|The lifeless body of Laura Nelson (1911)
This is the “Final Act”:
Ending Violence Against Black Women (for Renisha McBride)
by Brothers Writing to Live
We begin this statement for justice in response to the murder of Renisha McBride by starting at “home.
We are a collective of black men who write in community, who desire a future free of structural violence and physical violation—especially violence that overwhelmingly impact women and children. While we write to add our voices to the collective call for justice in response to the murder of Renisha, we are also aware of our own complicity in systems of male domination that impact women we do and do not know on a regular basis. Given that, we name sister comrades with whom we are in community like Brittney Cooper who recently experienced violation by a man and say to her: we stand with you and don’t condone any act of violence that places you and any women in harm.
And to the brother: we, like you, have work to do on ourselves. Indeed, our first work must be a commitment to critical self-reflection, the kind that allows us to hold ourselves accountable to the politics we maintain. And the second is the process of self-transformation. Our sisters do not need more enemies and too often we, black men, have been the most aggressive! They need our solidarity, love, and care so that we don’t have to mourn the loss of another black woman, like Renisha.
Renisha McBride did not have to die. If she lived in a world that did not criminalize the bodies of black youth, she would not have died by a gunshot to her face. If she lived in a world that saw her as a human worthy of care, she would not have been killed by a man who was allegedly seeking to protect himself and his property. If she lived in a world that did not perfect the brutal skill of violating the black female body, she would certainly not have been killed and days later her murderer remained free.
Unfortunately, Renisha did not have the luxury of living in a society free of the type of rabid structural violence that allows black girls in need of help to be shot and killed. Ours is a society where 12 black women can be killed in one location and within a short span of time, like Boston in 1978-79, and there is no outcry. But the murder of 12 innocent black women was the “final act” for the black feminists who formed the Combahee River Collective in response. The murder of Renisha is the final act for us.
Renisha was killed after getting into a car crash and seeking help at a nearby home. Theodore Wafer opened the door with his shotgun at the ready and shot her in the face. Did he even try to see her?
How could he? In a world that chooses not to see black women and girls every day. We (black men, white men, and white women—some of us anyway) ignore their pain, their triumphs, their hopes, their goals, their wounds, and proceed as if they are not a part of the human family. We use their bodies as an outlet to express our rage and frustration. We discard them after we use them for our pleasure. And we convince ourselves they are okay despite violation.
Theodore Wafer walked free for nearly two weeks before being charged with any crime because Renisha’s life, as a black girl, in a white supremacist patriarchy, was meaningless. But we come together to expose such lies and to unite in solidarity with those who speak Renisha’s name so that we will not forget: Renisha’s life matters. Renisha’s death matters. Black girls matter. We are putting the world on notice. The dehumanization and invisiblilizing of black women will no longer stand.
How many black girls must suffer before we black men say it’s enough?
We condemn the killing of Renisha McBride. We condemn the violence that continues to plague black women in this country. We condemn the society that not only allows but supports that violence because it does not value black women’s lives. We condemn the laws that embolden their killers. We condemn the mentality that causes us all to turn a blind eye while our sisters are beaten and killed. We condemn the parts of ourselves that have been complicit in fostering black women’s pain.
We speak Renisha’s name the same as we speak the names Marissa Alexander, Islan Nettles, Sakia Gunn, Miriam Carey, CeCe McDonald, Aiyana Stanley-Jones and all black women and girls who have been taken from us, whether locked away in cages or buried in the earth, because we love them.
We speak Renisha’s name to remind ourselves that we too are part of the problem if we fail to speak up and stand alongside our sisters in their struggle against sexism, rape, patriarchy, and other forms of violence.
We speak Renisha’s name because we love our black mothers, sisters, grandmothers, little cousins, neighbors, students, daughters, nieces, co-workers, comrades, teachers, and so many others too much to allow them to be hurt by hands, guns, laws, and our silences.
And we speak Renisha’s name among a community of brothers as a call to action, a call for brothers to actively participate in the struggle to end the violence that too often befall our sisters…even if such participation requires our own undoing.
Kiese Laymon, Writer & Professor at Vassar College
Mychal Denzel Smith, Writer, Mental Health Advocate, & Cultural Critic
Kai M. Green, Writer, Filmmaker, & Ph.D Candidate at USC
Marlon Peterson., Writer & Youth & Community Advocate
Mark Anthony Neal, Writer, Cultural Critic, & Professor at Duke University
Hashim Pipkin, Writer, Cultural Critic, Ph.D. Candidate at Vanderbilt University
Wade Davis, II, Writer, LGBTQ Advocate, & Former NFL Player
Darnell L. Moore, Writer & Activist
- On the shooting death of Renisha McBride (newblackwoman.com)
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