Live Through This

Black Girl Lessons

A tragically inevitable rite of passage.

Illustration by Minna

Illustration by Minna

The first time it happened to me, it cut my insides up so bad that my stomach still churns every time I think about it. I was in first grade. My family had just moved, so I was the new kid in school. I was also one of a small handful of African-Americans among a sea of white students, which made me even more conspicuous. But it didn’t bother me much: I made friends, got good grades, and had fun. One day at school I heard a couple of kids talking about an upcoming birthday party for one of our classmates, Mandy.* They said that she had invited the whole class, but it was the first I’d heard about it, so I figured she must have forgotten to put my name on the list because I was new. (I was so naïve that no other possibility occurred to me.) I made a mental note to alert her of this oversight the next time we crossed paths.

I ran into Mandy later that day on the playground, when we were both in line for the tire swing. I still remember the rainbow-colored striped shirt she was wearing, slightly discolored and stained from the sandbox, and her Velcro KangaROOS. I asked if she’d forgotten to tell her mom to send me an invite, and she just stood there and looked at the ground for a long time. Then she narrowed her blue eyes, tossed her dirty-blonde curls, and said, “Mom just doesn’t like blacks. She just doesn’t like them in her home, because she says you guys are bad.”

I had an instant physical reaction to her words—they grasped at my throat, making it hard to breathe and impossible to speak. I felt confused, hurt, humiliated, outraged. Even though I’ve experienced many other painful incidents since then, my heart has memorized the intricacies of that initial ache; many years later, trying to describe to an inquisitive white friend what it feels like when I witness or directly experience prejudice, I found myself going right back to that playground. “I feel hurt, and then angry, and then sad to the point where it is hard to breathe,” I told my friend. “And then a gust of energy rises from my toes, twists my tummy, squeezes my heart with its imaginary fists, and then pushes up through my throat with a burning sensation that surrounds my face.” In those moments I am stricken with a paradox: total paralysis and asphyxiation coupled with a frenetic vigor that could lift me off the floor, propel me like a cannonball into the offending target, and destroy everything in its path with the force of a gale. But most times, I told her, holding in everything I’m feeling is what stings the most.

I was reminded of my encounter with Mandy again this year, in February, on the night of the Academy Awards. I was in California, grinding away at a work event, not watching the broadcast. At some point in the evening I took a second to glance at my Twitter feed, and I saw the tweet that you’ve no doubt heard about by now—the one where The Onion, in an attempt to be funny, called the nine-year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis “a cunt.”

I reread the tweet to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. I blinked with disbelief—they wouldn’t really write that about a child, would they? But sadly, that was just a vestige of that same naïveté that had convinced me that Mandy had simply forgotten my party invitation.

As I felt my innards contort in that familiar and disconcerting way, I realized that I was foolish to have been surprised for even a second. Quvenzhané Wallis, after all, is not Elle Fanning or Chloë Grace Moretz or any other well-known (and white) ingénue. And, contrary to the protests of several internet commenters who argued in the days that followed the incident that Quvenzhané’s race was irrelevant, I believe it matters. Like many others who understand the long history of black women’s bodies being objectified, undervalued, over-sexualized, and exploited, I doubt that a similar joke would be lobbed so cavalierly at a white girl.

Quvenzhané’s experience was infuriating but, to anyone who’d gone through it themselves, immediately recognizable as a tragically inevitable rite of passage: our first encounter with racism. Up until that moment most of us naïvely assume that the world is basically fair. And then someone says something that reveals what other people think of us, and we start to understand what it means to be a black girl in a racist, sexist world.

I received my moment of enlightenment courtesy of Mandy that day on the playground, and its lesson was reinforced countless times in the years that followed. When I was not much older than Quvenzhané is now, men routinely called me a “cunt” and the N-word when I ignored their obscene comments on the street. I once, also as a child, literally fought off a delivery man who tried to accost me in my home and said disgusting things about my “exotic” heritage and “wanton sexuality.”

