Last week, Andrea Ritchie, a researcher at Barnard Center for Research on Women, joined thousands of others across the U.S. to take part in a protest demanding justice for George Floyd. She proudly chanted his name outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“But I was shocked that I didn’t hear anyone say Breonna Taylor’s name at any point,” Ritchie said, referring to the black emergency medical technician in Louisville who was killed by police in March, just weeks before Floyd’s death.
Officers burst into Taylor’s apartment while she was asleep during a late-night drug investigation using a so-called “no-knock warrant.” Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who has said he was worried someone was breaking into the apartment, shot and wounded an officer. The officers have said that they then returned fire and shot Taylor at least eight times in her own home.
Her mother filed a lawsuit against the Louisville Police Department in late April, and people in Louisville started taking to the streets demanding justice in May. None of the officers in her case have been arrested or fired, though the FBI is investigating.
“All black lives matter,” Ritchie said, adding that this movement should be striving to address police brutality against black men and women and LGBTQ people.
“We’re not trying to compete with Floyd’s story; we’re trying to complete the story,” said Ritchie, who is also the author of “Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color.”
Things started to shift Friday, on what would have been Taylor’s 27th birthday. Protesters marched in her honor.
Still, Taylor’s case remains largely disconnected with the broader national conversation that’s happening around George Floyd’s death — no celebrities have offered to pay for her funeral or taken out full-page newspaper ads dedicated to her.
Perhaps it’s because there was no graphic video footage or because it all happened back in March at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But her exclusion, and that of other black women, is the latest iteration of a long-standing issue: Black women’s experiences of police brutality and their tireless contributions to mass social justice movements have almost always received far less media or political attention.
For years, black women have faced a double bind of racial and sex discrimination.
The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened all of those fissures. The unemployment rate for black women is now 16.4% compared with 15.5% for women overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, leaving them in increasingly precarious positions.
When it comes to interactions with police, the same racial biases that apply to black men apply to black women, Ritchie said. Black women are more likely than white women to be pulled over in traffic stops, according to data from the Prison Policy Initiative.
It is in large part because of these inequalities that black women have risen up to form the backbone of some of the largest civil rights movements in U.S. history — from abolition and suffrage to #MeToo.
“Some of our loudest voices against oppression have come from black women,” said Monique Morris, founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute.