Are Black Women Invisible? [POST]

The Serious Consequences of Treating Black Women Like They’re Invisible

Our tragedies are considered situational and singular instead of as an issue for women of color as a whole.


America We Have a ProblemA protester at a march through Washington. -Getty

Another elbow is headed straight for my face, when I say, “Excuse me, sir, I am standing here!” and a white man in a business suit says looks down and says, “Oh, I didn’t see you.”

“Of course you didn’t,” I mumble under my breath. Just another day of having to inform a random stranger of my presence and another small reminder that life as a woman of color can often feel like you’re standing right in front of people without being seen. I used to say to my friends, “One day I want to become famous enough that if I go ever missing, someone will look for me.”

On a small scale, these everyday microagressions — verbal or nonverbal slights or insults that communicate hostile messages to people based on their membership in a marginalized group — are exhausting. On a large scale, though, this erasure of black women and the challenges they face, from the public’s consciousness and media landscape, reinforces the hierarchy of which lives have value or matter.

All year, we’ve witnessed America’s transformation around issues of police violence. #BlackLivesMatter has swept the nation, with chapters in cities nationwide, and presidential hopefuls are now required to actually have adequate policy responses to issues of racism and police brutality. Even the president is talking more openly about racism. Yet it still feels like something major is missing from the conversation: Women of color are dying at the hands of the police too, and yet their names often don’t rise to the level of a breaking news chyron. The exclusion of their stories from the larger narrative of police violence leaves the impression that it’s not an issue for women of color too.

Women of color, like me, are often deemed invisible in real and consequential ways — sometimes when we move throughout the world, like when I was invisible to a man with unwieldy elbows, but more important, we are often invisible to the mainstream media. Men of color are often in a state of hyper visibility, where they are both targets of brutality and sensational media attention. Perhaps this is because it’s not hard for the mainstream media and the public to understand that implicit biases create a world where black men are often seen as physically threatening, even when they are carrying Skittles or are a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun. And while white women are dealing with everyday sexism — including catcalling, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault — women of color must contend with these issues as well as issues of racism. And yet our pain, our death, and the brutality we face often goes unseen, and our tragedies are considered situational and singular instead of as an issue for women of color as a whole.

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Ms. Cream of the Crop

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