“The most disrespected person in America is the Black Woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman,” –Malcolm X.
There are no words that could describe the tragic killing of Porsha Owens other than senseless and evil. On Wednesday morning, her life was disastrously taken in front of her three children. The perpetrator was Mark Haywood, an 18-year-old, black male who approached Owens with the intent to steal her car. When things didn’t go his way and she refused—he took her life.
Owens was able to get up and seek out help at a neighbor’s house before collapsing. While awaiting medical attention, Owens’s oldest son, remained by her side. Knowing what was awaiting her Owens apologized to her son who was holding her and told him she was about to die. Sadly, after being rushed to the hospital—Owens succumbed to her wounds and was later pronounced dead. Fortunately, the children were unharmed throughout the ordeal.
But in the same day, not even four hours after the murder of Owens, another woman was killed on West Florissant and Goodfellow by her boyfriend. According to Real STL News, the victim was shot in the head and then thrown from the vehicle—left for dead.
Unfortunately, the rise in black, female victims lost to senseless killings has esclated across the city and country. In 2016, Brandi Hill suffered the same fate as Owens as she was cornered on Washington Avenue (St. Louis) by two, young black males trying to carjack her. Like Owens, she was shot and left for dead as her baby girl was thrown from her car.
As crime rates increase, black men are being killed at rapid rates—carted off to jail—and sexual predatory behavior and assault are put on a public platform—the question remains: Who will protect and save black women if we can’t count on our black men?
Throughout history, black women have had to be their own heroes. Whether it was being the backbone of our families or fighting sexism and racism—we’re always left standing in the shadows as we navigate through the trauma alone. Malcolm X said it best when he mentioned how unprotected we are left. We are uncovered. There are so many women—black women who experience sexual violence, abused, harassment, prejudice and even death at the hands of the world and black men. Through entertainment and music, we are exploited and humiliated by our black men.
Our shame is on public display for the world to see. Our vulnerability and humanity are ignored while we’re left to pick up the pieces and put ourselves back together. We see it every day as black women are constantly ridiculed, overlooked, stereotyped—not just by the world, but by our own black men.
Whenever a black woman is assaulted by someone whether famous or not—we’re immediately villainized and attacked with misogynistic rhetoric like, “Why was she at that location?” ‘What did she have on?’ ‘She just trying to get paid,’ ‘She was asking for it.’” We’ve seen it repeatedly, as it is constantly implied that whether it was sexual assault or other violent acts—we somehow brought the trauma on ourselves.
When we stand up for ourselves, we are categorized as angry, loud, and ghetto by the world. When we exhibit signs of intelligence and professionalism in the workplace, we are classified as a bitch. When we have created a great lifestyle for ourselves and are fiscally responsible, we’re too damn independent. If we show signs of high self-esteem and standards, we’re stuck up. When we decide to wear a short skirt, tight-fitting clothes, or we are sexually uninhibited, we are labeled as attention-seeking whores.
Black women are adored for having this God given strength, but we are abandoned when we are unable to be strong, which often leaves us in a state of confusion. We are revered for our capabilities to face anything, yet that very strength is often used as a weapon against us. Most times, we are punished by black men for being strong and independent. We’re made to feel as if our strength is a flaw we should somehow be ashamed of. In times of trauma, our strength is used like a boomerang with the expectation we should be able to fix our own problems since we’re so damn strong.
But here’s the thing,
Black men should never stay silent when black women are faced with trauma, abuse, and violence. They should never participate in the violation and exploitation of our bodies, integrity, humanity, and overall existence at the expense of being entertained or ridiculed themselves. Instead of the being villains and orchestrators of our pain—black men who are deemed our protectors, should be our heroes in the face of any kind of mistreatment society thrusts our way.
Alas, that’s not always the case.
And as I steer through this world as a black woman, I am left with so many questions: Who is left to stand up for us? Are we always going to be our own heroes? Who if not black men do we turn to for safety and protection?
Black women can save everyone else, but who will save black women?
UPDATE: The young woman killed on W. Florissant and Goodfellow name is Loreal Goode.