Over the centuries, Americans have conditioned themselves to see Black women as beneath their contempt, as unworthy of old-fashioned chivalry or the basic common decency extended to strangers in the street. They see Black women as after-THOTs. That’s not a misspelling, by the way. It’s my expression of the dismissive scorn heaped on Black women in particular, and the spelling borrows from the latest urban colloquial acronym for That Hoe Over There, women of loose sexual virtues. (I don’t know if it’s been used elsewhere, but I thought it worked pretty well with the point I want to make today.)
THOTs are nameless. Why should anyone find meaningful ways to distinguish between women — like talents and achievements — when it’s so easy to assume that they are all over-sexualized and want to be either ravaged by consent or that they harbor secret rape fantasies.
So what am I really upset about? It’s the shocking swell of resentful attacks directed at Mo’ne Davis, the Little League pitching phenom who captivated sports fans all over the country in last year’s Little League World Series. News that Disney was planning a movie about the young athlete had barely circulated through the media, when Davis’ shining moment was overshadowed by a string of resentful Tweets from whites, who were salty that a Black woman should be acknowledged for achieving something remarkable and inspiring!
The most vile of the Tweets came from Joey Casselberry, a Bloomsburg University student athlete who tapped this out in response to the news. Mind you, he was talking about a 14-year old child:
“WHAT A JOKE. That slut got rocked by Nevada”
That’s right. Mo’ne Davis didn’t take the Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton route to fame. She has athletic talent, and she pitched a shutout game on the biggest Little League stage. It is an amazing accomplishment. She also happens to be very photogenic, which makes her a potential media darling, and Disney wants to capitalize on her popularity with a movie production, which makes sense. A feel-good flick that “girls everywhere” can embrace and be inspired by. But somehow this is terrible news to a few idiots who happen to be armed with computers and Internet access.
University officials became aware of his vile missives, and booted Casselberry from the school’s softball team. Sounds fair to me, but in an astounding and very worrying turn of events, Miss Davis spoke up about her forgiveness and pleaded that he be reinstated. That’s what has me so upset. Who in the world talked this child out of her worth? Who told her that when a man, far older and bigger than her, insults and degrades her like that, that he deserves to walk away from it with no consequences?
No level of spirituality, no amount of forgiveness or Christian teaching should oblige the victim of an attack to wish that the perpetrator not face punishment for his (or her) actions. Why can’t Black people, for once and for all, understand that our daughters are priceless? Just as priceless as anyone else’s, and that their lives are precious? Why does our community not only defend attackers like Casselberry, but also ones within our ranks? We see it in the way women — Black women — are quick to castigate Black women celebrities who are struggling with difficult or abusive husbands and boyfriends. It happens so often, and is so visible, unfortunately, that we can actually start ranking the “All-Time Most Abusive Celebrity Relationships.” Let’s see who will win this shameful distinction. Will it be Tina and Ike Turner? Halle Berry and Mr. X? Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown?
I don’t understand what makes so many of these handmaidens, worshippers of the abusers, so heartless and callous. Where was your heart for the Miss Black America contestant who also endured the public trial that eventually convicted Mike Tyson of rape? Where was your heart when those photos surfaced of Rihanna, beaten to an inch of her life?
Is this a case of entrenched “misogynoir,” anti-Black women sentiments in visual and popular culture? Moya Bailey, a gay feminist author coined the term to “describe how racism and anti-Blackness alter the experience of misogyny for Black women, specifically.” Examples of Misogynoir include the rejection of Black women’s natural hair and ‘twerking’. Not just twerking by cultural appropriators like Miley Cyrus or Kim Kartrashian but the very existence of the dance.
I don’t know if this incident with Mo’ne Davis qualifies as misogynoir as Ms. Bailey defines it, and I don’t want to misuse the term before it gets proper traction in the American lexicon, we recognize it and effectively tamp down the most threatening cases of it. But I do say that there is rampant mistreatment of women in Black culture. Black women are the objects of lust, degradation and contempt, first at the hands of white men and consistently by our own. The fact is we have to recognize and refute all of it, before we end up with a sizeable representation of women in the next generation who keep offering up their bodies for use and abuse. When you ask for leniency for the demented jock who called a little girl a slut, when you blame Halle for her relationship struggles, when you say Bo Derek introduced braids to American women, when you twerk, you practice some level of disdain for Black women.
Not my child. She will be wide awake and aware, because although she is light-skinned, there is no “passing” for her. It’s not enough to protect her from these people out here trying to make things hard on her because she’s not in the white male club.