Reading in the Shade

“I told you so” and other bittersweet musings

I need to finish this post before the news story changes again-

I started writing this last night because the story (and backstories behind) the #springvalleyassault were keeping me up. The original footage of the cop slamming that child was bad enough, but then standard operating procedure kicked in and the racists came out. 

They claim she deserved it, she was a thug, she was defiant, she was disobedient and assaulted an officer. In short, racists brought the standard arguments. There wasn’t anything we shouldn’t have come to expect from a scenario like this. The black child is assumed guilty because her level of melanin is directly linked to her assumed level of criminality. 

I wanted to push for her. She didn’t deserve this for having the nerve to  be born a black child. She was sitting at a desk, she was in no way able to seriously harm the hulking man- equipped with a gun, badge, handcuffs, taser, and bulletproof vest- that beat her. This was going to be an opportunity to discuss racism, police brutality, and the over aggressive and militaristic tendencies of police. The racists would stay racist, the anti racists would stay anti racist, and the fence sitters would see the force was excessive and pick a side.

Then the heartbreak- this child was orphan. In foster care. Having spent some time waiting to be adopted myself, I understand the special level of hell that is foster care. I understand what foster care means specifically to black girls. My heart went out to this child, but I couldn’t help but having feelings of anger at the people really leaning in on the orphan foster kid story. This was a discussion about fighting for racial equality, not a re-reading of a modern day Oliver Twist. 

I know how callous that sounds, but stick with me a moment. I was livid at the people who

called her a thug one minute but were in tears over her orphan status the next. the folks who claimed she “had it coming” turned into “what a tragic story” literally overnight. 

I was concerned. I didn’t want this story to become the respectable perfect victim story of a young black girl brutalized and beaten by police. Cause thing is- she was a victim either way. 

she could be light skin, have “good hair” get good grades, be an orphan and be a model for respectability that tugs your heart strings.

BUT

she could also have been a dark skinned, booty shaking, crop top wearing, nappy headed child who filled every negative hood stereotype about the black community- she still would’ve been a victim.  

None of  that bullshit matters. this crime was atrocious and tragic because a white male cop who is paid to represent the interests of white supremacy assaulted and seriously injured a black girl by putting her in her place to reinforce a social hierarchy that uses her back as a stepping stone. There is no  tale of a  perfect victim. a respectable black girl. or an orphan black girl. This is a cautionary tale of white supremacy does to any black girl it can find.

We need to step up and protect black girls from the world they live in. It doesn’t matter how respectable the children  are, how often they sext, how often they twerk, if they have a sulky demeanor,  smart mouths, or what their GPA is. Respectability politics do not help us, they harm us. They do not save us, they get us slaughtered. Respectability politics gives us the false hope that if we just perm out hair, don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t be loud, don’t look white folks in the eyes, don’t stand up straight, don’t have a 3-syllable name they cannot pronounce, we will be safe. But in reality, safety isn’t in the cards for us. 

Which leads us to the problem we have now. As it turns out, there was a miscommunication somewhere- the child isn’t an orphan. Her mother isn’t dead. Now all the people who only felt sympathy for a fleeting moment because they pity orphans are back to calling her a thug, a brat, an arrogant teen. 

As much as we may have wanted to humanize this girl by talking about  family tragedy, we have failed her. We’ve also failed all the other black girls who stories didn’t go viral because they didn’t ooze respectable clickbait headlines that appeal to white sensibilities. If the only reason white allies feel concerned about a black girl’s story is because it’s sad enough to humanize her, the reality is these “allies” don’t care at all. Their compassion- and ultimately help- is conditional on how well we can sell a story that justifies our humanity. 

and you know what? Fuck that. Black girls are humans. Back girls deserve respect. Black girls deserve love. All black girls. not just ones that make good clickbait, or ones who make you grab kleenex to wipe your tears. All black girls matter. So like I been sayin- lets focus on the real problem here. 

A cop. A white male cop. A white male cop with handcuffs, authority, a gun, and bulletproof vest  hurt a black girl. He slammed her down so hard she broke bones and had to go to a hospital. And the world is justifying it because she was a threat because she said no to that white man who hurt her. 

That’s crime. That’s the story, and it could have happened to any of our daughters because its dangerous to be black. 

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