Black girls fighting on Reality TV

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.

It’s as if the world is all of a sudden full of rabid, foul-mouthed teenage tryouts for a Love & Hip Hop/Real Housewives of Wherever/Bad Girls Club mash-up.

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.

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Denene Millner

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.

12 Comments

  1. You make the comment “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. ”

    I have to completely disagree with you on this. Brothers are branded thugs from jump and that branding is used to justify killing them, and this happens routinely. Mike Brown is your latest example. We get profiled when we are totally upright and doing nothing wrong and when we shady too. Every brotha in the country with common sense knows that even the most trivial interaction with police can get him killed.

    Your example of the young lady on the train is a bad example to use and make this statement as a contrast to how black men are treated. I don’t advocate hitting a woman, but Pena didn’t have a choice. He couldn’t leave the scene, she had already struck another guy that was filming and it was abundantly clear that if she were not made to stop, she would have struck Pena repeatedly and possibly hurt him much worse, and her friends were down to jump him too. He had no choice but to react decisively if he was going to deter them from trying to physically harm him any further.

    I don’t know what’s behind the phenomenon of black girls acting like this. And I agree with you that its worthy of attention, concern and resources devoted to figuring it out and changing it.

    • Political Season,

      Thanks so much for your comment. When I’m talking about the response to Black boy violence, I’m talking about Black people and our embrace of Black boys—our deliberate moves to help them understand that violence is not the answer and our constant attempts to show them a better way to deal with their anger. Yes, I’m well aware that “mainstream” American paint all of our boy children with the same broad, racist stroke, but even as the Zimmermans and Wilsons of the world murder our Trayvons and Michaels, we as a community collectively come together to say, “NO! You will not treat our children this way! They were human beings and deserve that respect.” WE don’t say they had what was coming to them because they were wearing hoods or talking loudly or being disrespectful. WE demand that everyone see their humanity.

      As for the man’s choice to hit the girl back: I respect what you’re saying but I do not agree with it. If the gentleman who slapped the girl felt he had no other recourse, well, that’s one thing. But how to explain all the commenters, bloggers, Twitter uses and Facebook commenters who jumped in and advocated for her beating and abuse? Since when is it okay to advocate the beating of a young girl? Why isn’t anyone advocating for HELPING her, rather than heaping more violence on her? No matter what she did, As a grown up, as a woman, as a Black mother of two daughters, I could never advocate for the brutalization of a Black girl. Ever.

  2. So glad to receive MBB in my email box again!!! I missed you guys.

    And yes I do believe these shows are contributing to the disrespect for self and others among our young black women. I stopped watching because the energy from these shows are way to negative. And with all that we have going on with ISIS and immigration reform there is so much more to think about and protect our young girls and boys against. People should really stop sleeping and pay attention to what is real.

  3. I love this. I say this all the time. We are sisters.

  4. Well said. Thank you!

  5. excellent post, and I agree with almost everything you said. I hate the way black girls and women are portrayed in media as ghetto acting fist fighting hoodrats or ratchets as many others call them and their physical alterations are seen as an amusing side show for others. Black girls also need help and how to be civilized young ladies, but just like black boys and men, many don’t have good role models and are products of their environment. I’m also glad that I’m not the only one who does not condone the actions of that young man on the subway of slapping that girl, as he was 6’6 ft. 240 lbs male dealing with much smaller average size female who was in no postion to be ble to physically overpower him and could have taking other actions in the conflict. I have to disagree that black boys don’t get demonized because often times they do written off as no good thugs who deserve beatings or worse. Both young black males and females need to help and to teach them better. However, there is stil hope.

  6. Well said (I’m sharing this on my page). I agree with you that we often do and say so much in defense, protection and encouragement of our sons, but we don’t go far enough for our girls. One of the things that I love about your blog is your relationship with your daughters and how you pour into them. We definitely need to do better.

  7. I wish we also taught our girls not to tolerate this type of behavior when they see it happening. If collectively, we told them that when they witness something like this, that they and all their homegirls need to step in and try to stop it. Make them accountable to each other, for each other.

  8. I believe there are many factors, BUT I completelyb believe that reality TV is one of the main factors for this behavior. I feel that since we have less representation media ( which is why we DO need positive media) we, black children, internalize more what they see. Internalize it into more than their actions , but their characters. I do everything I can right now to keep my girl away from that media. Kids act and talk like that and if she brings it home that stop that mess quick, correct it and explain it. WE do not talk like that, WE do not conduct ourselves like that and that she will never be respected or taken seriously acting and speaking in such a way. The reality TV provides the horrible characters flaws and actions .Social media spreads it, makes it popular, encourages and further perpetuates it and the worldstar media aspect makes you famous for your participation in any way, which all destroy decency.

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