Being a Wellesley Woman Could Get Me Killed

Dear Hillary,

I’ve been thinking about Sandra Bland a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about her more than usual. I think about her every time a police car appears in my mirror. I check my speed. I hope my lights are all working. Being pulled over for any reason horrifies me since Ms. Bland’s death because I saw myself in her frustration and indignation.

There are many institutions that serve girls and women. I’m proud to be affiliated with 3 of them. I was a Girls Inc. girl where girls become strong, smart, and bold. I’m an alumna of Foxcroft School in Middleburg, VA where they produce sound minds in sound bodies. And I’m a Wellesley woman who will…

We are told we can do anything. We are taught the names of the women who came before us. We are filled with stories of triumph and success that any one of us can probably rattle off on demand. But we are not all equal. Like Sandra, I’ve never been able to tolerate injustice and stupid shit. I have no time for abuse of power or arbitrary rules. And I say as much. There will never be a time when my feelings on anything of importance are unclear to anyone in the room.

In the United States of America, the land of my birth, that could get me killed.

Our national conversation about police violence centers on the lives of black men, but Sandra Bland reminds me on a regular basis that my life also has less value than yours. Hillary, I am under no illusion that you will rise to the presidency and suddenly become a warrior for black women. I know you have to manage multiple demands. But I would very much appreciate knowing that you are unequivocal in your stand against the systematic devaluing of black life.

You’ve received a great deal of criticism for your husband’s policies. He really has been responsible for quite a bit of pain and frustration in your life. Perhaps now is the time to distance yourself from the legislation that led to the incarceration of black people at rates that would make 19th century southern landowners ecstatic. Now would be an excellent time to propose sweeping legislative plans to “change welfare as we know it” to something that actually supports women and children. It would also be a good time to point out that white women benefit from these programs far more than black women do instead of allowing people to use social program debates as ways to deploy all sorts of racist tactics to convince white people in poverty to advocate against themselves.

Hillary, sisterhood is powerful so the saying goes. As a Wellesley sister, I’m asking you to consider that my life does not currently matter in the U.S. outside of circles where people know and love me. The state values me less than it values you regardless of the fact that you and I went to the same college, studied in the same library, relaxed by the same lake. It values every black woman that has graduated from Wellesley less than every white woman graduate.

Being the powerful, confident, intelligent Wellesley woman that you are may make you President of the United States of America. Being the powerful, confident, intelligent Wellesley woman that I am could get me killed.

Sincerely and with great anticipation,
Adriane Johnson-Williams
Wellesley College, Class of 1996