No Other Word for It: The Inexplicability of Violence Against Black Women and Girls

Treva B. Lindsey underscores the intersecting forms of oppression facing Black women and girls, and how these can be subverted to fuel resistance movements.

By Leslie T. Grover

America, Goddam: Violence, Black Women, and the Struggle for Justice, by Treva B. Lindsey. California, 2022. 342p, ISBN 9780520384491 $24.95, ISBN 9780520384507

Book cover of "America, Goddam," about the prevalence of violence against Black women and girls.

Treva B. Lindsey (women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, Ohio State Univ.) is an expert on African American women’s history and Black feminist theory as well as the founder of the Transformative Black Feminism Initiative in Columbus, Ohio. Her expertise and extensive research alone make this book a must read for those in the fields of Black history, women’s studies, sociology, or any of the social sciences. Lindsey incorporates the typical evidence-based treatment of violence that is sure to satisfy intellectual and academic readers, but she also takes her study further, sharing her own personal experiences as a Black woman in the United States whose ancestors experienced enslavement. From her lived and professional experiences comes America, Goddam, a timely, moving, and convincing case for addressing the unique concerns that Black women and girls face.

America, Goddam examines violence against Black women and girls. Part memoir, part monograph, part history, part theory, and part speculative analysis, the book frames this violence in ways rarely acknowledged, let alone discussed. Lindsey calls out the forces inherent in American institutions, belief systems, and history that buttress this violence. She identifies the sources of violence and underscores the need to identify the ways in which Black women and girls experience violence while acknowledging and uplifting the overall Black experience in the United States.

This intersectionality of Lindsey’s voice and professional background is what makes this work so powerful and impactful. The title is a take on Nina Simone’s song “Mississippi Goddam,” one of the most gripping and persuasive protest songs about anti-Black violence ever written and performed. The lyrics are as follows:

The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it
Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi, goddamn
Alabama’s gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi, goddamn

“Mississippi Goddam” by Nina Simone

For Simone and Lindsey, “Goddam” is the only refrain that can be mustered when bearing witness to white terrorism against Black bodies, and rightfully so. In support of her argument, Lindsey marshals searing case studies, scholarly research, and statistical information chronicling how Black women and girls are at incredulously high risk for violence in the areas of policing, criminal punishment, medical environment, poverty, and even within their own communities. “Goddam” is a gut response to experiencing and bearing witness to oppression and trauma.

Paramount to Lindsey’s exploration of violence are the concepts of unlivable living, anti-Blackness, misogynoir, and multiple jeopardy. Each phenomenon contributes to the unfettered violence that Black women and girls regularly experience. Unlivable living results from the confluence of capitalism, poverty, and state-sanctioned violence targeting Black women and girls and leading to “deprivation and lack of access to basic necessities” (p. 9). Anti-Blackness is a violent form of discrimination based on race which deliberately seeks to bring death to Black bodies. It, too, is state sanctioned. Misogynoir is the combination of anti-Blackness and misogyny that often plays a primary role in violence enacted against Black women and girls, particularly in spaces that should be helping them thrive. Multiple jeopardy is a phenomenon that arises when individuals with multiple marginalized identities, including especially many Black women and girls, face “multiple forms of oppression” at once, such as racism, sexism, poverty, and ableism, among many other forms (p. 18).

Beginning with the Atlantic Slave trade and continuing to present-day attacks by white nationalists on Black women in the political arena, Black women and girls have been systematically discriminated against in the United States. Lindsey’s study not only points out flaws in our current social and political systems that enable this violence to continue, America Goddam is also a testament to how Black women have survived this violence and continue to fight against it for themselves and their communities, often doing so at great cost to their bodies, minds, spirits, and personal power. This irony, that Black women can be seen as hypersexual, asexual mammies, bad mothers, good caretakers for white children, devoid of rights, and yet powerful enough to withstand American racism and sexism, is enough to support Simone’s exasperation and Lindsey’s refrain.

Lindsey makes a strong case for how hope, especially in the face of seemingly never-ending oppression, takes discipline.

However, even among the discussion of theories, the strong presentation of evidence, and the engaging writing, the beauty of this book is how it ends. Lindsey makes a strong case for how hope, especially in the face of seemingly never-ending oppression, takes discipline. Further, that hope must include the ability to imagine a world in which all the thoroughly researched cases presented in this book can become a relic of the past. 

America, Goddam is particularly timely given the current political context. As a war rages in Gaza and as the 2024 presidential election looms, white nationalism remains a potent influence on the American citizenry. The amalgamation of capitalist patriarchy; the falsity of white supremacy; and the disenfranchisement of Black, female, and trans bodies continue to reinforce Lindsey’s main theme: that even though Black women and girls are made vulnerable by their intersectionalities, the same forces that threaten them also provide an outlet to enact a unique form of justice and an unrelenting resistance.

America, Goddam is an excellent resource for academic, research, and community college libraries. Everyone from lay readers to scholars and practitioners will appreciate the insights laid forth here. The intimacy of the book will draw in those just beginning their academic journeys, and the wealth of research presented will pique the interest of those with experience and scientific curiosity alike.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals.
Interdisciplinary Subjects: African and African American Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies, Racial Justice
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences

Leslie T. Grover is associate professor of public administration and public policy at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She received her Ph.D. from Clemson University.