Megan Thee Stallion's shooting exposes how the police doubly fail Black women

Scott Dudelson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
ByAndre Gee
Originally Published: 

On Thursday night, rapper Megan Thee Stallion took to Instagram Live to out Tory Lanez as the person who allegedly shot her in July. The “WAP” rapper had been dogged by online skepticism in the weeks following the Hollywood Hills incident, and she had had enough. During the ten-minute live session, she explained what happened that night, and told Lanez to “stop lying” about his actions.

She admitted that she didn’t tell cops what had happened out of fear of brutality. She also didn’t tell the hospital staff that she was shot for fear of punitive consequences for her and the other passengers, including Tory. Already suffering from gun violence, she had to worry about further pain by the hands of the system “meant” to help her.

Supporters may deem her a “strong Black woman,” but embodying that trope doesn’t mean as much as being healed.

Her plight underscores the difficulty Black women face when dealing with the carceral state. Is anyone there to actually help Black women when they’re aggrieved? The cops are always a threat for violence. Investigators pry for burden of proof to an insensitive degree. The trial process is a charade that entails aggressors concocting the most unique lie possible in hopes of exoneration. Nowhere in this process is there room for accountability or healing for the survivor. Is the legal process meant to give survivors solace, or merely ensnare people into prison? The obstacles in the way of Megan’s healing are why recent calls to abolish the carceral state need to be amplified.

Lanez has been suspiciously mum about the incident publicly, but he’s apparently been telling a different story behind the scenes. “Why lie? I don't understand,” Megan said during the live. “I tried to keep the situation off the internet, but you dragging it.” She went on to reveal full details of that night, noting that her friend and Lanez’s security guard were also traveling in the car with them. Megan said that they were all “arguing,” and she left the vehicle to escape the commotion. That’s when Lanez allegedly shot her from behind.

If being shot wasn’t traumatic enough, the cops quickly arrived — a development that spurs increased tension for Black people. A recent Harvard study concluded that Black people were six times more likely to be shot by police. Anti-police demonstrations shut down cities all over the country in June as people advocated for the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and too many others unjustly killed by police. The odds of the LAPD peacefully resolving a shooting incident involving young Black people were too slim to endeavor.

Megan recalled that “the police [were] really aggressive. You think I'm ’bout to tell the police that we, niggas, us Black people, got a gun in the car? You want me to tell the laws that we got a gun in the car, so they can shoot all of us up? Nigga, I'm scared.” So Megan thought for everyone and stayed silent, allowing herself to be arrested, while bleeding from gunshot wounds.

The patriarchal framing of mass incarceration as a war against Black men makes Black women protective of them — even to their own detriment.

It wasn’t the first time Megan had stayed silent during a police encounter. During a February IG live session, she explained a 2015 incident where she was fighting with a then-partner. The cops arrived, and she told them nothing had happened — but her partner told on her, and she was arrested. Despite that betrayal, Megan tried her best to keep quiet the night of her shooting. She mentioned in the live that she essentially played dumb when doctors told her she was shot.

Still, Megan’s silence reflects an often adversarial relationship between Black people and the carceral state. It isn’t just that the police are brutal; prison is the most dehumanizing experience there is in America. Black people disproportionately populate prisons. In a post-BLM world, so much of the community has been awakened to the ways in which the system lures us. The patriarchal framing of mass incarceration as a war against Black men makes Black women protective of them — even to their own detriment. This is especially true in instances of partner violence, where love, and the traumatic effects of prolonged abuse, can obscure the desire for justice. Black women who are staunchly anti carceral seek a more rewarding future, but are unprotected in the present.

In June, Jessica Orta, wife of Ramsey Orta, came forward about her abuse and mistreatment at the hands of the man known — and previously incarcerated — for filming Eric Garner’s murder by the NYPD. On her GoFundMe page she noted, “I strongly believe in police abolition but we cannot continue to build a movement in which black women and black children continue to be targets of misogyny in their households...In order to talk about police abolition we must also talk about the future we wish to replace it with.” Though what happened to Megan and Jessica are two different crimes, and two different situations, they’re both examples of violations.

That’s why so many activists and abolitionists are calling for alternatives to policing and prisons. Pleas to defund the police have increased since the June uprising, and more people are embracing the possibility of alternative conflict resolution models like transformative justice. According to GenerationFive, transformative justice seeks to prioritize “safety, healing, and agency for survivors” through a process that seeks “accountability and transformation for people who harm.” Many skeptics scoff at the idea of a society without prison, but transformative justice also focuses on, “transformation of the social conditions that perpetuate violence – systems of oppression and exploitation, domination, and state violence.”

For Black women who have been violated like Megan, the current system is an obstacle course of predacious police, insensitive investigators, and the guilt of feeding prisons. Court cases are a process of poring through legal minutia that doesn’t even attempt to prioritize healing. Women are called upon to recount their trauma to detectives in the hopes that maybe their aggressor, will be prosecuted. And to add insult to the trauma, the trial process necessitates the accused lying about the incident. There’s rarely accountability, just audacious denial. In Megan’s case, it was Tory’s dishonesty that compelled her to come forward.

But she deserves more than to have to navigate an inherently misogynist system. Supporters may deem her a “strong Black woman,” but embodying that trope doesn’t mean as much as being healed.

For Megan’s consideration, she received a figurative spit in the face when Tory liked an Instagram screenshot of a tweet from former NFL player Larry Johnson that surmised, “Ladies, if you date a man who coined the term ‘Demon Time,’ and you get shot by him during Demon Hours, be accountable for YOUR stupidity #toreylanez.” Johnson himself has repeatedly assaulted his partners. We owe her, and each other, better than an existence where two abusive men can show solidarity through respectability politics.

What if there was a system in which aggrieved women didn’t have to feel like they were risking their safety or peace of mind in pursuit of justice? What if conflict resolution was catered to their desire, and an abuser could seek their own healing by being honest about what led to their violence? It’s also worth wondering how much better the world would be if police budgets were drained and that money was spent on improving communities so that men wouldn’t be so combustible, and no one would feel obligated to carry guns.

Perhaps this all sounds like a fantasy, but this moment calls for imagination. As it is today, we know the carceral state doesn’t care about transformation or healing as much as creating more slaves. It’s noble that there are so many Black women who are anti-carceral; let’s do our part so that they won’t have to suffer for their empathy. As Megan’s heart wrenching response to her shooting has shown, no one is healed in our current environment.