Black Femicides Matter: Conceptualizing the Killings of Black Girls and Women as Structural and Cultural Violence

Published date01 August 2024
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/10887679231209227
AuthorBrianne M. Posey
Date01 August 2024
Subject MatterSpecial Issue Articles
https://doi.org/10.1177/10887679231209227
Homicide Studies
2024, Vol. 28(3) 313 –340
© 2023 SAGE Publications
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DOI: 10.1177/10887679231209227
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Special Issue Article
Black Femicides Matter:
Conceptualizing the Killings
of Black Girls and Women
as Structural and Cultural
Violence
Brianne M. Posey1
Abstract
Although men of color are disproportionately the victims of violence in the United
States, Black women face a substantial risk. This work presents a layered commentary
on the growing epidemic of Black femicide. First, hypervisibility and invisibility within
institutions is explored. Second, using feminist victimology and intersectionality
frameworks, four forms of Black femicide are analyzed: gun violence, intimate partner
violence, targeted violence, and institutional violence. Third, topics of missing and
insufficient information on Black femicide are probed. Fourth, procedural limitations
and recommendations for future works are proposed. This essay seeks to improve
discussions surrounding Black femicide in research and practice.
Keywords
violence, homicide, intersectionality, women, femicide, gender, feminist victimology
Introduction
The United States (U.S.) has recently recorded some of the highest rates of homicide
in modern history. According to provisional data released by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), the homicide rate rose 30% between 2019 and 2020
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2021a). Using data gathered by
the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), the Pew Research Center reported that
1California State University Northridge, USA
Corresponding Author:
Brianne M. Posey, California State University Northridge, 18111 Nordhoff St, Northridge, CA 91330,
USA.
Email: briannep@csun.edu
1209227HSXXXX10.1177/10887679231209227Homicide StudiesPosey
research-article2023
314 Homicide Studies 28(3)
homicides increased by another 4.3% in 2021 (Gramlich, 2021). The Johns Hopkins
Center for Gun Violence Solutions (2022) noted that in 2020 the firearm homicide rate
increased by 15% from 2019, reaching the highest level ever recorded. These spikes
represent a substantial and continuing public health concern.
Homicide reports have also expelled demographic disparities. For instance,
National Vital Statistics Systems, Mortality Data revealed that Black males experience
the highest rates of gun violence resulting in death (Garnett et al., 2019). Although
Black men have held the highest homicide victimization rates for decades (Harrell,
2007), a shift has occurred. In 2017, a CDC report divulged that Black women were
slain at significantly higher rates than women of other races. In particular, the report
concluded that Black women were killed at a rate of 4.4 per 100,000, closely rivaling
the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), where Indigenous
women were killed at a rate of 4.3 per 100,000 (Petrosky et al., 2017). Furthermore,
data from the CDC positioned homicide as one of the leading causes of premature
death for Black females in 2018 (CDC, 2021b).
Black women’s risk for homicide victimization has risen to alarming levels as of
late. Findings from an investigation done by The Guardian conveyed that during the
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic, the murders of Black women rose dramatically
(Beckett & Clayton, 2022a), which included a sharper increase in homicides than
almost every other demographic (Beckett & Clayton, 2022b). In addition, The Murder
Accountability Project. (2019) noted that the rate of solved murders for Black women
has declined. In many circles, these troubling trends are referred to as Black femicide.
As femicide is broadly defined as “the intentional murder of women because they are
women” (World Health Organization, 2012, p. 1), Black femicide, a term coined by
activist Rosa Page (Beckett & Clayton, 2021), speaks to the intentional killing of
Black women because they are Black and women. These killings underscore the con-
tinuum of hostility that is directed toward women with intersecting identities.
Therefore, it is posited that Black femicide is not exclusive to hate crimes, it also
includes killings driven by overlapping stereotypes, discrimination, unequal power
relations, and harmful social norms.
Indeed, Black women face imminent social, political, and economic disadvantages
(see Beal, 2008; Henriques, 1996; Settles, 2006; Sidanius & Veniegas, 2013; St Jean
& Feagin, 2015). These disadvantages extend to violence, where homicide victimiza-
tion continues to be part of their lived experience. With rates of fatal violence surg-
ing, Black femicide has emerged as a societal crisis requiring thorough and urgent
scholarly attention. However, scholarly research is severely lacking in this area of
homicide inquiry. This essay seeks to provide a commentary on Black femicide; and
accordingly, lay a foundation for theoretical and empirical works. To this end, I draw
on feminist victimology and intersectionality frameworks as springboards in concep-
tualizing the killings of Black girls and women as structural and cultural violence.
The following sections explore Black women’s hypervisibility and invisibility within
American institutions and then probe several forms of Black femicide. Next, I iden-
tify and discuss shortcomings and inconsistencies in data on Black femicide, speak-
ing specifically to research methodologies and procedures, accompanied by

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