It’s International Women’s Day. I’m sitting here thinking about the state of things.
Yesterday, the President signed the Violence Against Women’s Act, with much fanfare and flourish, and I watched it live with happiness. I am blessed to be a woman who has not been physically abused by a partner, but the statistics about domestic violence in this country are staggering. We are a society that is progressive in comparison to most, but still lacking in many areas when it comes to women’s rights. Indeed, the Violence Against Women Act is a wonderful continued step toward progress, but we all know that there is so much left to do.
Yesterday, I came across a link on The Root, which I go to from time to time to see what’s-what in Black Thought (it’s not always accurate, but the site sometimes has a good finger on the pulse. I think The Grio gets it right more often, but that’s beside the point). The link for a story out of St. Louis about an 8-year-old girl who was handcuffed at her elementary school for having a temper tantrum at school. Apparently, she was not allowed to go to the bathroom, and this set off a firestorm of behavior that is unacceptable. I say “is” instead of “was” because I don’t want to imply that I condone violent and destructive behavior inside of a classroom. However, the response of this school was to handcuff the little girl, hands and feet, throw her in the back of a squad car and send her to a police station. According to her uncle, who is also her guardian, little Jmyha has been restrained at school before, but this is the first time that she was put in handcuffs and referred to law enforcement.
The story, in my point of view, is bad enough: I can think of few circumstances, except when a child is physically harming another child or adult or is threatening to do so with a weapon, where handcuffing a child so young hand and foot is appropriate. I am also very concerned about the continued migration of schools from safe-spaces to police states.
What bothered me about this story the most was the comments from the readers below the article. Let me quote some:
Now I know that I should let the internet get to me, but I think what really gets to me is that I feel like these comments actually reflect what a lot of people think about little girls of color–behaving poorly or perfectly. I think that a lot people see little girls of color as “its” and “things” and “animals.” These people were just stupid enough and honest enough to put themselves out there. This isn’t the only instance, either: After The Onion incident, where they called little Quvenzhane the C-word because someone thought it was funny, you should have read the backlash for the apology (read the comments)! People angry because they thought The Onion shouldn’t have to! Because, for some reason, little girls of color don’t deserve to be defended. Scrutiny regarding our actions/words/deeds toward little girls of color is not necessary. Anything goes. They don’t deserve our sympathy, our courtesy, our genteel manners, our protection, our defense, our restraint.
Little Jmyha needed a defender at her school, not an enforcer. Little Jmyha needs a community that rallies around her rather than jeers at her. Little Jmyha is not an animal, she’s a little girl who is loved by someone in this world. She is a child of God, a citizen of a city, state, and nation. Most importantly, she is a loved niece. She’s a person. There are so many little black girls in this country who are people: Just people, who love and dream and hope and grow just as anyone else. Yet so many little girls of other colors are given such reverence, raised to such a pedestal, that indeed little White girls are still used at the ultimate symbol of purity and goodness. Yet, still, little girls of color are seen as so much less than that (read the comments).
And when little Black girls turn into Young Black Women, they receive the same sort of judgement and disregard from all sides, including their government, which chooses to admonish their most personal decisions. Indeed, for Mothers of Color in New York, it would seem that they are damned if they do, damned if they don’t when it comes to giving birth. Think those billboards are just for teenagers? Think again. If you are a woman of color, a mother of color, those posters should really offend you. As a matter of fact, if you are a woman of any color, those posters should offend you. A woman’s womb, especially a woman of color’s womb, it would seem, is subject to government scrutiny and pubic shaming no matter its occupancy status. That’s a damn shame.
So I’m sitting here, on International Women’s Day, wondering when Black Women will be elevated, too. When will we, too, be worth saving? When will we, too, be worth defending when defense is needed? When will we, too, be deserving of a community who would choose to rally around us when a village is needed most of all? When will we, too, be given the opportunity to show our fragility, our vulnerability, our beauty, our purity, our curiosity, our brilliance? Ain’t We Worth Saving?