see her


By Thembi Duncan

(Trigger Alert – violent imagery)

A bit of math, inspired by a seminal text of the black womanist movement:

All the women are white. All the blacks are men. All the queers are white men. Therefore, I do not exist.

No room for intersectionality in a zero sum world, and yet I breathe. Through my nose. For the brown face in my mirror has no mouth. I serve my voice to others for breakfast. To children. To men. To women who forsake me. To people who benefit from privilege that I will never hold in my hands.

Every 28 days, a fresh snuff film is released for the consumption of the masses. A black life is seen ending. I refuse to bear witness. I know full well that the images that you see – become a part of you. Funny that I have never seen anyone post a video of a black baby being born. Only death. Despair is my constant companion. Each day, the chants get louder and louder – Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Often countered with – White Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter. There never seems to be enough room on their signs for the rest: “More than yours.”

Black Lives Matter. A social media, social justice, boots-on-the-ground movement sparked by three black queer women. To call attention to black men being lynched in the United States of America. To humanize

American citizens who are being hunted and murdered – American citizens who are given less regard than known terrorists in war-torn foreign lands, for whom our American military MUST respect the rules of engagement. And when they do not, they are prosecuted. But not here. Not in our beautiful, slave-built home – the United States of America.

When I see those queer women, walking the front lines, pounding this blistering, racist American pavement, marching for justice, inspiring more queer black women to take up fists in Canada, London, Israel…I feel my feet begin to stomp. I feel my fist rising, rising, rising…I feel my voice fighting its way to the surface.

But then I breathe in through my nose, and I smell the charred body of Goddess Diamond, who was only 20 when she was murdered and set aflame. Why is she not mentioned among the famous black martyrs? Why is she not a symbol of this Neo-Futuristic Technological Civil Rights Movement?

You say – Maya Young, Reecey Walker, and Dee Whigham were not stabbed by police officers. You say – Skye Mockabee and Shante Isaac were not bludgeoned by police officers. This is about extra-judicial killings, you say. Mercedes Successful and Kandice Johnson were not shot by police, you say. Veronica Banks Cano and Keyonna Blakeney were not mysteriously killed by the police. Yes, Deeniquia Dodds was shot dead in D.C. on the Fourth of July – but not by racist police. You’re mixing apples and oranges, you say.

But putting a woman’s very identity on trial, finding her guilty of inhabiting a mind and body that you deem unacceptable, and then playing judge, jury, and executioner in this twisted, violent injustice – is that not an extrajudicial killing?

If a transgender woman is murdered in the woods and no one is there to record it on their mobile phone, does her death make a sound?

If all of these Black Lives Matter vigils, marches, die-ins, blog posts, hashtags, speeches, poems, plays – are to galvanize us toward social justice, and BLACK is the operative word here, why are black transgender women still not a part of this conversation? This year so far, they have been killed at a rate of almost two per month. Do we not even care? I do. I recognize that I hold so many marginalized flags that my cisgender privilege is often obscured from my view. What about you?

This is not the Oppression Olympics, though if it were, black queer women would surely pull silver.

Tonight, consider what most black women do – for most of their lives – think of someone else first. Open your eyes a little wider and see her. Her black life matters, too.

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