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Kenneth L. Hardin: Black women’s lives matter, too

By Kenneth L. Hardin

In the aftermath of the hollow victory of the George Floyd murder trial and another police killing of a Black man in Elizabeth City, all I could think about was the 2Pac song “Dear Mama.”

Even when I cupped both hands over my ears and tried to drown out all the external noise, I couldn’t get the lyrics out of my head. Regardless of what I did, the song kept flowing down that two-and-a-half centimeter-long canal from my outer ear to the middle. It banged continually against both the left and right sides of my brain. It might’ve had something to do with the way Floyd called out for his mama in the waning minutes of his life.

I couldn’t relate to 2Pac’s words on a personal level because I grew up in a two parent Cosby-like home environment unlike the picture he painted of his upbringing. It wasn’t the musician nor the mesmerizing melody that had me captivated to distraction. It was  more the tribute to his imperfect single mother, who struggled with the hard life of the deck of cards she was dealt trying to make a way for him and his sister that consumed my thoughts as the song enveloped my mind. It wrapped itself around my essence and being, “You just workin’ with the scraps you was given, and Mama made miracles every Thanksgivin’.”

It was her being mired in drug addiction, poverty, single motherhood, and just trying to exist as a strong Black woman in this country that had me so deep in thought and reflection as people got caught up in misguided celebrations of a short lived “victory.” What did Black people really win? The killings haven’t stopped nor has any legislation been passed to assure it ever will.

Another reason the song resonated with me is, with all the attention given to the brutality and murder of Black men at the hands of police officers, I wondered how Black women felt about being seemingly left out of the discussion? “…But the plan is to show you that I understand. You are appreciated.”

According to a September 2020 Washington Post article, Black women are fatally shot by the police at rates higher than women of other races. A graph showed Black women leading at 2.3 per million compared to 1.5 per million for white women, and one per million for Hispanic females.

Aside from the glaring disparity in the statistical information, my mind wandered past familiar names such as Eleanor Bumpus in 1984, Sandra Bland in 2015, and Breonna Taylor in 2020 to some of the less familiar ones such as Alteria Woods, India Kager, Atatiana Jefferson, Charleena Lyles, Deborah Danner and too many other beautiful women of color killed — ranging in age from 7 to 92 years old.

In data taken over a five-year period beginning in 2015, 48 Black women were killed by police, with seven of those being unarmed. My heart is so full of hurt right now that the only words I can muster up to say to those taken too soon, and those still here living in constant fear that they may too become a statistic are borrowed from the song, “Lady, don’t you know we love you? (Dear Mama). Sweet lady, place no one above you. You are appreciated.”

I appreciate our family historian, who has traced our family’s history back to the plantation they toiled and suffered upon in South Carolina. After reading her updates, I close my eyes and wonder what life was like laboring in the fields under the unrelenting oppressive Palmetto sun. I think how hard it must’ve been for the females to live under the rule you could be taken at any time for various forms of pleasure by your owners, and beaten or killed if you resisted in any way. Your dignity was of no concern, and your voice was not a consideration regardless of your desperate pleas for humanity. Your husband was powerless to protect you for fear of being killed, sold off and separated from his family.

Fast forward 400 years and ask yourselves, “Are things much different?” Anjanette Young from Chicago can tell you. She wasn’t serving as a slave on a plantation when her dignity and safety were violated. The licensed social worker was in her apartment in 2019 getting undressed for bed when police officers burst in, handcuffed her and had her stand naked for 20 minutes. Like her ancestors four centuries earlier, they cared nothing for her pleas for dignity and humanity.

She’s not the only one to suffer from a similar lack of civility. Look up the video of the 2015 incident involving a 16-year-old Black female student being dragged from her desk by a school resource officer, and slammed down by her neck. Then, stroll down to Orlando, where a similar incident was reported back in January of this year, with another 16-year-old Black child being slammed so viciously to the concrete by a school resource officer you could hear the thud on video when her head hit the pavement. Finally, a Texas cop was captured on video throwing to the ground, dragging and pinning down a small 15-year-old Black kid at a pool party in 2015. It’s not just young Black women who are being brutalized, but imagine if our children can be harmed without thought or hesitancy, well …

All women, young and mature alike, should be protected from attacks on their dignity and physical well-being, but I’m speaking out for the forgotten demographic whose faces will never be seen on the nightly news. Mary McLeod Bethune told us, “The true worth of a race must be measured by the character of its womanhood.”

Kenneth L. Hardin is a writer living in Salisbury, a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and a former Salisbury city councilman. He can be reached at hardingroupllc@gmail.com.

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