So it did not surprise me, but it broke my heart, to watch another little girl—and one who happens to be brimming with talent and apparent joy, and who seemed to be reveling in the her status as the youngest-ever best-actress nominee at the ceremony—go through this rite of passage. Jamilah Lemieux put it just right in Ebony magazine: “I wish that Quvenzhané could enjoy her newfound fame without these hard-earned black girl lessons, but they would have caught her on the block, in the classroom, on the internet at some point even if she hadn’t garnered an Oscar nod.”

Now this offensive tweet from a publication with close to five million followers is part of Quvenzhané’s story, and she’ll probably be reminded of it for years to come. This was a coming-of-age moment, a first lesson in the hateful indoctrination most black women are subjected to over and over in our lifetimes. It seems that even in 2013, no one can escape this ugly education.

Not 17-year-old Gabby Douglas, who, following a gymnastics performance that earned her an Olympic gold medal, endured negative reviews of her hair, and who faced backlash after speaking out about racially motivated harassment at her gym in Virginia.

Not Malia Obama, whom commenters on conservative blogs targeted with racial slurs a few years ago, when she was 11, for simply wearing a T-shirt with a peace sign.

Not 14-year-old Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in The Hunger Games and sparked the ire of racists on Twitter for looking exactly the way her character was described in Suzanne Collins’s book: as someone with dark skin and dark eyes. It was devastating to see tweets from people who said they were less sad about Rue’s death because of her skin tone, and others who decided that they were less “pumped” about the book because she was black. The irony of the situation is that Jennifer Lawrence played Katniss, a character whom the author described as having dark hair, gray eyes, and olive skin. The same people who were angered by what they erroneously considered to be Rue’s inaccurate physical representation weren’t at all bothered that Katniss was being played by a fair-skinned natural blonde.

And, of course, not me. After that moment with Mandy, any time people treated me unfairly I had to wonder if it was because of my actions or the color of my skin. Racism has a way of permeating even the most mundane exchanges: I go shopping and am followed around the whole time by salesclerks who repeatedly inform me of the cost of the clothes in their store. I get accepted into an honor society at school and one of my classmates hypothesizes that I got in via affirmative action, not my academic performance. And on and on. While I’ve always maintained my own sense of inherent worth and dignity, it has been exhausting.

But, you know, I always have an optimistic heart. And it’s always holding out for people to grow, change, and treat one another better. It can be really discouraging to see how far we still have to go and how much work still needs to be done before we can create a world where we’re all judged not on how we look but on how we are, but I’m stronger every day because I’m still here, I’m surviving, and I’m using my voice. When I need to blow off steam, I vent with friends and family who understand and trust my perspective. I nourish myself by speaking up when someone makes a racist (or sexist or homophobic or otherwise bigoted) joke or comment, even when I’m scared to make the situation uncomfortable. And I try to tell my story as much as I can, because it’s important for me to let other black girls—and those who love us—know that they’re not alone.And it’s always holding out for people to grow, change, and treat one another better. It can be really discouraging to see how far we still have to go and how much work still needs to be done before we can create a world where we’re all judged by how we are and not how we look, but I’m strengthened every day because I’m still here, I’m surviving, and I’m using my voice. When I need to blow off steam, I vent with friends and family who understand and trust my perspective. I nourish myself by speaking up when someone makes a racist (or sexist or homophobic or otherwise bigoted) joke or comment, even when I’m scared to make the situation uncomfortable. And I try to tell my story as much as I can, because it’s important for me to let other black girls—and those who love us—know that they’re not alone. ♦

* This girl’s name has been changed.


  • Lea April 8th, 2013 3:38 PM

    Printing this out to reread it forever.

