Philosophical Topics

Volume 49, Issue 1, Spring 2021

Social Visibility

Shatema Threadcraft
Pages 35-44

Making Black Femicide Visible
Intersectional, Abolitionist People-Building Against Epistemic Oppression

Black women struggle to make the violence they experience visible for at least four reasons: the violence occurs in private, not in public; it is associated with sex, sexuality and intimacy; the violence is not amplified within the public and counterpublic spheres; and, finally and importantly, activists have not been as successful in constructing resonate narratives regarding the violence. Contemporary violence against black men, for example, is often understood through the lens of lynching, a phenomenon that earlier activists were able to link to the biblical crucifixion. The activists’ work ensured that lynching holds an important place in the story of black peoplehood; it helped to make blacks as a political people and has been crucial to black understandings of who we are and why we are here. Social visibility requires that black women tell stories that not only build social movements; they must also tell stories that help to build people.