Apparently, missing and murdered indigenous girls aren’t worthy of getting a reaction from the #MeToo movement.
A recent report was issued by the Urban Indian Health Institute documenting over 506 cases of indigenous women and girls across 29 states who are either missing, or have been murdered. Of these 506 cases, 66 were identified as connected to domestic, or sexual violence.
Murder is the third leading cause of death for indigenous women, and yet, the headlines regarding this crisis are nowhere to be seen. It seems clear that the reason why this issue is not at the forefront of the media is due to white supremacy, and institutionalized racism. Because there are very few headlines about this topic, many people don’t even know it’s an issue. Adding to the argument that this crisis is not being given the importance it deserves is the fact that the report in question was done on a very limited budget, and the investigators have expressed that they believe the reported cases only point to an even larger picture.
“Savanna’s Act,” a bill which aims to require law enforcement to maintain a nationwide database of missing or murdered indigenous women, was unanimously approved by the Senate in 2018. Despite being stalled in the House, it is now starting to move forward again. But we all know that legislation does not necessarily create public attention, as the fact of this legislation remains largely out of the news, and absent from many people’s awareness.
We, as Muslim women, need to take this issue very seriously for a variety of reasons. For one, we need to follow the Quranic injunctions to stand up for justice [Quran 4:135]. As Muslims, we have an obligation to want and work for justice for these women, whether they are Muslim or not. Additionally, we can turn to the hadith for inspiration as to why this issue should be important to us: “And Allah will aid a servant so long as they aid their brother” [40 Hadith Nawawi 36].
One way that women, including many Muslim women, have organized to help each other in recent years is, of course, the #MeToo movement. The #MeToo movement is a huge advance for the struggle to make the world safer for women and girls. I have a ton of respect for the work the #MeToo movement has done to push the issue of sexual assault in the media, and further bring to light the importance of women being able to live their lives without fear of sexual violence, or any kind of violence.
Of course, the origin of the hashtag, and the founder of the revolutionary #MeToo movement is a women of color, Tarana Burke. She stated that the movement that she started was originally to build empathy and agency for women and girls.
While the issue of violence against indigenous women and girls is not all categorized under sexual assault, it is clear from the nature of the attacks that it is violence against them as women, with each paying an even higher price. So, the question must be asked, is #MeToo truly addressing gender-based violence if they aren’t speaking up for indigenous women? Is it really fulfilling its entire potential as a force in society? It is out of concern for the progress of the movement that I express my heartfelt wish that it not get subverted by overlooking intersectionality on this front, and become another tool for white supremacy. I truly wish for this movement to remain relevant, revolutionary, and radical.
Historically, white women have been massively guilty of racism, and being engaged in social movements that have not addressed the concerns of people of color. This brings me to Alyssa Milano, who swiftly adopted the #MeToo movement. When Alyssa Milano called for women of color to step down from their own movement, the Women’s March, whether she realized it or not, she was acting out a long tradition of racist actions by white women. Who is she to tell women of color how to advocate for their families when she has no experience at all with the issues the organizers, or women of color, face?
Honestly, if Alyssa really wants to gain credibility on any issue to do with women’s rights, she should focus on the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. During the Women’s March, which coincided with the Indigenous People’s March, there was a clear call for a higher degree of attention on this crisis. So Alyssa, I love that you want to address the issue of race. That’s great, and sorely needed. But instead of using your movement to further suppress women of color and minimize their struggles and concerns, why don’t you do something cutting edge around the issue of race, and use your national platform to speak out on this crisis?
My argument is simply that it would be appropriate for the #MeToo movement to refocus their work, get behind intersectional issues such as the crisis of missing/murdered indigenous women, and not repeat the centuries of mistakes made by white liberals.
Of course, we don’t need to wait for Milano, or anyone else to push forward with this issue. With “Savanna’s Act,” progress is already being made, and will continue. My argument is simply that it would be appropriate for the #MeToo movement to refocus their work, get behind intersectional issues such as the crisis of missing/murdered indigenous women, and not repeat the centuries of mistakes made by white liberals.
So #MeToo, let’s refocus and get behind #MMIWG. Let’s start hearing you tweet, Alyssa, about Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind and the thousands of women like her that have been the victim of racist, gender-based violence. Just for perspective, let me leave you with this: The National Crime Information Center reported that in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing Native women and girls, but the federal missing person’s database, maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice, only logged 116 cases. Where’s the outcry? Where are the never-ending headlines? Where is #MeToo?