This was actually the very first Ask Dr. Brenda that came in and I’ve got to tell you, my first thought was, SERIOUSLY!? This is my first question? Take a look…
Your post coincided with a series of articles I found on Twitter by Kirsten West Savali, a writer I’ve been reading lately. @KWestSavali on Twitter.
She writes about feminism and the Black community. Recently she’s written a lot about Renisha McBride and Eric Garner and the difference in level of community outrage of the killing of a black woman vs. a black man.
Links to some of her recent articles:
These articles (and especially her Twitter conversations) highlight a lot of distrust between black men and women. I also pick up on the tendency to co-opt one tragedy to highlight another. I generally agree with her.
What kind of support from black men (generally speaking) to black women would feel like an appropriate step towards reconciliation? How would that manifest at home, work and during fellowship?
Stephen, this a great question. But it’s a tough one. A scary one. I’ve also read some of Savali’s writing and the short answer, at least in regard to the second article you linked, is that I agree with her. I, too, would march for Eric Garner. But here’s the long answer.
For those of you unfamiliar with these articles, let me quickly catch you up. Savali’s article came in response to Kimberly Foster’s provocative piece titled, “Why I Will Not March for Eric Garner.” If you don’t know about Eric Garner, see here.
Here’s my take…
First, we should take a moment before we begin to remember that we are talking about a person. We are talking about Eric Garner. A man, a husband, a father, a friend. We should should pause to acknowledge that this was a horrible death. We literally watched a man die on camera. This is grave and I don’t want to talk about this lightly.
I don’t know Kimberly Foster and I don’t know her motives. I can only tell you how it felt to me. It felt like she used the death of a man as a platform to raise her voice. Does she raise a salient issue? Absolutely. Do we need to be having a conversation about justice for black women? Definitely. But using the death of Eric Garner to bring awareness to a different, albeit important, issue feels manipulative to me and I think we can find a better way.
Ultimately I don’t think we need a “divide & conquer” mentality. It does not need to be one or the other. It can and should be both. I can care about the unjust death of a black man AND the plight of black women. I care about both. I refuse to dichotomize myself. I will not choose.
I would march for Eric Garner.
Dr. Martin Luther King said,
“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly… I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”
If it impacts one of us, it impacts all of us. You see? I do myself a disservice if I don’t march for Eric Garner. We don’t have the luxury to march for one but not the other. We don’t have the luxury to choose! We need each other. I can’t be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.
On the practical level, what kind of support can black men offer to black women? I think you are already halfway there, Stephen! Ask questions! Speak up! Be just as outraged about black women’s issues as you are about black men’s issues. Lend your voice to the issues black women face. Things like pay inequality, cultural stereotypes, access to healthcare, education, and the chronic stress of living life in a society where the odds continue to be stacked against them.
It’s unbelievable to me that as I write this, the news of the riots in St. Louis are rolling through my feeds. How is it possible that we are done talking about Eric Garner already? How is it possible that another unarmed black man, a black boy really, has been killed by the police? Lord, have mercy on us all.
top image courtesy of the Garner Family