If this were a slasher film, one of the teenage protagonists, most likely a young girl running from a masked assailant who knew what she did last summer, would slip in the buffed and shiny halls of Main Street High, the camera zooming in on her screaming face as we brace for the inevitability of what will happen to her.
Black women are in trouble. Or at least, that’s the narrative. Headlines warn that they’re less likely to attain a college degree than their peers; that they pose a higher risk to various health afflictions like cervical cancer and hypertension; that they “experience unintended pregnancies” at three times the rate of white women. Black women are also said to make less money than men in the same profession and will most likely never wed. Largely absent, however, are the counter-narratives: truths that grant ownership to the lives and futures of black women. A statistic rarely repeated is that black women comprise “42 percent of businesses owned by women of color” (the fastest growing segment in the women-owned business market), or that they are the most “reliable progressive voting block,” or that, in the last 60 years, high school graduation rates among black girls have increased 63 percent.
New York Attorney Gen. Eric Schneiderman will investigate the death of Raynette Turner, who was found dead in a Mount Vernon jail cell on August 27. This will be Schneiderman’s first case since being named special prosecutor for police-related civilian deaths. Turner was the fifth black woman to die in police custody in July.
For the past two weeks, I have carried Sandra Bland with me everywhere I go. At first, it was a smiling image of her that haunted my thoughts; she is dressed in what looks to be a black blazer and white blouse, one of her baby locs creeping out of place and sitting squarely on her forehead. She’s wearing big earrings, the sort that you get from an African fair. Here, Sandra (I can’t refer to her as “Bland,” we are too intimately connected now) looks like she makes #BlackLivesMatter videos and goes to sorority chapter meetings in serious heels that replace flats at the door and that don’t stick around long after adjournment. She is one of us, one of ours, absolutely.
I read Akiba Solomon for the first time in the early 2000s when she was a senior editor at The Source magazine. While Akiba's penchant for crafting sentences was on par with some of the greatest scribes of that era, it was her ability to structure features, interviews, and investigative pieces that made the fledgling young writer in me so jealous. This underappreciated ability to thoughtfully and imaginatively curate and structure prose is most wonderfully on display in the book she co-edited with Ayana Byrd, Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts. As the current editorial director of Colorlines, Akiba has written and edited some of the most important pieces in the country around intersectional (in)justice. We are incredibly lucky that she agreed to be a part of our Times Six series.
Growing up in a predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood in Seattle I remember my mother warning my older brother not to be caught running after dark, and, if ever stopped by police, to do whatever they asked—no more and no less. Speak as little as possible, she'd say. Every suggestion was a weak attempt to minimize a danger that would exist regardless. My brother would always be a black male.
Black women these days: they're just not buying enough Toyota Camrys. The car company's ad agency rep explains the problem: "[Black women] think of it as suburban, not urban; as solid but boring. And for this woman, she doesn't see herself as boring." Ha, you go girl! Well, ladies, Toyota likes to think of all of its customers as "sisters." And it knows just how to get you elusive African-American females to buy more of their boring suburban cars—with a crazy online fashion espionage game! Coincidentally, there's a black woman in it. And a Camry!