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Author: Black Women's Experiences With Police Brutality Must Be 'Invisible No More'

People march in the streets during a demonstration on June 26 in Minneapolis, Minn.  The march honored Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by members of the Louisville Metro Police Department on March 13.
Brandon Bell
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People march in the streets during a demonstration on June 26 in Minneapolis, Minn. The march honored Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by members of the Louisville Metro Police Department on March 13.

Breonna Taylor's death, along with George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, has intensified the calls for police reform that are at the center of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Taylor's case has also reignited conversations about centering Black women's experiences with the police and sparked the Say Her Name campaign to include Black women in the larger conversation surrounding racial justice in America.

Unlike Floyd, or other notable cases such as Eric Garner or Philado Castille, there's no video evidence of when Taylor was shot in her own home by police during a late-night raid in Louisville, Ky. Atatiana Jefferson of Fort Worth, Texas, was also shot in her own home by police, who were responding to a request for a welfare check after a neighbor saw that the front door to Jefferson's home was open.

Police misconduct attorney and author Andrea Ritchie tells NPR's Ailsa Change that this is just one of the ways Black women's experiences with police brutality differs from men.

The brutality against Black women often "takes place in the home, it takes place in the context of calls for help and is often unseen as a result," says Ritchie, who is the author of Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color.

No charges have been brought against the police who killed Taylor. One of the three officers, Brett Hankison, was fired in late June. Despite pleas from Taylor's family for their arrest, the other two officers remain free.

Though Black women have played an influential role during the civil rights, Pride, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, Ritchie says their stories all too often remain invisible.

Now activists are pushing to ensure Black women and their experiences are no longer ignored, but elevated and equally valued in the movement for racial justice.

Here are excerpts from the full interview with All Things Considered.

How big of a role do you think straight-up sexism plays in why Black women are not front and center in this conversation the country's having about police violence?

I would say a particular form of sexism focused on Black women, that people like Moya Bailey have characterized as misogynoir, which is a particular form of sexism that's deeply embedded in anti-blackness.

For me, it's about the fact that the story we're told about state violence has as its "protagonists," Black men and white police officers, or Black men and white supremacists. And the story that we're told about interpersonal violence is a story of white women and domestic violence and sexual assault. And Black women are invisible in both of those conversations and yet are experiencing very high levels of both forms of violence.

And that's in part because sexism is dictating how we understand state violence. It's also because anti-blackness is dictating how we understand gender-based violence.

Given the fact that there is so much that's unique about the experience of Black women when it comes to police brutality, do you feel that the conversation around police brutality doesn't include the experience of Black women enough?

The title of my book, Invisible No More, is a statement, a fact, a demand and an aspiration. So I think particularly as we're looking at this month being the fifth anniversary of Sandra Bland's death [28-year-old Bland was arrested in Texas and found dead in her jail cell days later], there's no doubt that following the movement and uprising around her death that Black women's experiences of police violence will never again be invisible to the degree they were before her killing. And I think we've seen that in the context of the response to Breonna Taylor's killing. And they're still less visible than Black men's experiences. And so it's a demand that we really, truly be invisible no more.

Listen to the full interview at the audio link above.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brianna Scott is currently a producer at the Consider This podcast.