On Monday afternoon, Korryn Gaines, a 23-year-old black woman, was shot and killed by Baltimore County police officers at the end of an hours-long standoff.
The circumstances aren’t entirely clear. And there is no video evidence to provide better information about how the events of the shootout transpired. But Gaines’s story is one that is far too familiar and easy to forget: that black women are victims of police violence too, and that this year may be worse than the last.
According to the Washington Post’s database on fatal police shootings, Gaines is the ninth black women to be shot and killed by police this year, meaning this year is set to exceed the 10 total black women killed by police in 2015.
“Although black women are routinely killed, raped, and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understanding of police brutality,” Kimberlé Crenshaw, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, told the Post. “Yet, inclusion of black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives, and policy demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combating racialized state violence for black communities and other communities of color.”
Since Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, almost exactly two years ago, at least 2,052 people have been killed by police. And as Vox’s Dara Lind has pointed out in a review of FBI data, African Americans are killed by police at disproportionately high rates. But rarely are black women accounted for when conversations about racist policing hit the national stage.
In 2015, the African American Policy Forum released a report called “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women,” to draw attention to the ways that black women and girls like Natasha McKenna, Natisha Anderson, and Gaines are left out of policing discussions, as organizing efforts against police brutality focus on their male counterparts like Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray.
The hope is to make sure that black women aren’t erased. But the report also aims to make sure that police brutality discussions address unique ways that black people who identify as LGBTQ experience police violence. According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 38 percent of black transgender and gender nonconforming people reported harassment, 15 percent reported experiencing physical assault, and 7 percent reported being sexually assaulted when interacting with police.
Police violence isn’t just based on whether a bullet was fired. As the Daniel Holtzclaw case showed, it can also include sexual harassment and assault. That is further compounded by a criminal justice system whose racial biases don’t necessarily give black women the benefit of the doubt that they can be victims in the same way as their white peers.
Gender helps account for the multiple ways racist policing practices manifest. As the Washington Post data shows, more black women are projected to be killed by police this year than the last. And while the increase may not be statistically significant, the difference is enough to remind us not to treat police brutality as something that only happens to black men.