OPINION: She Was Me

Gabrielle Bunton, News reporter

I remember her tweeting out her final words. She was describing the man who sexually assaulted her. A man who disguised himself as a person of hope. A person that could give her a hand. He sexually assaulted her. He killed her. She was 19 years old. Her name is Oluwatoyin Salau.

Her death hit me hard because she was me. She had a shaved head like me. Had brown skin like me. Was out protesting like me. She used her voice to speak out like me. She was sexually assaulted like me. She was a black woman like me. She was me.

Since the death of Trayvon Martin, I have watched Black people die every day. I saw the seven shots. I saw the chokeholds. I saw the rolled-up gym mat. I saw the blood. I watched the body cams. I watched the beatings. I watched the light leave their eyes. I saw it all. Out of all of that, what hurts me the most was that even in a movement that is supposed to bring light on what happens to black people, black women are an afterthought.

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I watched social media bash black women. Mock black women. Hurt black women. Kill black women on a daily basis, then turn around and use Harriet Tubman as a meme or as proof of evidence in social media arguments in the comment section.

I watched Breona Taylor’s murder turn into a meme. I watched Sandra B Land’s mugshot be turned into an Instagram post to create a false sense of allyship. I watched Aiyana Jones’s name be used as ammo in a battle of Twitter fingers. I watched Nadja Cox get thrown into a dumpster. I watched Iyanna Dior get jumped by multiple men. I watched black women like…

Michelle Cusseaux

Charleena Lyles

Atatiana Jefferson

Korryn Gaines

Kathryn Johnston

Kayla Moore

Rekia Boyd

Megan Hockaday

Tyisha Miller

Brandie Coleman

Shantel Davis

Marielle Franco

Shukri Yahye Abdi

LaVena Johnson

Kenneka Jenkins

Althea Bernstein

Brayla Stone

Fall into the cracks… fall into statistics…. fall into a memory… fall into an old news article…..fall into a casket….fall into nothingness…..

It makes me wonder what if something like that happened to me? What if the men who sexually assaulted me, killed me? What if those boys who jumped and stabbed me, gave me the fatal blow? What if the man that beat me up took justice into his own hands? What if, after the ten years of bullying and harassment, I had taken the matter into my own hands? Who would seek that justice till the end? Who would care?

You people romanticize the hurt and pain that black women go through. The mix of racism, misogyny, and hatred have shown that everyone, including our own, gets posted, generalized, and gentrified for likes and views. Will someone ever stick up for us? Why do we have to be the ones who are strong all the time? Why do we have to suck up the tears we cry? Why are we responsible for saving others in real life when no one even comes to our defense in simple posts on social media?

They were asleep like me. They were sexually assaulted like me. They drowned like me. They were set on fire like me. They were hung from trees like me. They trusted their friends like me. They called for help like me. They were shot like me. They held on as much as they could like me. They were hurting like me. They were breathing like me. They fought until the very end like me. They are a black woman like me. All of them are me. It was me.

Black Women Matter. Now and Forever.

“The same n-words I’m risking my life for are the same n who are convinced they are stealing away my ‘innocence’ or jewel not knowing that I am standing on a rock. Therefore I can never be broken or robbed.” – Oluwatoyin Salau on Twitter on June 6, 2020. She died 9 days after on June 15, 2020.

News reporter Gabi Bunton can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @gbunto_.