When I first heard about Janese Talton-Jackson, the 29 year old Black Pittsburgh mother of three that was killed for refusing a strangers advances, my first reaction was lack of surprise. How sad is it that a Black woman dying at the hands of a Black man for such an utterly ridiculous reason is not a surprise to me?
My mind instantly shot back to the Americas Most Wanted episode I saw decades ago as a high schooler with my sisters. In this episode a woman was at a club, and a man made advances. He wanted her information. He wanted to know her. He wanted her time. She wanted to live. She turned him down and he killed her. I do not recall her name, but I recalled relating to her.
That was the day I learned what being a Black woman in America means. Women, Black women our bodies are not ours. Our time is not ours. Our lives are not ours. If we should have the audacity to refuse the unwanted attention of a man, our lives can easily be the price.
From that moment on, if a man I had no interest in approached me, I would coyly say that I had a boyfriend. If he pushed, I would say, Well, I am trying to be that good Black woman that men want. That answer usually would result in his relenting because it gave him what he wanted to hear. That answer showed submission and docility while not rejecting him. It showed that I really wanted to talk to him, but because I know my place as a woman, I am refraining and being loyal to someone else.
I learned that no matter how tired, or uninterested, or distracted a Black woman (and all women) is, when a strange man approaches you, you better smile. You better ooze the sweetness of honey dipped in cotton candy. A neck roll and a smart aleck comeback can very likely result in at best a fuck you bitch, or at worst, death.
I remembered being home from college at a popular park in Chicago with my sister and some friends. It was the summer after another sister had been killed at a Chicago club in a scenario that remains a mystery to this day.
We were walking and these guys tried to talk to us. We just kept walking. But our strides, though! The insanity of fucking continuing to put one foot in front of the other without stopping to talk to them was too much for their fragile egos.
Just as Dr. Dre had in his, Nothing but a G Thing video, these guys surrounded us and poured 40 ounce bottles of liquor on us while laughing hysterically. At least we we were worth the cost of the beer to them.
We continued to walk on a muggy summer day, hot and sticky with beer, the scent annoying our nostrils. Eventually as we walked, we finally saw Chicago Police and described the events. The male officers chuckled a bit and shrugged as if to say, So. No report, no charges, no sympathy.
Who the hell did we think we were being young Black women walking, not returning the advances of males, and then having the gall to be upset when they doused us with beer?
As I read about Janese Talton- Jackson, those memories wrapped in other multitudes of transgressions witnessed as a Black woman at the hands of Black men came to my mind and I too shrugged. I was not surprised.
Google Woman killed refusing stranger and many stories pop up, the majority being Black women. Detroits Mary Spears was killed when she rejected a man that approached her at an event she attended with her fiance. And there are so many others the DC college student shot in the ankle for refusing advances, the New York woman slashed in the throat for doing the same. There is even a macabre database documenting how often this happens which is sadly, a lot.
Aggression from strangers is why I have absolutely no problem taking public transportation in most foreign countries, but I am always apprehensive at home. Black women do not own our bodies. We are merely renting them until a stranger comes over and says, Sup?