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Teaching Little Black Girls To Love Themselves When Society Doesn’t

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Antwan Herron, with contribution by Monica Cadena


Image credit: Kwame Shaka Opare.

How can we raise healthy young Black girls in a toxic society?


Sigh. Black folks just can’t get a break, can we?

I mean, damn.

If it’s not being fined and threatened with jail for loudly expressing black joy at a high school graduation in Mississippi, or mourning the death of Kalief Browder, a twenty-two year old black man who recently committed suicide, after spending three years in Riker’s Island, awaiting trial for a crime he didn’t commit, it’s painfully watching several black boys wrongfully accosted, handcuffed and restrained by Texas police officers during a pool party in a suburban neighborhood in McKinney; and one officer, Cptl. Eric Casebolt, manhandle a 15 year-old, unarmed Black girl, Dajerria Becton, who was clad in a two piece bathing suit.

Seven-minutes of footage capturing the incident went viral (Warning: Inhale and take deep slow breathes before watching) and showed officers targeting black party attendees (who were forced to sit in silence with hands behind their head), with Casebolt, yelling, sprinting, and tripping all over the place, like a scene straight outta “Cops.”

And just what did Dajerria Becton do to warrant Casebolt’s response?

Apparently she was “mouthing off” or “giving attitude” to Casebolt, telling him that her cousin and the other restrained boys did nothing wrong. How dare she! Many who viewed the video compare Casebolt’s actions to a sexual assault: Becton is told to “shut up,” as Casebolt yanks the 15 year old by her braids, pushes her face into the ground, sits his body on top of her, and shoves his knee into her spine. When Becton’s friends attempted to come to her defense, intervene on her behalf, this same officer reached into his hoister and brandished his gun at the teens, who were left with the insult of seeing their friend held prostrate under “the law.” (The upsurge forced Casebolt to resign, but did nothing to systemic or institutionalized white racism.)

[RELATED POST: On Loving Black Men When Amerikkka Is Trying To Kill Them]

In an interview with Huffington Post, Miles Jai Thomas, who attended the pool party, said the event was an end-of-the-school year celebration. According to Thomas, things got out of hand after a security guard came, singling out Black party-goers, telling them they had to leave the premises.

He started making up rules to keep us out.


Sound familiar? Image: Hotel owner James Brock pouring acid in the pool while black people swim in it, 1964. via Daily Monitor Facebook page

Buzzfeed News  released further details of the incident. According to the media site, white adult residents, offended by the sight and sound of so many Black teens in their plush suburban neighborhood, began hurling racial epithets at the Black guests, instructing them to “go back to Section 8,” a public housing facility with a predominantly black tenantry. Brandon Brooks, one of the white attendees at the pool party, who uploaded the  7 minute video recording #McKinney, backed this version of the circumstances leading to 911 call:

I think a bunch of white parents were angry that a bunch of Black kids who don’t live in the neighborhood were in the pool, said Brooks. -Via Buzzfeed News

If you’re wondering how Brooks was able to shoot the video while everyone else was restrained and forced to the ground, he offered his first hand perspective:

“Everyone who was getting put on the ground was black, Mexican, Arabic,” he said. “[The cop] didn’t even look at me. It was kind of like I was invisible.”-Via Buzzfeed News

Of course he was! That’s how white privilege operates. Keep in mind that just a few weeks ago, an incident occurred in Waco, TX — that’s right, the same damn state — involving two rival, predominantly white biker gangs, which resulted in 9 dead, 18 injured, and publicized death threats issued by the accused to police officers. What was different about that? The criminals were white. What was the police response? Absolute fucking calm. Among the 170 bikers involved, who became the public face of the altercation? Martin Lewis, a black retired detective.

[RELATED POST: Racism 101: When the Thug is White, Media Slants Coverage]

White trolls wondering why black folks riot — here’s your answer.

Where there’s white privilege, white nightmarish fantasies aren’t far behind. When FOX4’s Zahid Arab approached locals about Casebolt’s antics, they, unsurprisingly, sided with the officer, stating they believed the “officer’s safety was at risk.”

We’ll leave it to readers to explain how a young, unarmed, teenage girl in a bikini posed a threat to this Rambo wanna-be.

Some critics on social media took white feminists to task, raising eyebrows about the curious silence over what happened to a young woman of color in light of the overwhelming support for Caitlyn Jenner:

Given that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is gaining coast-to-coast momentum and — much to undisguised chagrin of the White Right — doesn’t look to be dissipating or — *poof* — vanish into thin air anytime soon; given that black rage is at an all time high, and scaring the shit out of some white folks, desperately clinging to those good ole Jim Crow days, when the only rockin’ black girls did was Becky’s babies; given the fact that black girls are ignoring the dictum to defer to white authority, a mode of being ingrained in their psyches from an early age (as it was in that of Stacey Patton, who points out the saliency of this issue in her memoir, That Mean Old Yesterday); given all these, police profiling of and violence against Black bodies, in tandem with general anti-Black racism, has been escalating across the nation.

In the bay, Oakland is reeling from a recent incident that occurred last weekend, early Saturday morning, in which a black man was fatally shot. What led to his murder? What else but a run-in with the local Oakland PD.

Unfortunately, the number count on these tragic stories continues to climb leaps and bounds, all of them sharing the same pattern of unwarranted, heartbreaking death and dehumanization, all the them defined by a single fact that has cut short the lives of Black Americans for well over four hundred years — Black bodies are prosecuted for no other reason than their mere existence. While many would like to believe we live in a equitable world, the reality — the bitter truth — is that a post racial society, with No Drama Obama at the helm, is just as mythological as flying unicorns, another fantasy stage show featured as Disneyland.

Which begs the question: How do we raise confident Black youth, and especially Black girls, in a world that is constantly telling them they don’t matter, priming them to be inmates or in the ground? How do we convince Dejarria Becton and her friends that young Black girls deserve, are entitled to, love, protection, every positive and meaningful thing this human world of ours has to offer?

For anyone new to these questions, we can start by acknowledging the horrific wrong done here and defend these Black girls.

But, what else?

Well, we can stop saying shit like “good hair.” There is, and never has been, any such thing!

We can #KilltheSilence on black female rape victims who, due to oversexualization, are disproportionately harassed, making them more unlikely to report sexual abuse and domestic violence.

We can celebrate ALL shades of black girls and women.

We can stop mansplaining why women should not receive equal pay in the workplace.

Starting yesterday, we can wake up every morning determined to tell the black girls and women in our lives how beautiful, intelligent, and significant they are.


Featured photo credit (and inspiration for article’s title): Kwame Shaka Opare. Website/Facebook/Instagram 

Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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