February 27, 2013

Category: Real Talk

Black Girls Deserve So Much More

quevenzhane_redtongue

“I speak here as a woman of Color who is not bent upon destruction, but upon survival. No woman is responsible for altering the psyche of her oppressor, even when that psyche is embodied in another woman.” –Audre Lorde

“The way I feel about life? It’s a struggle. You have to stop getting mad and get smart.” – Mamie Lee Melton Nichols

Sunday night as the Oscar’s came to a close someone at The Onion (a satirical news outlet) thought it would be funny to tweet that sweet 9-year old Oscar nominee, Quevenzhané Wallis was a c*nt. When I saw the tweet I was incensed, but felt like tweeting about it wasn’t enough so in frustration I tweeted, “ignore the crap.” I was wrong.

quevenzhane_theonion

The devaluation of Black women and Black girls is so systematic that it’s become primetime punchline fodder, which has created a culture where Black girls like Willow and Gabby Douglas are endlessly ridiculed (often by other Black women) and where grown Black women fight each other for ratings. Just last week in NYC, news stations reported and showed video of two adults forcing their six- and seven-year old niece and daughter to fight each other for entertainment in a Bronx park. And through every bit of offensive ratchetness there’s “Black Twitter” up in arms and furiously shaming the guilty through tweets.

The thing is I feel like Black women spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook & Twitter rebuffing ignorant acts of racism & sexism. I’ve grown weary of venting and posting and retweeting dumbasses to put them on blast. It’s time to take a different approach. I feel like action is necessary for me to survive in a society that cares less and less about me. I mean who in their right mind could call a child such a heinous and monstrously dehumanizing, not to mention sexualized word? Who!

The Onion has since apologized, but believe me that is not enough! The time has come for us to stop getting mad and get smart. This kind of anger rooted in smarts and strategy is rooted in Audre Lorde’s fantastic essay: “Uses of Anger.” Before social media I wrote letters, made phone calls and would fax the press & politicians. Recently I was reminded of the potency found in that agency by fellow writer dream hampton who went to DC to do this. Tweets are cool and they are effective to a certain extent, but it seems if we want more than an apology (and we do) it’s time to start writing letters again. It’s time to call folks out, point fingers and make a ruckus and that especially goes for women who may look like us.

button_loverespectprotect

Like a tender pecan being crushed in a nutcracker, our minds and spirits as Black women have been wedged so tightly within the confines of race, power, beauty, class and sex that something in so many of us has been crushed. We don’t like ourselves, we crave validation, we have forgotten that we are queens. So we make our daughters fight each other like roosters in a cockfight for entertainment, for sport, for pity on our own torn and shattered spirits. So reminiscent of the mandingo fights featured in “Django Unchained,” where slaves were forced to fight each other, I cried when the woman urges the young girl to “slap her”  and then laughs when she does. And when the other girl protests and says, “Stop playing, I really like her,” everything in me just cracked. It was too much. I want to hug those girls and let them know they are loved. Initially I wanted to slap the adults involved, but now I want to wrap my arms around them too and tell them they are loved. They are beautiful. They are important. When you have mags casting white girls and styling them in brown make-up and calling them “African Queens” then you tend to feel less relevant. You begin to feel invisible and so you act out to be seen. It’s historical and it’s so friggin tragic! But it doesn’t have to be our future. Back in the day I used to wear this button that said, “Love, Respect & Protect The Black Woman.” I’m going to start wearing it again. I’m going to try to make more phone calls and write more letters. I’m going to spend more time with my niece. I’m going to be smarter. Try to use my anger to illuminate, protect and hold tight what I value most.

If you want to join me, send an email to respectblackgirls@gmail.com for more info about the Black girl love ruckus.

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4 Responses to “Black Girls Deserve So Much MoreComment RSS feed

  • Bilqis
    February 28th, 2013 8:14 am
    #1

    I’m so feeling you on this! Between the Onion on Quevenzhane, the two little girls being made to fight and Jet magazine’s response to Fantasia I’m done!

  • Anita
    February 28th, 2013 10:43 am
    #2

    You are so right!! I was on Facebook debating with black and white men about how this Onion situation is racist and wrong. I feel at times we are fighting against the world on our own.

  • Kittr
    March 4th, 2013 1:58 am
    #3

    Honestly, as a french white girl, I was so offended and horrified by The Onion calling Quevenzhané what they did. It made me ashamed – more ashamed than I am already, for white privilege culture. No child deserves to be treated like that, even in jest, and ESPECIALLY when there is a culture of treating black girls and ladies in a hyper-sexualized manner. I’m sorry. I really am.

  • Whitney
    March 4th, 2013 11:59 am
    #4

    I recently read an article by Patricia Hill Collins titled, “The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought.” When you speak of not getting angry, and instead getting smart, it reminds me of Collins’ argument that the black feminist encompasses knowledge and wisdom. She says, “Black women need wisdom to know how to deal with the ‘educated fools’ who would ‘take a shotgun to a roach’” and this article here is proof! While posting on social networks are not useless, there are more effective ways to get points across, and when matters are left to be dealt with through social networks, there is always a risk of other “educated fools” skewing the message trying to be delivered. Like in this case with Quevenzhané Wallis, one reason (in my opinion) that an apology is not enough is because at her age, verbal/emotional abuse like being called a c*nt could harm her self-esteem tremendously. She is so young; how could she be prepared to deal with being called such a name? Even if today she does not understand the term fully, when she does understand the term, she is going to internalize it; it will not be the same experience as when another growing girl understands what this ‘bad word’ really means, because this other girl was not publicly tied to the term when she was nine years old. My point here is there is a lot of damage that could be done to Wallis because of this, and an apology will not fix that. And, tying in the viral fight of those other two young girls, when we (black women) display this type of behavior, perhaps it lends the idea that it is okay for other people to treat us as entertainment, or to abuse us. We have to be wise when it comes to addressing these issues. Social networks may, perhaps, be the start, but perhaps we should try to do more, as this author has vowed to do.