Black Lives Matter Activists Feud With Each Other Over ‘Erasure of Black Women’

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 9:00 am, May 3, 2017

As new details emerge about the shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards in Dallas, black feminist activists are pushing back against the popular #SayHisName campaign, saying it ignores police violence against black women and transgender people.

Over the past two years, the #SayHisName has become a rallying cry on Twitter and at Black Lives Matter protests. Demonstrators often chant the refrain, along with the names of men shot by law enforcement.

Both #SayHisName and #SayHerName originated from a 2015 protest anthem by Janelle Monae and Wondaland Records, which focused on police brutality. Monae said she recorded the song “to challenge the indifference, disregard, and negligence of all who remain quiet about this issue.” Throughout the song, Monae and several other artists call out the names of both men and women killed by police, also chanting “say his name” and “say her name.”

But since the song’s release, the highly publicized shooting deaths of several black men including Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have boosted the hashtag #SayHisName—sometimes at the expense of #SayHerName, critics say.

Mic reports, some have said the hashtag is “problematic” because it’s a gendered phrase that contributes to “the media erasure of black women who are also victims of police violence in the United States.”

The Mic article highlights black womanist Chihiro Ogino, who has urged people to stop using #SayHisName.

“It derails ‘Say Her Name’ which centers on Black women whose murders aren’t as publicized & talked about,” Ogino said in a series of Tweets. “We don’t need to ‘Say His Name’, they’re already said. Say Her Name was created for Black women who have been killed. Say Her Name also reminds ppl that Black Women are so victims. Pls don’t disrespect them by centering others & co-opting their movement.”

Another Twitter user, responding to Ogino, decried “the erasure of black women in the fight for liberation.” She added that the Black Lives Matter movement—which was originally founded by three queer black women—has become increasingly “centered around hetero cis black men.”

Though criticism of #SayHisName hasn’t been widely embraced by the Black Lives Matter movement, it has been a persistent complaint over the past year.

In an anonymous blog post last summer, one person wrote that the hashtag was “erasure and harmful.” Focusing on a male pronoun meant “redirecting the attention to men,” which is “so misogynoir,” the post said.