Dead Girls Don’t Get to Tell Their Stories

Still from the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Sam dressed in his Captain America uniform holds the dead body of Karli Morgenthau in his arms.

When I was young, I didn’t start fights … but I finished them. It took a lot to push me to fight. Anything that resulted in throwing hands was usually preceded by weeks of bullying or taunts. And the easiest way to goad me into a fight was if I saw someone more vulnerable than me being bullied. I’ve always had an innate sense of justice and a low tolerance for injustice. Here on the network, we joke about “villain agendas” but it’s that intolerance for injustice that makes us take a moment to listen when Magneto talks about mutant rights or when Killmonger shames Wakanda for hiding in the shadows while Black people all over the globe suffer. So when I watched the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier mere days after seeing the death of Ma’Khia Bryant, something in me broke open. I thought of all the Karlis and Ma’Khias who don’t get to tell their own stories because they aren’t alive to speak their truth and I could feel that anger rising in me. Where was the justice?

I promise I’m not trying to be hyperbolic, but for the past month, I’ve watched people on social media defend the actions of John Walker (“he was brainwashed”, “the serum made him worse”) and defend the redemption of Bucky (“he, too, was brainwashed”, “he’s changed”, “he deserves a second chance”) while those same people threw away Karli because of one violent act. It was Karli, the young girl, the woman of color, who was beyond redemption. Despite the scores of grown men making dubious choices on this show, she had gone too far to ever be saved. So when those bullets, fired from Sharon’s gun, tore through Karli’s back, I could not help but flashback to a similar scene just a few days before. A young girl, pushed to the edge, trying desperately to defend herself only to have four bullets shot into her back.

Since Ma’Khia’s death, the response has been one of victim-blaming. What Ma’Khia should’ve/could’ve done to not end up dead but no one is asking the right questions. No one is asking “why?”.

This is where I have to give some praise to TFATWS. They could have had Sam, weary but dignified, carry Karli’s body through the frame and then proclaimed him the new Captain America and let the government go about doing what it does to maintain the status quo. But Sam stood there and spoke for Karli and made them ask why. Why was Karli a terrorist and not a freedom fighter? Why weren’t they listening to her? Why was she able to amass so many supporters? But the tragic part is that when if we do take a moment to ask why it’s always after the tragedy. After the life has been taken. Why is that?

As I said, I don’t start fights, I finish them. So by the time someone shows up, what they’re going to see is me wailing on someone after I’ve been pushed too far. After I’ve seen their cruelty or endured their injustice and been pushed past my limit. Is that a justification for death? And in the case of Karli and Ma’Khia, the people that are left to justify what happened are the ones who took their lives. I applaud TFATWS for having Sam give voice to Karli’s cause, but even that speaks volumes about who is allowed to speak and who will be listened to. History is told by the victor and unfortunately, Black girls can’t seem to win.




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