Jury selection has begun in the long-awaited murder trial of George Zimmerman, the self-appointed "neighborhood watch captain" who shot and killed unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin in 2012 and then walked free for 44 days, sparking nationwide marches, protests, and calls for his arrest. We, as a nation, mourned individually and collectively upon discovering that 17-year-old Trayvon, donning a "hoodie" and armed with nothing but a bag of Skittles and bottle of iced tea, was gunned down while walking home from a local 7-Eleven. Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon, galvanized Americans across race, gender, class, region, and generation to organize rallies, petitions, marches, and campaigns to raise awareness about racism, violence, and our criminal (in)justice system. More than 2 million supporters signed a petition on Change.org calling for the arrest of Zimmerman. Thousands of protestors marched down the streets of New York City and Philadelphia during "Million Hoodie Marches" to commemorate our lost soldier, holding placards with captions such as "I am Trayvon Martin," "Trayvon Martin is my son," and "We are all Trayvon Martin" (when in reality, many of the demonstrators and their children were more like George Zimmerman). Little black boys in dark hoodies with sad eyes held posters with the words "Am I next?"
About a month after Trayvon's murder sparked a national debate, President Obama weighed in on the case during a press gathering in the Rose Garden, calling it a tragedy and urging the country to do "some soul searching."
"If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said.
"Obviously, this is a tragedy," added the president. "I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and everybody pulls together-federal, state and local-to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened."
A modern-day martyr for black criminalization, Trayvon's untimely death has triggered national conversations about racial profiling, the criminalization of black male bodies, and our unjust legal system, amongst other topics. In recent news, there have been questions raised as to whether Trayvon's family will receive equal justice. "I honestly think this is a civil rights/equal justice issue because everybody in the world is watching to see if everybody in America gets equal justice," stated Benjamin Crump, the family attorney of Trayvon Martin.
While all much needed dialogues, I must question the continued silence surrounding the unjustified murders and infinite struggles of black girls and women throughout the United States: Why are black girls not "our daughters" the same way that Trayvon Martin is "our son"? Why were there no "I am Rekia Boyd" placards held in honor of the unarmed 22-year-old black woman killed by an off-duty Chicago police officer less than one month after Trayvon was murdered? When will President Obama speak out on behalf of 26-year-old Tarika Wilson, who was shot and killed (and her 1-year-old son shot and injured) by a Lima police officer in 2008, or 17-year-old Kiyanna Salter, who was fatally shot on a Chicago Transit Authority bus the same year? When will there be another Million Woman March for all of the black girls and women continually murdered, assaulted, raped, demeaned, invisibilized, and shamed in our own backyard? Why were there no mass marches for Marissa Alexander, the 31-year-old black mother of three sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a bullet at a wall to scare off her husband who was threatening her? Or for the hundreds of women and their fetuses brutally victimized at the hands of illegal abortionist Kermit Gosnell and the poor black women illegally and nonconsensually videotaped and photographed by Johns Hopkins OB/GYN Nikita Levy?
In the Crunk Feminist Collective piece, "Why I Supported the Hoodie March and Not SlutWalk," the author asks important questions regarding the state of black women, black feminism, and the role of black men in ending the oppression of black women:
Do Black men love us as much as we love them? Do they care enough to make sure their racial commitments and their gender politics and investments in unhealthy forms of masculinity don't alienate us? Are they outraged about the shit we're facing?
How do we make it so that our choice to stand up for Trayvon and acknowledge the injustices perpetrated in his name doesn't set Black feminist organizing back three decades, by reinforcing notions about Black men being an endangered species, particularly since in this moment, it feels in some ways, like they are?
While Trayvon's murder sparked much discussion about racism in our country, it should also call attention to sexism, particularly as it intersects with racism to distinctively affect the lives of African-American women. Black women, such as Trayvon's mother, are continually at the forefront of black activism, yet our plight remains invisible. When we think of "black-on-black murder," lynching, riots, executions, and the prison industrial complex, far too often, only black men come to mind. However, as the essays in Gender and Lynching: The Politics of Memory inform us, black girls and women were (and still are) also victims of these brutalities. Black women, for example, are murdered at a rate more than two and a half times higher than white women. We are also the fastest growing prison population and juvenile justice population. And, according to an ongoing study conducted by Black Women's Blueprint, sixty percent of black girls have experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18.
I write this piece not to take away from the life and legacy of Trayvon Martin and the countless other black boys and men who have lost their lives to senseless violence, bigotry, and our criminal (in)justice system, but to remind our nation that black girls and women -- whom Zora Neale Hurston rightfully refers to as "de mule[s] uh de world" -- also suffer (often in silence) within our racist, sexist, capitalist state. Standing at the intersection of the war on drugs, the war on women, and the war on terrorism, we must remember that the lives and bodies of black girls and women are, too, valuable and endangered. We are Trayvon Martin, but we are also Rekia Boyd, Tarika Wilson, Marissa Alexander, Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, and all the other black women who have been lynched and targeted by America's inherently racist criminal (in)justice system.