America is not a safe haven for Black women, it’s a snake pit. We know that Black women are over three times as likely to die giving childbirth than White women, are the most educated group but earn the least, and are under constant pressure to change themselves to appease others. And the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, who police shot as she lay in bed, was a painful reminder that Black women in America can’t even expect safety in their own homes or communities. Misogynoir has fangs.
Devonna Walker was a 29-year-old Black woman living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. However, Walker’s life was cut short after a White neighbor stabbed her following an argument at the Cambridge Townhomes on Monday, January 2nd. Devonna was a mother of three children. The local district attorney, Nick Maybanks, has not filed any charges in this case. So, how did this tragedy occur? And what does Devonna Walker’s death mean for Black women in America? Let’s unpack this.
Cell phone footage of Devonna Walker’s last moments shows her speaking to a White woman wearing a black sweatshirt, walking her dog, “arguing about a previous alleged attack.” Their conversation suggested Walker and her neighbors had unresolved problems and that she regularly faced hostility. As the argument escalated, the White man put himself in the middle of the fuss, telling Devonna, “shut the fuck up, you fucking nigger!” As the White woman walked back towards their home, Devonna pushed her, and she fell to the ground. Then, the video showed the White man stabbing Devonna. Afterward, she stumbled off and fell on the grass. Neighbors accuse her of faking her injuries.
Like many Black Americans, Walker lived near White people, who weren’t too happy about having a Black neighbor, which is why he called Devonna a “nigger,” while they were arguing. As
wrote, “the man, could have just pushed her off his wife, but he chose to stab her quickly, sleazily; the knife was already waiting in his hand.” Now, of course, many White people are making the rounds to say Walker deserved to be stabbed for pushing her neighbor and that the White neighbor who stabbed Walker to death was acting in self-defense. While stabbing someone who hasn’t caused you bodily harm doesn’t seem like self-defense to me, that’s for a jury to decide. It’s disturbing to see so many people are willing to treat Devonna Walker’s death like an open-shut case.
Police questioned both of the neighbors but released them soon after. It’s as if a cloak of whiteness protected them from further scrutiny. And if Nick Maybanks, the local prosecutor, refuses to press charges, then Devonna Walker’s family won’t have a chance to see justice in her case. So, for those who claim this is a case of self-defense, why not advocate for charges to be filed? You shouldn’t be afraid of the outcome if you think neither of the White neighbors broke the law. Too often, when a Black woman becomes a homicide victim, there are excuses as to why no one should be charged and why we shouldn’t look any further down the rabbit hole. And those excuses are rooted in misogynoir. Black women will never be safe in a nation that routinely treats their homicides as blameless. A Black woman was stabbed to death. So, how can it logically follow that no one is to blame?
When Devonna Walker lost her life, she was an unarmed woman arguing with racist neighbors. And it could have easily been me, my sister, or my mother since each of us has weathered negative experiences with racist neighbors. Just yesterday, I caught a White neighbor fogging up the glass of my brother’s car as she snuck a peek inside. Because his car is not familiar to her, she thinks she has the right to snoop, to police our home, and to any Black visitors that she sees.
As we remember Devonna Walker, let us not forget that she was an unarmed Black woman and mother, who would still be alive if it weren’t for the violent act of her neighbor. As
put it, Walker was “bullied, taunted, baited, then killed.” According to the Department of Justice, “a hate crime is a crime motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.” Calling someone a “nigger” prior to stabbing them to death sure seems racially motivated. So, why isn’t Devonna Walker’s story trending on social media and making the rounds on major news outlets? As I said, misogynoir has fangs, and it seems the venom reduces Black women to an afterthought in blameless White America.
Say Her Name. Devonna Walker.