Last night I resisted the urge to climb out of bed and post a vengeful, scathing response to the Onions ‘satirical’ tweet about Quvenzhane Wallis being a…well, a c u next Tuesday. I still find myself shaking with rage over it. Yes, satire is to point out our hypocrisy, our foibles…but there is something especially brutal about this tweet: It destroys the precious confidence and innocence of an exceptional child. A child who has the wherewithal at 9 to school a reporter who refuses to learn how to say her name…which is just damn lazy. It’s your JOB to know the nominee’s names and even if you’re too dumb to sound it out, turn on the TVand just repeat after everyone else who seems to have figured out a name that features both a Q and a Z!
I kept reading tweet after tweet from women I love and respect, friends, and they kept saying one thing: what did we expect? Children of color are not allowed to be children.
This hit me like a ton of bricks… I look at my friend Brandi’s beautiful daughter at three and she is a BABY. Boss’s friend Isaac at 4 is a BABY. The Boss is a BABY at 4. Quvenzhane Wallis is a BABY. Emotional and intellectual development has nothing to do with skin color! Obviously in our society the need for Satire is clear, hello Daily Show? However this example is unacceptable because it (doesn’t really fit the definition of satire) speaks to a multi-layered problem. The obvious layer got me all MAMA BEAR: How dare they say something like this about a CHILD.
Then I just listened…I read the tweets…the greater problem we in this country have with the way children of color are treated and what is expected of them. Now, I certainly do not profess to be an expert on this, having sat wrapped in my lovely white privilege and not truly knowing how prevalent this mind-set is that children of color are simply not allowed to be children. I see my own children being exposed to things too soon, but preserving childhood seems to be becoming a great priority, as it should be.
So what do we do to work to ensure ALL children have a childhood? Well, I think it starts with a good honest discussion. Which happened last night amid all the wanting to punch the Onion tweeter in the face (He better not meet me in dark alley!). And along with that, I saw women and men, mothers and fathers, across racial, cultural, and socio-economic lines standing up for Quvenzhane.
That is what makes me think we will be okay. No, we won’t stand for calling a 9 year old child one of the most reviled words in the English language but let’s take a step back and look at it this way: 60 years ago more people would have laughed than been offended. Few people would have rushed to her defense. Now we see a few ignorant A-holes but the rest? The rest treasure this child. The rest won’t sit silently by on this one…the rest stand up for Quvenzhane. Here is hoping we continue our outrage for all the Quvenzhane’s out there not up for an Oscar this year.
I hope that she never knows about this. I hope her beautiful Oscar experience was filled with nothing but awesomeness. She deserves it. So I say to her,
Dearest Little Q,
Let’s discuss how much you rock? We’ve all fallen in love with you! Your sense of self, your confidence, your attitude and your humor are exceptional. You looked beautiful last night at the Oscars. Obviously your puppy purse was the greatest accessory in Oscar history. Everything from your hair to your shoes was fashion perfection. I hope that you enjoyed yourself. I hope that you felt loved and supported and I hope the fact that you didn’t win didn’t hurt too much. Mostly, I hope that you remain perfectly YOU and don’t let Hollywood or the media make you second guess who you are. It’s a tough lesson for anyone in the public eye, and you are learning it at such a very young age. Remember, it doesn’t matter what they call you; it matters what you answer to. And you have made it quite clear that you answer to QUVENZHANE!
We love you and we have your back.
Brandi wrote this today: Read it…so good.