  • Indigoblue April 8th, 2013 3:41 PM

    Well here’s another rookie article I’m going to print and stick on my wall! Love it <3

  • Clare April 8th, 2013 3:53 PM

    i’m so glad rookie runs articles like this one. i’m sorta snow white’s mini-me, and though of course i would never act or think of myself as superior to someone who isn’t white, i’m sure i’m fullfullfull of white privilege that i don’t even notice.  i would really love to have even more of a conversation on this site about racism because the more articles like this one that i read, the more my eyes are opened to the struggles of people of colour, which i’m sure a lot of us need! there’s a lot of discussion about feminism here, and a lot of feminism is about women of colour as they have even more -isms stacked against them. it can be really weird to come to a feminist site like this one expecting to mostly talk about the  ways other people opress us, and then be told that you’re also an opressor. but it’s a conversation we need to have! 
    so yeah, thanks for posting this & i hope there’s even more in the future & that we can maybe talk about this a little bit in the comments?

    • Abby April 8th, 2013 5:05 PM

      So I think you’re basically me and you just posted everything I want to say. Sometimes I just feel awful because like you said, I probably don’t realize how full I am of white privilege. I wish I could just say sorry…. to all the people who may have been hurt because I’m ignorant. I’m by no means purposefully racist, but I know I’m ignorant sometimes. I hope this makes sense.

    • chloegrey April 9th, 2013 12:22 AM

      YES thank you I feel the same way! I know I come from a position of privilege and the more I learn – from articles like this one, which is so excellent Jamia! – the more my worldview changes. I’m so grateful for that. I want to ask how I can help, you know? But I feel sometimes like it’s insulting of me even to do that, it’s naive – like I can’t possibly understand the black experience as a white person, because I CAN’T. I can only learn more. It honestly doesn’t bother me when my Nigerian classmate calls me ‘snowball’ because I’m not the one being systematically oppressed… I just want to know what I can do. I want to have discussions about this kind of thing but I’m always afraid of offending someone because I know that I come from a position of ignorance.
      Anyway you said this quite beautifully and I’m very grateful Rookie is creating a space for us to talk and learn like this.

    • lxmldrt April 9th, 2013 12:53 PM

      Totally! I often think racism is one of the habits (because it is in a way a habit) that are most unconsciously attached in the way we act, and it makes me wanna puke.

  • Montgomery April 8th, 2013 4:12 PM

    LITERALLY have goosebumps, I am sitting at work near tears. This is so eloquently put. I had a nearly identical situation. a little girl did not want to invite me to a party because i was half black. new school, all white town, and confused me. this is great jamia! I love this sosososo much, your voice gets stronger in my head the farther in I read. I just wanted to add that the joke Seth Macfarlene made about Quvenzhane being almost old enough to date George Clooney also made me uncomfortable. Goes with what you were saying about over sexualizing not just young girls but young black girls…I don’t know. I just wanted to add that. Well done girl! <3

  • Steph Parker April 8th, 2013 4:26 PM

    I feel this so much. I think I’m going to print it out, too– I want to read it again and again.

  • ColoredSoft April 8th, 2013 4:29 PM

    Wow, I have no words. I hate that you had to go through that in the first grade. I love how you addressed all these things. I’ve experienced touches of racism, places in stereotypes, treated as an object..I’ve never read someone say “when people treated me with indignity and unfairness or excluded me without reason I had to wonder if it was because of my actions or the color of my skin”..this is so true. I am always thinking about that. Thankyou for not making me feel alone. You are a terrific writer, as well :) Thankyou.

  • Narnia April 8th, 2013 5:32 PM

    im mixed and grew up in the upper-middle class suburbs i always considered myself white because I didnt have any ‘black cultural characteristics’, I was considerably fairskinned and my father is a native of trinidad, so I got my dark skin from him which meant i technically wasnt african american. i had a white mentality until my mother married someone black man and both he and d. tosh made fun of people who called themselves “mixed’, saying “it doesnt matter how you see yourself. the rest of the world sees you as black’. it struck me as harsh even though i was used was used to ostracization (that i didnt attribute to my race att). it just made me understand that being black means to everyone else. RANT i hate when people say racist comments, forget im in the room, and say things like “sorry i forgot you were black” or “you dont act black…” or “nadia! be black” WTF IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN? stop categorizing people and let me be myself. people can be completely separate from cultural stereotypes.

