#SayHerName: The Failure of the Black Woman Superhero Rhetoric

I’m numb. After I roll over in bed in the morning to silence my alarm, the first thing that I’m greeted with is updates on my Facebook news feed of another perished Black life – more often than not at the hands of the criminal justice system. I’m careful not to just pin the blame on police officers – they  represent the tip of a much deeper and systemic iceberg, one that seems to use the demise of POC as coins in its coffer.

My friends and followers on social media rush to like,share, and comment on each of theses pieces. It’s become somewhat of an obligation, a duty of sorts to not only make others aware of what is going on, but to also take a step of quasi-activism. And to yes- let’s face it – give ourselves a pat on the back for #stayingwoke.

When I heard about Sandra Bland’s death in a Waller County,Texas jail cell earlier this month, I followed the same procedure that I’d followed for Trayvon Martin , Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and others: like,share,comment, repeat.

Something about the circumstances surrounding Sandra Bland’s death resonated with me more than it did with the others. Not necessarily because I have more value for her live than theirs, but it was the first time that I noticed a massive amount of people mobilizing around the death of a Black woman. Because while #BlackLivesMatter is meant to be an all-encompassing tent of solidarity and social justice for the African American community, seldom are Black women factored into that equation.

My odd sense of feminist pride  in the face of social responses to a Black woman’s death eroded as I began to notice the rhetoric that was developing around it. Instead of focusing on the larger issue, the fact that an African American citizen was unjustly incarcerated for a traffic violation, an extremely limited discourse emerged – one that was inundated with ableism and the all to familiar Black superwoman narrative. Scholars, talking heads on news channels, and everyday social media users alike were drawn in by Bland’s academic achievements, professional success, and outwardly proactive approach to life. They all wondered the same thing – how could someone like this take their own life?

Sandra Annette Bland was a proud member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority. She gra
duated in 2009 from Prairie View A&M University with a degree in agriculture and was slated to begin working there as a summer program associate there in August 2015.

Bland was no stranger to social media. She regularly posted vlogs on subjects such as police brutality, racism, and the contemporary civil rights activism movement #BlackLivesMatter. Each of these passionate videos began with Bland declaring “good morning/afternoon/evening kings and queens”.

unnamedShe was no doubt a queen.

However, we must realize that her royalty, her rapport, her basic humanity can not and should not be undermined through the use of dehumanizing archetypes of what Black womanhood is and isn’t. By neglecting to be cognizant of mental health and disability justice, we are severely erasing many narratives from the larger framework of civil rights.

Suggesting that Sandra Bland is not the type of person to commit suicide fails to properly hold our criminal justice system accountable for her death. It is nothing short of reactive victim blaming instead proactive challenging of the very social ills that Bland so eloquently addressed in much of what she did during her time here on Earth.

White supremacy is responsible. Police corruption is responsible. And lest we forget, patriarchy is responsible. It is nothing short of misogynoir.

Black women have long been the doormats of all of society, yet we are still expected to rise above all of this.

I would understand this if we were not of the same flesh, blood, and other biological elements of other humans, but we are. Deflect your expectations to the real issues.

#SayHerName

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