As we wrap up Women’s History month, it’s inspiring to look back on all the barrier breakers who have provided us with so much to celebrate. Like today’s movement, the fight for women’s equality did not move forward without the superhuman acts by women of color.
Reviewing women’s history with pride feels special, but these days it has been increasingly difficult for me to look past the issues and injustices that are still so present. Just last week, 8 people were murdered in Atlanta because of misogynist and racist motivations, 6 of them Asian-American women. The violence brought to light the glaring misrepresentation of Asian-American women in society.
My rage feels similar to that of June 2020, when I found out about the death of Breonna Taylor by police, only to learn that she was actually killed in March. As a PR pro, I have my face in the headlines all day and this story still took three months to reach my feed. I couldn’t help but notice that news of a Black woman’s murder by police only made its way to me because of the movement sparked by the viral video of George Floyd’s death and subsequent protests.
When I take a break from feeling heartbroken by what feels like a constant news reel of more casualties, I can’t help but notice that the grief, the movements, and the disappointment doesn’t last as long when the victims are women of color.
Following Floyd’s atrocious murder, we saw businesses and brands begin to amplify the voices of women of color. During INBOUND 2020, I joined a virtual session with Janet Mock, writer, director, and trans rights activist. She described intersectionality as a language we can use to define the myriad of experiences that our bodies go through when engaging with different spaces. First coined as an effort to legally explain how Black women are especially vulnerable, the concept of intersectionality is crucial to helping us understand and discuss the oppressive practices that impact individuals of differing identities, as well as our failure to protect them.
For example, the Human Rights Campaign recently disclosed that at least 44 transgender people were killed last year – marking 2020 as the most violent year on record since the organization began tracking these crimes in 2013. And because these stories often go unreported, these numbers are probably even higher. The majority of these attacks? You guessed it: Black transgender women. And in 2021, we’ve already had 11 more reports of attacks on trans people.
Malcom X stated in 1962 that “the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” Unfortunately, this statement holds true nearly 60 years later. And based on current events, I’m hesitant to exclude transgender women, Asian women, Latinx women, Muslim women, women with disabilities, poor women, LGBTQ+ women, and others to this list.
Once we fully understand the concept of intersectionality, engaging in these discussions becomes less intimidating. Whether it’s in the media or in our offices, we can work to bring people who are pushed to the margins into the center. In essence, understanding intersectionality is the key to dismantling these violent systems.
The work we’ve done over the past year has set us up for listening, feeling, engaging, and responding to attacks on vulnerable groups. Although our impact may be small, we can’t help but feel hopeful and prepared for being a part of the overdue, necessary, and imminent change.