So, today I want to talk about the killings of two Black women. Well, honestly, I don’t want to talk about it, but I feel that I need to, if for no other reason than the words of Malcolm X that still ring so true today: “The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman. The most un-protected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the black woman.”
Also because of this not-so-little truth bomb: According to a CDC analysis of data from 18 states between 2003 and 2014, Black and Indigenous women are killed as a result of homicide at rates more than double what women of other races experience. True, homicide is one of the leading killers of women from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, but Black and American Indian/Native American women are the most vulnerable.
As you might guess, the killings I’m going to talk about are the vicious stabbing murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson in Oakland at a BART train platform and MeShon Cooper, a 43-year-old mother of one in Kansas City who was killed by an alleged white supremacist (I mean, if y’all in the media don’t want to “assume” white supremacy/racism, at least use “likely instead of alleged—the man in Kansas City was previously charged in 2011 with second-degree assault for hitting a Black woman on the head with a hammer as she slept and then sexually assaulting her).
There are any number of layers I can get into here on either or both killings. But probably none of you have time for a research paper right now.
In the Bay Area, the BART transit system already has a checkered past with Black people; we still haven’t forgotten Oscar Grant’s murder by police in 2009, which got big-screen attention in the film Fruitvale Station. Black people don’t necessarily feel protected on the transit system, and when the BART police officers aren’t doing racist things, there are civilians running amok and we kinda feel like focusing on them would be better than going after people like Oscar Grant because maybe then Nia Wilson would still be alive. And, of course, Oakland is also the source of the BBQ Becky nonsense that has been followed up by so many other white women (and now an increasing number of white men, too) needlessly calling 911 on Black people for—well, basically for existing.
And in Kansas City, killer Ronald Kidwell tried to make himself into the victim (and the New York Post and other media helpfully gave him a way to do it). Of course, MeShon Cooper was last seen on July 6, in Shawnee, Kansas, where she lived—then the next day her car was found 12 miles away over state lines, in Kansas City, Missouri, with Cooper’s keys still in the vehicle. And then, y’know, a week later police found her body at the Shawnee home of Kidwell. Not generally how things play out if you’re really the victim. Not to mention Kidwell’s daughter Carolyn Foster mentioned that he has bragged about being in the Ku Klux Klan and liked to show off a swastika tattoo on his arm—plus once threatening to kill Foster and her three children if she “ever spoke to a person of color.” And still there are people who want to debate whether he’s racist and the killing is racially motivated.
Again, what it boils down to is how easy it is for Black women to end up victims—and when they go missing they don’t get the kind of media attention or “Amber Alert”-style attention that white girls and white women do. America, on the whole, doesn’t really care what happens to Black women. They tend to be seen as unworthy of respect, aren’t allowed to express emotions, aren’t seen as worthy as making money for hard work, and so on. As bad as women in general have it in America and as bad as Black and brown men have it, Black women get it worse than anyone else but an Indigenous woman. In general, too, killings of Black people lead to arrests less often than if victims are white.
It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: We need to say their names. We need to remember these victims and we need to change things. Black women deserve better, and that’s a plain fact.
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Photo by Tess Nebula from Unsplash