How Black women created the ‘say her name’ rallying cry before Biden's SOTU.

Marjorie Taylor Greene wore a T-shirt with the simple message: Say Her Name to Thursday's State of the Union. The hard-line Republican congresswoman from Georgia, wearing a red MAGA hat and other regalia, adopted the phrase from Black racial justice activists who have been protesting police and vigilante killings of Black women.

Greene used the rallying cry to get President Joe Biden to mention Laken Riley, a Georgia nursing student whose death is now at the focus of immigration debate. An illegal Venezuelan immigrant was arrested for Riley's murder. Republicans unite behind Riley's name to criticize the president's handling of the unprecedented arrival of immigrants through the U.S.-Mexico border. The ‘Say Her Name’ rallying cry predates Greene's T-shirt.

After Sandra Bland's death in 2015, civil rights activist, law professor, and African American Policy Institute executive director Kimberlé Crenshaw popularized the phrase. A few days after her traffic stop detention, 28-year-old Black Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell. After questioning her death and the traffic stop, her family settled a wrongful death case with the police the following year.

Black women are statistically more likely to witness and endure police violence, including death, which increases psychological stress and severe health outcomes.

“Everywhere, we see the appropriation of progressive and inclusionary concepts in an effort to devalue, distort and suppress the movements they have been created to advance,” Crenshaw told The Associated Press. “When most people only hear about these ideas from those who repurpose and debase them, our ability to speak truth to power is further restricted.”

Crenshaw stated that Greene's use of the phrase "undermines civil rights movements and pushes our democracy closer to the edge." "We must resist the misuse of these concepts by those who want to silence us to remain steadfast in our advocacy for a fully inclusive and shared future."

Laken Riley deserves justice, but racial justice campaigner and novelist Tamika Mallory doesn't think conservatives are sincere when they use #SayHerName. She added, “If they were, they wouldn't be using language they claim not to favor.” They condemn our vocabulary and organizing approach, but they co-opt it when it's a political instrument.

Crenshaw and others used the phrase to highlight police brutality against Black women. The 2020 hashtag #SayHerName brought attention to the shooting death of 26-year-old Louisville, KY Black woman Breonna Taylor in her home during a botched police raid. Crenshaw founded the movement to raise awareness of police-killed Black women, girls, and femmes.

“The list of women killed by law enforcement and whose families demand justice is long. We celebrate women like Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Shirley, Sandra Bland, Miriam Carey, Michelle Cusseaux, Shelly Frey, Breonna Taylor, Korryn Gaines, Kayla Moore, Atatiana Jefferson, and India Kager whose experiences have been too often ignored. We must reject any attempt to hijack this campaign for right-wing extremism.”