    • chloegrey April 9th, 2013 12:23 AM

      Thank you for saying this! It was so well put.

  • Danielle April 8th, 2013 5:33 PM

    Thank you, Jamia. This is painful and beautiful.

  • Caitlin H. April 8th, 2013 5:45 PM


  • mollyjane April 8th, 2013 5:51 PM

    One thing I found interesting in this article was the point about the tweet about quvhenzhané. I honestly didn’t know there were racial connotations surrounding the c word. And the entire Wikipedia article doesn’t mention it either. Not to start a debate about the intention of the Onion, but I do think your claim is interesting. That bit gave me a better understanding of a tension-filled topic, especially one about something I could have possibly not learned elsewhere on the web.

    • kolumbia April 8th, 2013 6:42 PM

      There is a racial connotation to the C-word?

      • Anaheed April 8th, 2013 6:45 PM

        Jamia never said that there was — not sure where that interpretation is coming from.

    • marineo April 8th, 2013 6:43 PM

      I too was unaware of the fact that “cunt” was racially charged, however I think the bigger issue was that this sort of insult would have NEVER been lobbied at a white child star. EVER. That is the problem.

      • mollyjane April 8th, 2013 7:21 PM

        Oh awkward. I guess the description of the tweet followed by the analysis in comparison to white stars like Elle Fanning and this line “contrary to the protests of several internet commenters in the days that followed the Oscars who argued that her race was completely irrelevant in all this, I believe it matters” made me interpret it that way. But I see what the author means now! So about that embarrassment of being a human being thing haha, exactly me right now…

        • Anaheed April 8th, 2013 7:43 PM

          Ah! I get it now. No need to be embarrassed!

    • farawayfaerie April 12th, 2013 4:29 PM

      I think she was more saying that such a strong word would not be thrown as carelessly onto a young white actress.

  • Lorf96 April 8th, 2013 5:52 PM

    Literally I just got home from my new boyfriend’s party. One of my family members asked about his parents and I said one is of Indian heritage and one Polish. This family member responded with a hands off comment but I felt it was v rude. I guess they’re of an older generation but it made me SO angry. Reading this article is just so relevant and it is awful that it is in the 21st centuryXxx

  • kathryn-s April 8th, 2013 5:55 PM

    Thank you for writing this, Jamia. Rookie rulezzzz to the moon and back

  • azultardis April 8th, 2013 5:58 PM

    beatiful article, I’m mexican and my skins is a bit dark and even when most of the population looks like that,I’ve received comments about how dark my skin is,how I look like and india and I don’t care really,cause that’s where my family comees frome but still is very hurtful,and people gives a weird value to people with white skin and blonde hair,and I just don’t get it…

  • Marian April 8th, 2013 6:32 PM

    YESS!!! I was waiting for this article and it couldn’t have been better! Great job <3

  • abby111039 April 8th, 2013 6:33 PM

    This was a heart-breaking read. I’m white, but I have faced stereotyping because of my Jewish heritage from my dad’s side. I recently had a random kid from my school come up to me and ask me if I was Jewish. I responded yes, and he said, “I knew it. You know how I knew?” I said I didn’t know, and he replied, “Because of your nose. All Jewish people have big noses like that.” I’ve gotten kind of used to comments like that from insensitive or ignorant people, but it’s still pretty offensive. But as I get older, it matters to me so much less, because I’ve learned to be proud of my nose and the culture it comes from. And I think everyone should be able to take the same pride in their background without suffering backlash from socitey. Well that ends the rant from me. :P Thanks a bunch for posting this article. :3

  • babyybat April 8th, 2013 6:45 PM

    Someone gets it. It hurts so much when someone makes a joke about black people. Or acting like a “black person” or a “white person!” Why can’t we all just be ourselves? The worst thing is, if you say this to someone they say it’s just a joke as if that makes it better.

