Black girls’ existence, like Marsai Martin’s existence, is hyper-scrutinized in an effort to break them and their spirit.
This essay mentions sexual violence and discusses r/pe culture
“Protect Black girls,” they said. It’s always a nice exercise in imagining the fantastical when people pretend that these are things that already happen in our world. But this is not the reality. It’s a tale as old as time. Black girl exists. And Black girl’s existence is hyper-scrutinized in an effort to break her and her spirit. And it has never been so aptly proven (again) than by the criticism that Marsai Martin received for her hair this past weekend.
During the night of the BET Awards, Marsai was minding her damn business, looking cute in her chic blonde wig and presenting the Best Female Hip-Hop Artist award to Megan Thee Stallion. This was in addition to her winning the Young Stars Award (which makes total sense considering that she is probably going to be all of our bosses one day). And then, out of nowhere, a wild bird appeared. She presented her avian self, excited to shit on Marsai and her wig while adding a falsely saccharine “love her tho!” as if it invalidated her perturbing critique. Followed by another woman, who I will refer to as “Ms. Helmet Wig”, a-kiking with her.
To be clear, there are about fifty-leven things wrong with this. The first issue concerns grown-ass adults being in children’s business. Many of us—even those who aren’t parents or aren’t immediately responsible for any children—recognize the unspoken rule that children are off-limits. Or, in the least, are supposed to be. Both in general and in conflicts with other adults because it is quite literally punching down on someone weaker or someone who might not be able to defend themselves. It’s why I give a lot of extra grace to [famous] parents and caretakers who descend on the planet with the rage of a thousand suns when people target their children.
The second issue—and simultaneously disturbing one—is the ease and swiftness at which these Black women engaged in the degradation of another Black girl. The way these women literally saw nothing wrong with what they were saying about a child is something that has pointedly gnawed at my spirit for the last couple of days. Mainly because when we talk about the disrespect Black women receive, it usually concerns how we are perceived in terms of race and gender (ie: misogynoir) and puts us in the lateral cross-hairs of groups like white women and Black men (à la what happened with Blue Ivy months ago). But we rarely discuss the disturbing nature of other Black women projecting these wretched words, thoughts, and beliefs onto other Black women and girls.
Because let’s be clear. These tweets are a grotesque study of the incestuous relationship between rape culture and patriarchy. And the internalized misogynoir that is born from it. It doesn’t particularly matter that these tweets were mostly likely projections (as I believe them to be). What matters is that two Black women saw a mere blonde wig, joined hands, and decided that Marsai was being too “grown” for her age. Too “mature”. I’m surprised the two didn’t mention “fast”, as all of these words, but particularly that one, have been used to justify the kind of [sexual] violence that this world has enacted against Black girls for a long, long time. And they have been used to provide cover to all the monsters (our fathers, uncles, brothers—hell even mothers, aunts, cousins, etc) who seek to abuse us because, after all, we were “asking for it”.
So. Where do we go from here? I’m not entirely sure. But moving forward, I want everyone to consider the fact that when we say “protect Black girls or protect Black women” this needs to include protecting them from other Black women who want to replicate the harm that was once done to them.
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