There was another brawl at my daughter’s school—two black girls fighting out in the courtyard, on the hard concrete, in the uncharacteristic Autumn freeze, in front of a screaming/laughing/gawking crowd of classmates, cell phones in hand, videotaping and hollering, “World Star!”
I don’t know what they put in the pizza and milk at the end of the week, but I promise you, this happens, like clockwork, practically every Friday at lunch and/or after school. Girlpie will get into the family car at pickup and giggle her way through a recounting of the lunch-time action: one girl was on top of the other… everyone was standing around saying, “Ooooooh! Ohhhhhhh! Daaaaaaaaaamn!”… somebody was videotaping it… one girl got the best of the other one… nobody tried to break it up… the police came, pulled them apart and hauled away the girls who were brawling…
At the center of every last one of the fights: Black girls.
It is Black girls vs. Black girls.
Black girls vs. Black boys.
Black girls vs. teachers and administrators.
Black girls vs. every-doggone-body.
And everyone else either swinging at them or standing around making fun and calling them ratchet… thot (“that ho over there” for the uninitiated)… ghetto.
Of course, black girls fighting is nothing new: I’m a witness. I was even in two—as a kindergartener, trying to help my big brother when he was getting beat up at the bus stop and in the fifth grade, against a girl named Kim, for reasons I can’t even remember. Had a few near-misses, too, and saw plenty of girls get in scuffles over a variety of things: boys, someone getting flip in the lip, rumors and innuendo or whatever it is we got mad at back in the day.
But something different is going on these days—something else is in the air. Video after video careens down Black internet streets, showing Black girls screaming and cursing and hitting boyfriends and strangers alike, jumping bad without any care for their comportment or perception or even safety. Consider the video that made the rounds across the internet last week: with her girlfriends goading her on, a Black girl cursed and made fun of a man during a subway ride and hit him in the head with her shoe with absolutely no thought—until the man smacked fire out of her mouth and pummeled her into the train’s wall. Another video circulating a few weeks ago showed a Black girl towering over a fellow male classmate, cursing and screaming and practically begging the boy to hit her, going so far as to toss a desk and chair toward him until a teacher finally dragged her out of the classroom.
Indeed, I can’t help but to think this is where all of this behavior emanates: reality TV. How else to explain it? Black teenage girls got Bravo, VH1 and the creators of those shows swimming in ratings and cash as they shovel all kinds of ratchet theater onto the airwaves: grown women slapping each other, cracking bottles over each others’ heads, dragging each other by the weave like some sort of modern-day Neanderthal while they curse and insult, with, it seems, absolutely nary a care in the world that someone is getting physically and emotionally hurt, that they look the whole ass, that there are consequences for such behavior, the kind that, in the case of RHOA’s Porsha Williams and Blood, Sweat and Heels star Geneva Thomas, leads to mug shots and assault charges.
What’s equally disheartening is that rather than talk to our girls about how this behavior is unacceptable and, on the face of it, plain dangerous, we collectively toss out our responsibility to teach them better and, instead, toss up Tweets and Facebook posts about how these little girls deserve to get back exactly what they’re giving—no matter, even, if the person administering the hit-backs is a grown man three times her size. Grown ups who should know better are advocating the beating and abuse of Black girls. Like it is just and right.
On what planet is it okay—and, even more, encouraged—to assault girls? When did this become standard protocol? And why are we cool with calling clearly troubled girls names and advocating their abuse, even as we take a completely different approach with troubled Black boys? Be clear: when Black boys get into trouble, presidential committees are formed to help them find their way out of the darkness. Literally. No one ever says Black boys deserve to be hit, deserve to be called thugs and ghetto, deserve a comeuppance for whatever misguided transgression they have. They are an endangered species who need to be protected and defended at all costs—and rightfully so.
But what about our girls? A Time.com story made it plain: when it comes to school discipline, graduation rates, unplanned pregnancy, low job wages and lack of educational opportunity, Black girls are catching it. And we’re asleep at the wheel. No one, it seems, is talking to our girls, and it’s clearer more than ever that they are hurting.
This is certainly what I explained to Girlpie when she got in the car on Friday, giggling and giving me the blow-by-blow of the week’s big Black girl brawl, replete with an image of white kids scooping up hair weave snatched from one of the girls’ head and tossing it all around the lunchroom. Like it was just the funniest thing.
“You do know there’s nothing funny about two Black girls fighting, don’t you?” I asked Girlpie after she finished recounting the day’s event. “Some one got hurt, two girls got sent to jail today and yet another set of Black girls used each other like whipping posts for everyone’s amusement. And for what?”
“I know, Mom,” she said, getting quiet.
We talk about these things a lot, you know: about the foolishness of reality TV, which I let her watch, about the increased lack of respect people have for Black girls, and that Black girls seem to lack, even, for themselves. About the school-to-prison pipeline that’s scooping up Black girls at an alarming clip. I worry about them. I fret over them. And I pray my daughters never get caught up in the fray.
There was a time when Girlpie considered settling a dispute with a fellow Black girl by putting the paws on her. Thank God, though, that rather than act on pure emotion, she asked me how to handle the girl who was working her last nerve. And when she wasn’t quite satisfied with my answers, she went to a Black female teacher at her school, a woman she trusted and looked up to, for advice. That teacher made it plain for Girlpie: “What can not happen is that two Black girls solve their problems by beating on each other. You two are sisters, whether you like each other or not. The two of you have enough enemies to fight; you don’t need to add fellow Black girls to that list.”
I thank God for her. She was spot on. I wish that this were a pronouncement for all Black girls—that there was a manual somewhere, or a teacher or mentor or sister/mother figure or a light bulb that could go off with that same simple message: Black girls are not the enemy.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.