  • Indigoblue April 8th, 2013 6:51 PM

    It does make me angry how people can say these disgusting things on sites and how young talented children can learn how horrible this world can be at such a young age. It is a relief though that rookie can shed light on the matter in a way that anyone can understand and empathize with <3

  • Teez April 8th, 2013 7:54 PM

    thank you thank you thank you for this jamia. as always so perf. i relate to the ‘always questioning actions vs race’ thing so much, it can be so pervasive, to the point that whenever someone white shows romantic interest in me i wonder whether their interest in me is because i look ~exotic~, i always feel like i am crossing ‘brown girl’ off their list, which can be really demoralising.

  • ivoire April 8th, 2013 7:58 PM

    thank you thank you this is article hits right home.
    as a child, i never saw this imbalance in the world and i was very naïve. the decsription about how you feel after being a victim of racism is spot on.

    anyone been to cronulla? every single time i go there there always has to be a couple of people yelling at me ni hao ma! or ching chong or some other bullshit. it seriously makes me feel like shit because there isnt anything that i can scream back at them.

    also people assume that i speak broken english? what is that? im pretty sure my grades are way fucking better than yours.

  • tessajane April 8th, 2013 8:09 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing this. A reminder and a call to action for everyone, everywhere. Sharing our experiences with others brings us all closer together in some way that is often hard to define. Thanks Jamia!

  • Gabrielle M April 8th, 2013 8:11 PM

    This was really impactful for me, and I’m fortunate because I’ve never had people stereotype me on sight (I’m half white and very light-skinned), but I get a lot of crap about affirmative action and people seem to think that I don’t earn what I get, and that people hand me stuff on silver platters because I’m mixed. I hear shit like “I wish I was mixed like her because then all the colleges would let me in.” Bullshit, stop talking. Maybe you could work hard for a straight A’s once in your life and then some colleges will want you. And I hate that I always feel like I have something to prove to other people.

  • rockwrenroll April 8th, 2013 9:23 PM

    Jamia, I totally understand this and the extent that I relate to it makes me sad, but oddly comforted. It is a struggle being a woman, and even moreso being a woman of color, and I never get tired of reading about it.

  • Yayo April 8th, 2013 10:21 PM

    This is so beautiful. I have no idea why it touches me so much; I’m white.
    And just typing those words I feel almost guilty for it. But then I feel guilty for being guilty about my white privilege. It’s a weird dynamic.

    I live in a small rural English town which completely avoids discussing race.

    It all makes me so angry. It’s a deep-rooted social issue that’s just been washed over on the surface now that it’s 2013 and no longer okay to openly discriminate against people.
    I’m deemed racist for openly referring to somebody as black, yet it’s okay for my friend to tell me she’s glad she’s not ‘one of them’ because ‘well, you know’.
    It’s OK for people to refer to my half-Indian cousin as a ‘paki’ as long as it’s not to her face. And it’s okay to not let a black girl borrow your PE shorts, as long as you don’t *tell* her it’s because she’s black – we’re all white here, we understand, of course we won’t say anything!

    The sad thing is, that’s not even an exaggerated mentality.

  • maureen7 April 8th, 2013 10:44 PM

    I’m black and I live in an almost all white french canadian town and i get this article and the comments so so much. You just get tired sometimes and so IRRITATED because you feel like you try crazy hard, but that barrier is still there no matter what.
    I remember when that whole Rue thing happened, I actually cried for an hour. It was horrible.
    Seriously thanks for this though. I sometimes forget that there are many others who understand and feel this way too.

  • Tambourelle April 8th, 2013 11:02 PM

    Thank you so so so much! For this article! I was very happy whilst reading the comments, I am mixed (half black african, half white english) and I could relate to what you guys were saying. It’s so great to know that I’m not alone. I was also happy to see that people want to read more things simular to this article. My sister and I will be starting a zine soon about being brown/mixed so we can connect with other brown and mixed people, and raise awareness to people who may not know about the issues that are brought with this. We will also be talking about being shy and femminism and a bunch of other stuff. xx

  • The_Idler_Wheel April 8th, 2013 11:57 PM

    Woah! Being a white girl who has never suffered racism, this piece really opened my eyes and resonated with me. More discussion on racism, please, Rookie! Wonderful, Jamia.

