Today’s Read: Say Her Name, Michelle Cusseaux

This is a summary of the police murder of Michelle Cusseaux. CW: Gun violence, murder

A few months ago, I watched this Ted Talk on intersectionality from the woman who coined the term, Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw. She opened my eyes to #SayHerName and the total silence about Black women who’ve been murdered by law enforcement. We know George Floyd. We know Tamir Rice. We know Philando Castile. But can we name any Black women who’ve died so unjustly?

I want to note the importance of knowing, saying, and sharing their names. This isn’t about Black trauma porn (i.e. think about why you’re watching and sharing videos of seeing Black folks die violent deaths). This is simply knowing that Black women die at the hands of law enforcement as well.

This is merely one woman’s name. This is merely one example of the abuse of power toward Black women (and the examples are all triggering as fuck). This is merely one case of so many ways in which the stigma against mental illness leads to unnecessary death.

There are more. Take the time to learn and say her name.

Tackling Taboo Talk

Alliterations aside (heh), part of why Whole Damn Woman exists is because I grew tired of being told things weren’t polite to discuss. I remember in the early days of my Instagram use, I shared I wanted to talk about bodies and sex and food and politics and sexuality and race . . . a friend replied, “You mean all the stuff that’s not polite to bring up over dinner?”

Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.

Think about it. We live in a constant relationship with our bodies, but we rarely talk about them. During a presentation this morning, I asked attendees if they were ever asked as kids, “How do you feel about your body today?” Or even “How are you feeling in your body today?” No one said yes.

Yet we’re also told, “Listen to your body.” Like how? No one teaches us that. But we can’t bring it up because talking about bodies is impolite.

The same goes for politics, which influences and affects literally everything we do. Yet it’s rude to talk about it because it’s supposedly divisive.

Sex? Literally how we are created.

Food? Literally how we stay alive.

Sexuality? Literally how we maneuver major relationships.

Race? Literally a part of how we encounter one another.

Yet we aren’t supposed to talk about these things? This is my problem. Calling such major topics “impolite” forces us into silence, which perpetuates hatred, violence, abuse, and ignorance. If we can’t talk about what massively affects us, how are we to tackle the problems?

Maybe calling it all “impolite” was by design . . .

Black Worry

My nephews got the family mouth.

The oldest will not hesitate to tell you what he thinks, just like his mom, like me, like his grandfather. He lives and works in Minneapolis with his dad. He’s an adult now with his fro and his snarky smile. He is a sensitive soul. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t hurt anyone unless they hurt the people he loves.

The youngest looks just like his White dad. He’s always trying to outwit everyone. As a toddler, he had the biggest head on the tiniest body. Watching him literally toddle down the hall was one of the last times I saw my grandmother laugh. He probably won’t remember her. He probably doesn’t know how much closer to our abducted ancestors she made us.

The middle nephew struggles because, far too often, he’s been told he isn’t wanted. He’s incredibly smart, witty as fuck, philosophical, funny, and determined. He’s also argumentative and a typical teenaged boy who doesn’t realize how much he’s suffered. He likes shoes, looking good, cars, and driving too fast.

Every night, I check a local Twitter account that reports what’s said on the police scanner. I’ve accepted that one of those tweets will be about my middle nephew. He’s already been pulled over at least once. He’s not even eighteen yet. Will he make it? Will the next officer know the difference between a taser and a gun? Will the next officer recognize him as the grandchild of a retired policeman? Will it make a difference?

Every day, I read the news. I worry one of the stories out of Minnesota will end up being my eldest nephew who knows he’s “the Blackest looking of the family.” My dad, the retired officer, taught us to comply. We’ve also been taught not to take any shit. What will my eldest nephew pick when he’s pulled over? What thing will the officer say to piss off my nephew? Will that kid able to keep his mouth shut? Will he fight for what’s right and for himself? Will either save his life?

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