As with many narratives from civil rights movements, women have largely remained on the fringe when recalling important roles and ideas, often acting as background in history books, and almost nonexistent in popular tales from our time on the front lines.
This invisibility is also present when discussing police brutality among the black community. It’s uncommon to hear the names of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Rekia Boyd, and Tyisha Miller when clamoring through the mass of black men shot, choked, and beat to death to find the most recent example of our disenfranchisement by law enforcement.
But the idea that women aren’t direct victims of police brutality or the backbone of these movements to eliminate systematic racism are false.
The narrative in Ferguson is just one example. In the days since Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson police officer, the focus has largely been police brutality against black men. The truth is, the foundation of much of this movement, and many others in our civil rights past, have been black women. Women who have lost sons, brothers, fathers, daughters, and husbands in America — women who are also direct victims of para-military forces.
Women like Nebra Johnson, a mother of three, who brought her children to witness the Ferguson protests in an effort to teach them to hold police officers accountable for their bad behavior.
“Why don’t you get it?” she asked of officers who engage in often fatal police brutality. “With the officers I feel like it’s been done over and over and over. You just might get it this time,” the St. Louis resident said.
Johnson is just one of the many women who has endured police brutality at the hands of St. Louis police. Last year, she called 911 after a young white woman broke into her home. When police arrived, they detained Johnson instead.
We talked to other women heading the protests in Ferguson to get their perspective on the shooting of Brown, why it’s important for their children to participate, and how the centuries-old brutality is affecting them.
“How many weekends have we lost our black men…how many families are broken up because of that?” Cheri Isaac of Ferguson asked GlobalGrind. “Why are we fighting the same fights that our parents fought?”
“At the end of the day, it’s not a black and white issue, it’s a humanity issue,” Johnson added. “We’re tired…we’re just tired.”
See what else these women have to say in the video above.