  • Ella April 9th, 2013 12:20 AM

    Since I live in a very open-minded, culturally accepting town, I’ve never had to deal with discrimination and outright hatred myself. Racist and steryotypical jokes, though, seem to be PERFECTLY FINE there. No matter how good-natured it may be, it’s still hurtful. I still remember when, one or two years ago, my then best-friend made a supposedly funny comment about my family and the Bureau of Immigrations that I knew she wouldn’t have made if I wasn’t Mexican. When I confronted her about it, she was mad because I “couldn’t take a joke”. It just makes me mad how the people making a racial joke about someone expect them to laugh it off, because an insult is still an insult, and calling a child a “cunt” is still an insult.

  • Jen L. April 9th, 2013 12:55 AM

    Jamia, this article is stunning. Thank you.

  • Ree April 9th, 2013 4:11 AM

    This kind of made my heart hurt a little bit because I understand it exactly. Thank you for writing this, it’s about time someone did.

  • Nomali April 9th, 2013 5:32 AM

    I started tearing up even before I started reading this. Thank you for your voice, Jamia.

  • Bethany April 9th, 2013 7:10 AM

    Thank you so much for writing this Jamia.

    The misplaced belief that girls of color have no innocence, feel no pain is so very strange and so very sad. It ends up as a self fulfilling prophecy, the lie that we have no innocence serves as justification to take our innocence from us, our childhoods from us. No one can get in trouble for being a thief if what they stole was never there in the first place. If that makes any sense at all? I dunnooo. It is all so contradictory and upside down and back to front! It makes my head hurt to find the thoughts and my mouth hurt to find the words.

    I’m mixed and was abused by a white boy when I was a child. But the whole thing was treated as NBD because girls of color are meant to be able to Deal With It. Like its just one of those things, like failing a spelling test or losing a pencil. It makes me think of the bit in the Bluest Eye when the doctors think the black women do not feel pain in child birth, that they’re tough. The idea that women of color are not really women and children of color are not really children.

    Quvenzhané Wallis reminds me that these things are still happening. Like I see a super cute, super rad, super talented little girl with an awesome collection of puppy purses but other people still see a cunt who needs to put in her place. What place exactly I’m not sure but some place bad and sad I guess.

    But reading all the lovely, positive comments on Rookie on a rainy Tuesday morning, on a overcrowded bus in England, makes me feel happy and hopeful and reminds me to stay positive about things. :))


  • nox April 9th, 2013 7:36 AM

    I wonder when racism will end. We could be naive enough to think that the older, more ‘traditional’ (conceited) generation will die out and the more, liberal educated generation will lead the way for a more equal minded society. But will it actually pass? This out-dated and disgusting behaviour continues to be passed down generations in some white households. That’s what led ‘Mandy’ to exclude you.

    I also have an optimistic heart and hope change will occur. Your article saddened me and made me thankful that I live in a very multicultural city so I’ve received minor racist remarks, but alas remarks just the same.

  • Kristin April 9th, 2013 9:43 AM

    This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read and almost one of the most heartbreaking. I wish life was different.

  • sherry April 9th, 2013 11:01 AM

    it’s such a beautifully written article!
    Hopefully racism will end one day but we all need to make a change in order to make it happen!

  • sunglasses and roses April 9th, 2013 12:43 PM

    I can relate to this a bit as an Asian.

    Racism is WRONG no matter what!!

  • Kathleen Scheiner April 9th, 2013 12:57 PM

    I’m a naive one too. I remember when the whole controversy about Rue being black happened, and I honestly thought it was a joke. Then people pointed me to the articles and all of the hateful comments, and I was so incredibly hurt. I really thought I lived in a different country.

