Here’s What Happened When I Tried to Highlight Murdered Black Women

Here’s What Happened When I Tried to Highlight Murdered Black Women

[Commentary] After Karen Smith was killed by her husband in a murder suicide, this writer decided to talk about Black Women who are killed by their partners

by Britni Danielle, April 11, 2017

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Here’s What Happened When I Tried to Highlight Murdered Black Women

Top, L-R: Dr. Sherilyn Gordon-Burroughs, Samyah Copeland, Rashanda Franklin, Kendra Moore, Quanta Nashall Chandler, Shaquenda Walker and mother Deborah Walker, Latonya Robinson Moore. Bottom L-R: Alicia Trotter, Latina Herring, Gale Verner, Shanice Williams.

I have been writing about murdered Black women and girls for as long as I’ve been writing on the web. After 22-year-old Rekia Boyd was killed in 2012 by an off-duty Chicago police officer, I asked, “Who’s rallying for murdered Black women?” In 2015, I wondered why the national media failed to cover former Oklahoma City Officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who was on trial (and later convicted) for sexually assaulting more than a dozen Black women while on duty. And after Lonnie D. Franklin Jr., a serial killer known as “the Grim Sleeper,” was convicted of killing nine Black women in Los Angeles over the course of two decades, I wrote about the invisibility of Black female crime victims.

Time and time again, I’ve said their names, told their stories and tried to hold up Black female victims who are oftentimes overshadowed by other cases. Black women suffer under the weight of both racism and sexism so we are often not blonde enough for the nightly news and not male enough for our community to rally around. But surely, all people would support sisters who are victims of violence if they just knew they existed, right?

After learning that the target in the tragic San Bernardino school shooting was a Black woman named Karen Smith, I took to Twitter to ask if we can have a real conversation about Black women who are victims on intimate partner violence.

Smith’s slaying weighed heavily on my mind, as did the recent killing of Dr. Sherilyn Gordon-Burroughs, a prominent transplant surgeon. Both women were productive members of their communities, and both were killed by their husbands, who also took their own lives.

Their deaths lead me to Google where I searched “murder suicide,” and what I found was startling. Within minutes, I’d uncovered nine other stories about Black women who had been killed in recent months, just as Smith and Gordon-Burroughs were slain. I compiled them into a list, which nearly two thousand people have shared on Twitter. And that’s when things got interesting.

As expected, many people were surprised that so many women had been killed by their partners in a murder suicide, while others shared facts about the dangers of intimate partner violence. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one of the leading causes of death for Black women ages 0-34 is homicide (it fluctuates from the second to forth cause depending on age range). And the Violence Policy Center (VPC) found that Black women “are disproportionately impacted by fatal domestic violence.” In fact, the VPC reported, “Black females were murdered by men at a rate of 2.19 per 100,000, more than twice the rate of 0.97 per 100,000 for White women murdered by men” in 2014.

After tweeting the stories of the women whose lives were cut short, some Twitter users shared stories of their loved ones who have also been killed by their partners.

Several men spoke up about the need to protect women.

A few blamed the victim for choosing the wrong partners.

And most painfully, some Black men argued highlighting Black female murder victims somehow amounted to bashing ALL Black men.

Despite the negative responses I’ve received (and am still receiving), overall, most people–men and women, Black and non-Black–have been open to discussing the issue of intimate partner violence and its effect on women of color. As a Black woman who so often feels like we must advocate, support, and fight for ourselves, it’s nice to see others are concerned about keeping us safe.


Britni Danielle is EBONY’s Entertainment/Culture Director. Follow her on Twitter @BritniDWrites

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