For Quvenzhané Wallis and McBaby Girl
In about seven weeks, my brother and sister-n-law will give birth to their first child, and I will get to meet my niece, so far known to the world as “McBaby Girl.” To say that this little girl is highly sought after would be an understatement; reservations are already being taken for who gets to care for her first. Yes, this baby will be a community child—born into a community of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who are nosey, loud and will certainly get on her nerves. Nevertheless, with all of us in her business for the rest of her life, she will know that she was highly anticipated. We’ve been waiting for her.
Thinking about McBaby Girl makes things like The Onion’s supposedly satirical tweet about Quvenzhané Wallis, the nine-year old African-American actress who became the youngest actress nominated for an Academy Award this year, difficult to shake. If you don’t know by now, on this past Sunday during the Academy Awards broadcast, someone at The Onion posted a tweet calling Wallis such a deplorable name that I’ve never actually heard it uttered in real life.
I didn’t watch the Academy Awards, nor did I follow the conversation on Twitter, so I had no knowledge of what happened until I woke up on Monday morning and read about it. When I read the Tweet, my first reaction was that it was obviously a typing error; no grown human being would actually use that word to refer to a nine-year old child. Sadly, there was no typing error.
Since reading the Tweet, I’ve tried to muster up the energy to get outraged, but the truth is I’m tired…just like I was tired when I heard about rapper Lil Wayne’s lyric in which he compares the violent lynching of Emmett Till to the “beating” of a woman’s vagina…just like I was tired when, last year, rapper Too Short took it upon himself to instruct little boys on how to sexually assault young girls. I’m tired of the constant abuse that black women’s bodies take in the media, and I am even more tired of the excuses used to rationalize such behavior.
I am tired of hearing that it’s just a joke or a song or a video. I am tired of hearing that he is just a rapper that no one takes seriously anyway. I am tired of hearing that if we—black women who dare get offended at having our bodies constantly treated like a public piñata—didn’t get so upset, then it wouldn’t become such a big story. I am tired of being told to lighten up or calm down or get over it. Mostly, I am tired of this world treating little black girls like no one waited for them…like no one sat up nights praying and asking for them…like they are accidents put here as convenient sources of amusement.
A community waited for Quvenzhané Wallis. Her name, body and spirit were not put here as a joke.
Being a black girl is tiresome, but, unfortunately, there is little time to rest. We must move on to arm ourselves for the next assault. Black women are constantly preparing corners of our world with affirmations, books, songs and blankets of black girl love to quickly cover and heal our wounds. We build fortresses for our younger sisters, daughters, cousins, grandbabies and nieces to sit enclosed, surrounded by the truth of who they are so that, hopefully, the world’s attacks won’t cut so deep.
Though I am tired, I have little time to rest. I have a fortress to build for a little McBaby Girl. In my home she will have a corner of affirmations, and books, and songs, and blankets of love so that, if she ever needs to, she can sit enclosed, surrounded by the truth of who she is. I pray she never needs it.