  • Jamia April 9th, 2013 1:32 PM

    Thanks so much for your beautiful and supportive comments. xo

  • GildedLocks April 9th, 2013 1:43 PM

    Beautiful and insightful words, Jamia. Hope Rookie keeps publishing articles like this.

  • ♡ reba ♡ April 9th, 2013 2:21 PM

    this article is just the best. identifying with everything right now.

  • takebackyourpower April 9th, 2013 6:04 PM

    I am so happy to see so many rookies interacting with issues of race and privilege. I highly recommend reading Peggy McIntosh and Bell Hooks for more information on systemic racism, white guilt, etc. Great article!

  • miriam z April 9th, 2013 6:15 PM

    This hit extremely close to home. I was the only one who wasn’t invited to this one girl’s birthday parties year after year, and I was the only black kid (and poc) in my class. And the only black girl in my school.

    Thank you for writing this!

  • christine rucker April 9th, 2013 6:30 PM

    I love this article! I feel like the disparity between white people and minorities is never examined enough! I’m mixed asian/white and many of my white friends assume that I’m on the “same level” as them or have the same privileges and don’t think racism is a problem in todays society then they read something like this and are totally shocked. They don’t experience or understand things like feeling ugly just because of your skin tone or physical features like not having light-colored eyes or a roman nose. I feel like if more people were willing to share their experiences like you have, people would be less insensitive and make less hurtful jokes, and people would have an easier time understanding being looked down on for something that shouldn’t still be a problem in “todays society”

  • GlitterKitty April 9th, 2013 6:46 PM

    I wish racism would just go away. The world has come so far and we’ve done such amazing things but we still can’t stop hating on each other’s race? We went to the moon but we can’t stop being racist? It just seems ridiculous.

  • dumbpling April 9th, 2013 7:54 PM

    I don’t know, I thought the cunt tweet was more meant to emphasize the ridiculousness of calling actresses such derogatory terms and to make fun of people who do so? Especially with someone like Quvenzhané Wallis, who is wonderful and basically the complete opposite. I thought the whole point was to pick someone like her, rather than other actresses (for example Kristen Stewart or Jennifer Lawrence) who are routinely called such names, to show how unacceptable it really is. I don’t think it was very tasteful, and it was rude to her, but I didn’t really understand some of the backlash. Maybe I’m just missing something?

    • sarah davis April 11th, 2013 6:57 AM

      that’s how i read it too. they are satirising the way that the celebrity gossip industry goes to town on women actors at these ceremonies.

  • blueolivia April 10th, 2013 9:22 AM

    this is beautifully written, i am so impressed. and from an AP language and composition student, your supporting evidence was perfectly done. i loved this.

  • barbroxursox April 10th, 2013 5:50 PM

    Wow, this article is amazing. I am a privileged white girl, so I can’t say I’ve been subject to the kinds of oppression you have been, but I do think it should stop. I looked at the comments on the Gabby Douglass/Oprah thing, and people kept saying “oh, she’s pulling the race card.” What!? The race card? She legitimately got discriminated against, and all people can say is that she’s asking for attention. I can’t believe so many people are so ignorant to think that what she was saying was racist, when really the racism was against her. Gawd. I need a chill pill because everything is pissing me off now. But this article was great and I hope we can help stop racism (or any other type of discrimination).

  • goodgodlemon April 10th, 2013 8:08 PM

    I’m at a loss for how to comment on this article because I’m so blown away by it. I’m in my 20s and nothing I read as a teenager that was intended for teenagers was ever this honest. Thank you, Jamia, for writing such an amazing article, and thank you Rookie for continuing to say things that need to be said and publish things that need to be read.

