But I couldn't.
The truth is, when I saw The Onion tweet that called nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis a "cunt," my reaction--at least my initial reaction--came from only one place, and that place is not intellectual or analytical or distant. That place is raw and visceral and very, very close. I am the mother of a little girl of color, and I was enraged.
Sure, I could draw connections from this incident to Ms. Magazine's recent victim-blaming of Rhianna to those horribly racist tweets about Amandla Stenberg a while back. I could draw those lines and make some comments about how all of these young, black women are being denigrated in the media in ways that show a lack of value for their humanity. I could then talk about how horribly misogynistic the entire Academy Awards were last night and how the very first thing I heard when I tuned in mid-way was the host (a man chosen to represent us on this night to celebrate our mainstream media) congratulated women on successfully suffering from bulimia in order to meet his standards of beauty. I could talk about the measures taken to combat that and how we need to do more, and I could give signs of hope and signs of despair.
But, at the end of the day, as I watched my own little girl sleep, none of that felt adequate because none of it gave me any real answers in how to protect her from the horrible, vile, dehumanizing things that are waiting for her. Nothing can keep me from realizing that the days where she's oblivious to these forces are numbered, and that I'm the on the front lines of keeping it at bay and arming her for the inevitable battle.
I can read posts like this one and take heart that she will not fight that battle alone. I can teach her how strong she is and encourage her to grow stronger still. I can read her books and sing her songs and take her to tumbling class and pray and cry and write and scream, but I can't fight in her place.
I can't fight in her place, and I--a white woman--can't even understand all that she faces.
But I understand enough to know that the battle will be hard, and long, and painful. I understand because the evidence is everywhere. The Onion, thankfully, issued an apology. As far as apologies go, it's a pretty good one. They take ownership. They lay out future actions. They are direct and do not say that they're sorry we got offended instead of concentrating on the actions they made. But the comments under that apology on their Facebook page point to the real problem.
So some rogue social media writer for The Onion got carried away and made a horrible, terrible joke. If that's where it ended, then it would be over.
But there are so many (mostly white, mostly male) people who are outraged that The Onion would dare apologize for calling a little black girl a perverse, sexualized, derogatory term that I know it doesn't end there. I know that they are outraged because they are trying to maintain a power that keeps them on top and keeps little girls like Ms. Wallis on the bottom. I know that they are outraged because even the tiny shred of human decency in apologizing is seen as a threat to their privilege.
And I can't fight in my daughter's place, and that hurts.
Photo: Tambako the Jaguar