In her first television interview about the shooting allegations against Tory Lanez, rapper Megan Thee Stallion highlighted a common calculation for Black women, who can feel compelled to hide their experiences with violence to protect those around them — often at the cost of their own safety.
The rapper spoke to Gayle King through tears as she recounted the moments police showed up after she was shot in the foot following a party in the Hollywood Hills. The incident occurred in the summer of 2020, as protests continued across the country in reaction to the killings of George Floyd and other Black people that year.
Megan Thee Stallion said when helicopters and police cars descended upon the scene, she downplayed her injuries, saying her bloodied foot was simply from stepping on glass.
“I didn’t want them to kill any of us, or shoot any of us. So I just said I stepped on glass,” she said. “For some reason, I was just trying to protect all of us, because I didn’t want them to kill us. Even though this person just did this to me, my first reaction still was to try to save us. I didn’t want to see anybody die.”
Megan Thee Stallion, whose legal name is Megan Pete, said the incident began in a car with Lanez, a driver, and a friend. As they drove away from the party, an argument in the car escalated, she said, and she stepped out of the vehicle. She said that’s when Lanez began shooting at her.
She suffered a gunshot wound to the foot, which she said required surgery.
Lanez, whose real name is Daystar Peterson, was charged with one felony count each of assault with a semiautomatic firearm-personal use of a firearm and carrying a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced in October 2020. He pleaded not guilty.
In the time since the shooting, Megan Thee Stallion has faced intense online criticism from those who cite her glass claim as proof she is lying about the incident.
While national discourse about police violence has often focused on the plight of Black men, the experiences of Black women tend to go ignored. Along with experiencing police violence themselves, experts say Black women often work to protect those around them from police violence and are left without support or protection within their own communities.
Research has shown that Black women commonly forgo their own needs in the face of police brutality and other forms of injustice; they are conditioned “to withstand abuse and make a conscious self-sacrifice for what she perceives as the greater good of the community but to her own physical, psychological, and spiritual detriment,” according to a 2001 study published in the journal Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. As a result, Black women are less likely to seek help in incidents of gender-based violence.
“That’s the dilemma for us as Black women, a dilemma that’s really unique to us. Nobody is there for Black girls, and women and queer Black people,” said Elaine Richardson, a professor at Ohio State University who specializes in African American cultures, literacy and hip-hop. “We’re pretty much low priority, intraracially. It’s simple to say Megan Thee Stallion lied, but there’s a complex history behind that.”
This isn’t the first time Megan Thee Stallion has shared a story of such self-sacrifice. She took to Instagram Live in February 2020 to set the record straight after a 2015 mugshot surfaced. She recalled fighting with an ex-boyfriend and being pushed and in the incident.
When police arrived, she explained in 2020, she denied that the man hit her “‘cause I don’t want him to go to jail.” Instead, her then-partner detailed the fight to police, and she was arrested, she said.
Black women’s marginalization is well documented, and activists and organizers have spent decades working to draw attention to the unique barriers and challenges Black women face both within and outside their communities.
Black women who experience domestic or sexual violence are less likely than the general population to report these incidents due to, among many reasons, “racial loyalty,” according to a 2010 study published in the journal Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. And when Black women are killed or harmed by police, their stories rarely receive national attention — like Crystal Ragland, Latasha Nicole Walton and April Webster.
“Although black women are routinely killed, raped, and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality,” Kimberlé Crenshaw, a legal scholar known for her work on the intersections of race and gender, previously said in a statement. “Yet, inclusion of black women’s experiences in social movements, media narratives, and policy demands around policing and police brutality is critical to effectively combating racialized state violence for black communities and other communities of color.”
Although organizers, activists and academics have managed to push the particular plight of Black women into the national conversation in recent years, this advocacy for the marginalized group is hardly new.
Black women’s anti-rape activism in the 1970s aided in the creation of rape crisis centers and college campus activism. And today, countless organizations serve Black women and provide services in everything from reproduction to mental health. For example, the Black Women’s Health Imperative has worked for decades to address health issues that disproportionately impact Black women; Black Women’s Blueprint provides resources for survivors of gender-based violence; the Marsha P. Johnson Institute advocates for Black trans communities; and Survived & Punished works to support those incarcerated for defending themselves in incidents of gender-based violence.
With that, Richardson said, in order to mitigate this conundrum for Black women like Megan Thee Stallion, it’s vital to address the societal circumstances that make this violence possible.
“I’m all for figuring out another way to handle violence and all those social ills that plague our community,” Richardson said. “That’s why there’s been this movement to defund the police and invest in our communities, invest in our mental health, invest in the health care, invest in education, invest in all these other systems besides the prison industrial complex and the violent systems that keep reproducing the violent systems.”