My father has a routine for when he's pulled over by police.
Before the officer approaches, he reaches over to the glove compartment to get his registration and places it on the dashboard along with his license and wallet. He refers to the officer as "sir" or "ma'am" and does not move his hands from the 10-and-2 position unless specifically directed to do so.
When I was 10, I watched him get pulled over twice in five days for "speeding," and I asked him why he did that. He turned to me and gave me a smile before quoting the late Richard Pryor: "I don't wanna be no m-----f---ing 'accident.'"
I didn't fully understand his response, nor did I have a tremendous amount of experience with police. My father grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He was pulled over multiple times -- sometimes for speeding, sometimes for having a white woman in his car, sometimes for no reason at all.
You know. Driving while black.
My father is a man who pulls no punches when discussing race and raised me to think similarly -- to have a healthy sense of fear in recognizing the precarious nature of my existence. For him, it wasn't enough to recognize the dangers of being a black man in this country. He recognized the dangers of being a black person.
During the recent televised conversations about police brutality -- including the town hall with President Barack Obama that aired Thursday and the town hall with BET and MTV personalities last week -- the focus of the discussions has been almost exclusively on men.
Police brutality absolutely affects black men. But amid the heightened attention around the deaths of black men at the hands of police, the killings of black women have gone under-covered and under-mentioned. As a result, black women get pushed out of the conversation all together, even though black women founded the Black Lives Matter movement.
To quote the report called "Say Her Name," released by the African American Policy Forum last year: "The erasure of black women is not purely a matter of missing facts. Even where women and girls are present in the data, narratives framing police profiling and lethal force as exclusively male experiences lead researchers, the media and advocates to exclude them."
During the town hall with President Obama, only a few women spoke, and all in accessory capacities: mothers of police officers, girlfriend of someone slain by police or a mother of a protester in Baltimore. That's not to say these women's experiences don't matter --of course they do -- but women are more than accessories. Women participate actively in the movement and experience violence, which needs to be discussed as we search for peace and solutions as a nation.
This exclusion happens even as athletes respond to these cases of police brutality. When Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade opened the ESPYs with their call to action, they named a few of those killed by police in recent years. Rekia Boyd, Natasha McKenna, Janisha Fonville and Tanisha Anderson were not among those mentioned. When they called out activists, not a single black woman was acknowledged, nor were the efforts of WNBA teams who had already answered the call to recognize those killed.
The continued erasure of women from this conversation is partly due to how we think about gender and race. Blackness is often thought of as masculine, and womanhood is often thought of as white. When those identities and experiences of racism and sexism intersect -- as they do for black women -- we struggle to adequately hear their stories.
"Although racism and sexism readily intersect in the lives of real people, they seldom do in feminist and antiracist practices. And so, when practices expound identity as woman or person of color as an either/or proposition, they relegate the identity of women of color to a location that resists telling," Kimberle Crenshaw, who co-founded and is executive director of the AAPF, wrote in her 1993 paper, "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color."
We have to see black women and fight for black women in the same way that black women continue to fight for others around them. The same is true for queer and trans black people and black people with disabilities. Black lives matter does not just refer to black men.
Black women lives matter.
Black trans lives matter.
Black queer lives matter.
Black disabled lives matter.
I see you. I love you. You matter.