Unanswered Questions from Black Women Protestors Against Police Violence

The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade have inspired a wave of national and international protests against police violence.

As protestors took to the streets to make their voices heard, I wondered how Black women express their fears and concerns around police through their signs. Posing questions instead of making statements, Black women protestors invite us into their world and challenge us to reflect on how police violence shapes their lives.

My own research on police violence against Black women and girls demonstrates how our experiences with police are often ignored and pushed to the margins. Not wanting to leave their questions unanswered, I wrote poems to say: “I see you in the crowds and I stand with you in seeking answers to questions that no one should ever have to ask.”

am i next?

if i am, will i count

will they remember me

when they write speeches

about what they did to us

or will i be violated and forgotten

bruised and buried

along with all the other

inconvenient truths

will someone remember i was here

that i stood next to them

fighting for him and bleeding for us

when it’s my turn

can someone please check my pockets

and scribble down what i was called

on any throwaway scrap you can find

just so i can dream a little

that someone may remember

to pencil in my name

next to those that mattered

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how many more?

one or one thousand

before you paused

two or two thousand

before you watched

three or three thousand

before you questioned

four or four thousand

before you listened

five or five thousand

before you cared

six or six thousand

before you spoke out on it

seven or seven thousand

before you walked with us

eight or eight thousand

before you understood

what we were really marching for

nine or nine thousand

before you realized

you weren’t free either

how many tens of thousands of us had to die

before you woke up

is my son next? 

dear momma,

i hope not

i dream of a world

where your son can breathe

where he can be free from fear

free from police violence

where he can survive and thrive

and grow old enough 

to pass along his wisdom

i hold sacred space for him 

alongside my children

and, may i kindly ask

for you and other dear mommas

to hold sacred space for my daughters

to dream of a world 

where my girls can breathe 

and their bodies and souls 

be free from police violence

where they can speak freely

and survive and thrive

and grow old enough 

to pass along their wisdom 

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Shannon Malone Gonzalez is a PhD candidate in sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, where she researches police violence against black women and girls.