As black men and women across the country march for Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and Delwran Small, the issue of gender relations in activism has come to the fore.
For many black women, the first response to the recent killings was to immediately get in formation, marching and starting hashtags (including #oursonsmatter and #carefreeblackkids). But an increasing number of black women are sitting protests out, as they grow weary of advocating for a population that often mocks, ignores or takes advantage of them.
Media personality Crissle, of MTV’s Uncommon Sense and the acclaimed podcast The Read, recently gained attention for calling out this divide.
Adding to this frustration are what some black women perceive as ‘black male cowardice’ in the wake of the protests. Now, to be clear, there are many black men risking their lives to protest and speak against police brutality. But so far, two of the most iconic incidents to come out of the recent protests have been from black women; officer Nakia Jones risking her career to speak forcefully against racist cops, and 28-year-old Iesha Evans standing calmly before a wall of armed Louisiana police.
Meanwhile, rapper Bow Wow has publicly stated that he is ‘minding his business’ in light of the protests.
And Youtube personality Drew Comments said he won’t be protesting against police brutality because he wants to be a cop some day.
Due to future aspirations I’m not allowed to participate in demonstrations but know I’m with you in spirit✊🏾 #BlackLivesMatterLA
— Drew Comments (@sjs856) July 11, 2016
(By the way, Dallas Police Chief David Brown was recently on CNN encouraging protesters to join local police forces.)
But what would it look like for black men to stand beside black women and fight with and for them? This video gives one example.
On July 8 Advocate reporter Bryn Stole captured a group of Black Lives Matter protesters in Louisiana who refused to let one of their own be taken into police custody. According to Stole, police had just taken 7 protesters into custody when they attempted to take a young woman. At that point the crowd advanced.
The video is a bit unclear, but you can see a man in a black and white shirt trying to reason with police, as others try to remove the young woman from their grasp, even after the police raise guns at them.
Seeing the crowd’s determination, the police relent.
After protestors blocked traffic, a pair of officers came in to detain a woman & it escalated. pic.twitter.com/13iqE9NuMy
— Bryn Stole (@brynstole) July 9, 2016
This is the type of support that black women advocating on behalf of black men deserve every day. And, as brave as the actions of these men are, it is kind of sad that an instance like this has to be publicized as an example of what should be. We hope it can contribute to the ongoing discussion on activism and gender, and lead black men and women to re-think their traditionally accepted roles in times of protest.