The scenes from a McKinney pool party turned crime scene is all too familiar for black women. Activists have worked hard fighting for female victims of police brutality, but we don't always have the images to illustrate the horror.
In the footage of the incident, which surfaced last weekend, nothing is left to the imagination. It goes the way these things always go: Eric Casebolt, a white cop, arrives after an unrelated disturbance has been reported in the area. The young black teens at the party assert their innocence. The cop fires off obscenity-laden threats, and the kids do what he says.
We know what happens next. Casebolt decides to throw 15-year-old Dajerria Becton to the ground. He pins her down by his knee, and rests it there, while the child, clad only in a bikini and a towel, screams for her mother, fearing for her life.
Denied the presumed innocence always given to a white girl (in a swimsuit or otherwise), in this moment the teenager makes the all-too-familiar transition from black childhood to black adulthood. In the eyes of the police she was a woman. Her crime: talking back to a white man.
The footage shows what happened. But it also captures the terror of being a black girl in America. Police are meant to protect and serve, yet they have unfettered access to our bodies. They wave their gun at our faces and wrestle us to the ground by our hair. We are left feeling that there is no one to come to our rescue, and that being a black girl is a punishable offense in America.
The police defended their actions as they always do – the black girl was defying orders, yelling, breathing, walking, swimming, existing. White anxiety and its bedfellow, the militarised police force, come out in full force when young black girls challenge white authority. And nowhere is this anxiety more worrisome for white people than the unpredictable, uncontrollable, and intimate space of the swimming pool.
Meanwhile, black women are left to deal with the trauma of watching our bodies brutalised again and again on the morning and evening news. But while the world has been watching the police brutalise black men, black girls and women have been fighting the Casebolts of the world. Maybe now that you have the footage you’ll believe us and pay attention.
Dr Ashley Farmer is a historian of African American Women's intellectual History. Her research interests include women's history, gender history, radical politics, and black feminism.