  • peanutbutter April 11th, 2013 8:44 AM

    This story about Quvenzhané Wallis reminded me of a similar controversy which occurred at the 2010 Logies awards in Australia, in which a newspaper columnist tweeted about 11-year-old Bindi Irwin saying “I do so hope Bindi gets laid”.
    (For more info, here’s a link
    To be honest, I think that a comment like the one directed at Quvenzhané Wallis would be made about a white girl just as easily as a non-white girl. Which is not to say that that comment was not motivated by racism, but I think the similar story about Bindi Irwin does indicate that inappropriate/offensive comments will be made regardless of skin colour. The two cases are not the same, and I would venture to say that the comments about Bindi were less vitriolic and it’s quite plausible that Deveny did not intend any offense. The same could not be said about the tweet about Quvenzhané, and it is an appalling thing to write about a 9-year-old.

    Although I do disagree with the idea that this wouldn’t happen to a white girl, I don’t disagree that it was a racially motivated comment, and I don’t disagree with its use as an example in the context of this article. All in all, I thought the article was heart-wrenching and very eloquent. Thank you, Jamia, for sharing it!

  • April 12th, 2013 8:37 PM

    As a black girl, I live this article everyday. I remember the first time I was alerted to the existence of racism. I had called over the the neighbor’s yard to play with them and as I crossed over the fence, their parents called them inside immediately. I was felt rejected, but more than anything I wanted to know what was up. I told my parents and they sat me down and told me the “why”. As a black girl growing into a black woman sometimes it feels like an uphill battle against racism and sexism. The article is on point and finally encouraged me to embrace commitment and create an actual account. Is it possible to create a longer discussion on the topic?

  • Taylor Smith April 13th, 2013 3:02 PM

    Finally an article that all black woman can relate to. I never understood how vicious people could be until I entered high school. I am a dark skinned female in the scholars program at my high school. The 1 of the two black girls actually in this program in my class who is dark. I never realized my complexion until I entered high school and began to receive comments on how dark I was from other people. Instead of looking at my academic achievements and realizing I have as much potential if not more than the others in this program, some of my piers still seem to underestimate me and make fun of my race as well as my skin tone. It’s so hard to try and keep my head up because so many are trying to push it down with degrading comments. It’s so hard to see my skin color as an example of beauty when it is brought up with such negativity. Worse of it all is that most of these comments are made by my own race. Friends of other races are awe struck by my complexion. Often stating how stunning it is while friends of my race never fail to crack jokes and stereotype.

  • Jamia April 15th, 2013 10:45 PM

    Thank you Rooks! Love your stories and all of your courage. xoxoxo

  • Ari June 6th, 2013 12:50 AM

    I had my first racists experience in kindergarten. Its so confusing because who really thinks of themselves as a color? It was almost like I didn’t realize I was the only black girl in the room until someone pointed it out and made fun of me for it. When my mom went to talk to my teacher about it she said “well we read the kids a book about Martin Luther King Jr. I really don’t see the big deal.” My mom pulled me out of that school almost immediately. I loved your article! You’re so eloquent. I think that because of racism and sexism black women have to be that much stronger. Its so nice to be reminded that I’m not alone.

  • Tazaa June 6th, 2013 11:21 PM

    Thank you, I am literally crying right now. I am mulato but I definitely would not pass. In my school of about 150 kids there are 3 mixed girls, 1 mixed boy, and my best friend, a full Hatian. The first time I was called a ni**er was second grade. This made me realize that I wasn’t the only one

  • Jamia June 7th, 2013 3:33 PM

    Tazaa and Ari, Thank you for sharing your stories. Sending lots of love and solidarity to you. Sharing our stories with each other is so healing and the truthtelling is a surefire way to fight back. xo

  • Reindeer July 30th, 2013 10:55 PM

    Very powerful article. My first encounter with racism was when I was very young, and my biological father would not let me take a bath with a close friend of mine, who I had been outside with all day, because she was black.

    They were our neighbors and promptly moved.

    I do disagree about your statement concerning Jennifer Lawrence–while I never ran into the hatred surrounding Rue, I of course read several different articles concerning people who were upset with Jennifer Lawrence’s weight and general appearance.

    I did not think about Quvenzhané Wallis being targeted by the joke due to her skin tone–or that the name calling would of course never been made at the expense of a white girl. Thank you for introducing a new perspective and changing the way I saw the event.