Regardless of how one feels about the stance For Harriet founder Kimberly Foster (pictured below) takes in her essay, “Why I Will Not March For Eric Garner (pictured far right),” it’s more than evident it comes from a place of frustration. And to be fair to her and those who share her point of view, when it comes to Black men championing issues important to Black women the way Black women rally behind those championed by Black men, there is a huge discrepancy. So while I don’t agree with Kimberly Foster’s response to that dilemma, I nonetheless can understand why she would reach such a conclusion.
She is right when she notes:
While the effectiveness of social media in spreading Garner’s story heartens me. I could not refrain from comparing the empathy shown him, particularly by Black men, to that which is heartbreakingly absent when Black women attempt to discuss the everyday terrors we experience both in the world and at their hands.
Likewise, she is equally correct in asserting:
Too many fail to recognize that the violence, psychological verbal and physical, that we direct toward each other in communal spaces reflects the violence enacted upon our bodies and minds by larger dominating structures; thus there’s an inability by many Black men to acknowledge that Black women, too, have a right to move through the world without fear–that a woman should not have to avert her eyes and quicken her pace when she encounters men in public spaces.
Some have objected to the comparison between street harassment and Eric Garner dying at the hands of an NYPD officer. Yet, false equivalence or not, far too often do Black men brush aside Black women’s concerns about merely wanting to walk down the street in peace. Independent of men’s antagonistic behavior — mostly fueled by the presumption that a woman’s body is fair game to ostracize. Such is a sexist stance articulated every single day on social media, heard in any barbershop, and experienced in real time on the street any given day of the week.
You think Ms. Foster is hyperbolic in her comparison? Okay. Removing that from the equation, is she no less accurate that many Black men simply don’t check their brothers the way we’re all collectively supposed to check White people when a Black man is harmed by one of their own?
Again, I don’t agree with Foster’s solution. Frankly, I wished she hadn’t used Garner’s death to make this argument given she already did so beautifully back in 2012. But what’s done is done, and though everyone has their opinion about her remarks, it is an opportunity for dialogue. By dialogue, I don’t mind the sort of ad hominem, tit for tat that often plagues the comments section on every website ever. Dialogue as in listening, trying to understand where a person’s viewpoint stems from even if you find it problematic.
When someone speaks of hurt to the point that they have to completely pull away, ideally, it ought to be a rallying cry. As in, how did Kimberly Foster get to this point? How does one bring the Kimberly Fosters of the world back into the fold? The answer is simple as she’s already outlined: reciprocity.
There are many Black men who have lent their voices to causes specifically affecting Black women – self-included – but as a collective, we have much work to do. We ought to rally behind Renisha McBride as much as we do Travyon Martin. Her name should be as common as Martin’s, but it is not and it doesn’t require much thought to figure out why. Moreover, what has been done and what continues to be done to Marissa Alexander warrants widespread outrage.
Black men’s actions may have caused Kimberly Foster to limit her support, but a change in behavior prevents that from happening again — and it may even win her back. We all have to do better by each other. No matter how that sentiment is articulated, it will still ring true.