The Burden of Surviving as a Black Girl in America

by Khadijah Costley White on Quartz

This past weekend, millions of people watched a terrible scene unfold—we held our breath as a white police officer grabbed a black girl in a bathing suit by her hair and sat down on her. We heard her sobbing, we watched the officer pull out his gun and point it at two boys as they responded to her cries.

In that video from McKinney, Texas, we saw one boy who had run from the officer’s gun, get dragged back by two policemen. We watched in horror, praying that we were not witnessing an execution. And today we breathed a collective sigh of relief when we learned that this officer, corporal Eric Casebolt, had resigned. Hopefully, he will never get another opportunity to hurt someone vulnerable again.

We all know the names of black boys and men killed by police (or wannabe police)—Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Akai Gurley, and Amadou Diallo. We also know—although we also tend tend to forget—the names of women and girls lost in the very same way: Rekia Boyd, Tarika Wilson, Aiyana Jones, Miriam Carey and others, lost in the backdrop to a narrative that focuses on the ongoing clash between white and black masculinity.

But I also worry about the black girls who survive. I wonder about that girl in the video, pleading and sobbing as people stand around without helping. I am washed away by her terror, that panic that strikes when you realize that you could be killed amid a crowd of onlookers, and that no one will do anything to stop it.

I can’t stop thinking about the black girls who survive.

I think about Tamir Rice’s sister, Tajai, the girl attacked and handcuffed by police as she tried to reach her baby brother as he bled to death.

And Rachel Jeantel, who told her best friend to run away from an armed man following him in the dark—she survived.

And a tiny baby girl who watched her mother’s body get riddled with bullets from inside her car seat.

The black girls who survive are not unscathed.

Black women and girls live in fear for others and for themselves. We are scared that we might pick up a phone and learn that the man, son, or brother we love is gone. But we also live in unrelenting anticipation that we will be beaten on the side of a California highway, raped by police officers, handcuffed in kindergarten and arrested for science experiments at school.

Continue reading on Quartz. A version of this essay also originally appeared on Role Reboot.

Photo: YouTube

Khadijah Costley White is an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Follow Khadijah on Twitter at @khadastrophic.

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