made that allowed them to walk free.
So while Alexander’s victim, an old ceiling, can be patched and made to look like new again, the victims of officers across the nation will never have the luxury of bidding their loved ones goodbye and there will be a painfully-obvious empty chair at the Garner, Rice, Brown, Anderson, Stanley-Jones, Boyd and Smith family tables this year.