#ripBianca and the danger of “NO”

CW/TW: This essay/video contains discussion or allusions to death and domestic violence. Discretion is advised.

On Friday or Saturday, July 12th or 13th you may have heard of the mysterious death of the famed Black activist Sadie Roberts Joseph who was found deceased inside the trunk of her car. Her death received a softening of sorts by the media due to lack of grisly photos, her activism, her age, her blackness, or her death’s proximity to the weekend news cycle. Monday morning, however, you woke up like any other day going about your business and logged into Twitter and saw something that happened to stand out on your newsfeed…a seemingly unassuming hashtag. As you scrolled down the timeline you discovered that this # was something serious. This was something grave because this time there were pictures and they were circulating across social media platforms. There would be no usual Twitter filled with the usual memes, gifs, or light-hearted jollity today. You discovered that this was the death and murder of another girl or woman, just living their life…murdered and displayed once again for the world to see. The hashtag #ripbianca began this Monday morning July 15, 2019, and multiple people left their condolences, their grievances, their remorse, their frustrations, their fears, their anxieties, their distress, their dismay, their hurt, their pain, and their anger in hundreds if not thousands of Twitter threads. Once again another girl had become a hashtag. And she didn’t make the major television 6:30 news evening news circuit this Monday; perhaps her death was too raw for the time slot. In a grim irony, Sadie Roberts Joseph was, with no leads to her murderer, but an update was given on her cause of death. *My apologies if Bianca was mentioned briefly. I flipped through multiple channels at that time slot and searched online for her presence and saw nothing for the evening news.*

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People like to use their internet platforms as a place of refuge and solitude; but what happens when then that escape is encroached upon by an individual or group that wishes to chip away at your happiness to make your place of comfort a place of turmoil? The former is what happened to teenaged Bianca Devins. The person that she thought could become a friend became a foe. Countless girls and women exist in this world at a busy intersection of hypervigilance that leaves them constantly stressed and cautious to even live their lives. Moreover, it leaves women at a particular disadvantage to true carelessness. We don’t want to navigate the world from a place of fear but the world that we live in constantly has us on alert and on guard with our defenses up. The world in which we live doesn’t want us to live, especially not with our own autonomy. If it’s not the boy and men online, it’s those in the street, at the job, at school, in their cars, at restaurants, in the clubs, in the churches, at the gyms, or political offices that affect how we merely exist. We live in a swirling nexus of perpetual anxiety, and of perpetual urgency to get home, be safe, and text message.

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Well, by proxy of us using the Internet we leave a footprint that someone can use to encroach on that cyberspace to like us, follow us, harass us, stalk us, and find us. When girls and women become hashtags they become a part of an endless list of those whose lives and deaths are displayed for the world to see. Those that come and go from the newsfeed are cis-gendered, transgendered, gender non-conforming, able-bodied, disabled, queer…and are from every facet of life. They encompass all racial and socio-economic backgrounds.

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What they all have in common are the boys and men who cannot allow them to live. The singularity that tethers them together is the powerful and dangerous NO…the verbal — physical — or political NO. An all-encompassing NO that doesn’t permit access to their bodies, their time, and their space to the boys and men who want them, desire them, lust after them, sexualize them, romanticize them, fetishize them, or control them. NO can be used either as a singular statement or an exclamation. NO is a powerful two-letter word that opens the floodgates for girls and women to receive the brunt of the most disturbing and vile pernicious forms of inhumane violence imaginable. When girls and women become hashtags they become the face of the opposition to maleness, masculinity, patriarchy, or our simplest constructs of the man. On the sliding scales of social, political, and financial capital girls and women face obstacle courses at every turn. When one race ends another begins and so on and so on ad infinitum…

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Just this year alone, there have been numerous trans Black women murdered on our screens both large and small for the world to see. There have been girls and women abused physically and/or sexually for the world to see. There has been an endless amount of escalating trauma for the world to see. The power of our Internet age is both a blessing and a curse. We know now more than we ever have before and with this knowledge comes these radical paradigm shifts in our willingness to absorb the truth or regurgitate cognitive dissonance. We don’t need the trite ‘not all men’ right now (or ever) or the catchall ’thoughts and prayers’. Girls and women didn’t become these hashtags by themselves and we need more nuanced articulation of this global problem than ‘why didn’t they just say no’… TBH (to be honest) SMH (shaking my head)…#loggingoutforselfcare.

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Editor: We Are Horror Magazine. Writer: An Injustice, Fanfare, Gayly Dreadful, Haw Creek Horror, Rely on Horror, Something Ghoulish, and SUPERJUMP.

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