It’s been a whirlwind month for superstar Mo’Ne Davis, the 13-year-old Philadelphia powerhouse who pitched her way into our hearts last year in the Little League World Series. With a Sports Illustrated cover and a Spike Lee commercial already under her belt, last week HarperCollins Children’s Books published Mo’ne’s autobiography, “Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name: My Story from First Pitch to Game Changer,” which the teen penned with New York Times bestselling author Hilary Beard. She debuted her own sneaker line, with a promise to donate 15% of the profits to a nonprofit that helps girls. And Disney announced our favorite teen athlete would star in Throw Like Mo, a Disney movie about her life as the first female to throw a shutout and win a Little League World Series game against boys.
But as excited as we are for Mo’Ne Davis’s fortunes, apparently it made college baseball player Joey Casselberry feel some kind of way. Enough for him to take to Twitter to call our girl a slut—a slur that quickly got the star first baseman kicked off his college baseball team at Bloomsburg University.
Awesome move by Bloomsburg, but what stopped us in our tracks was this: Mo’Ne Davis forgives Casselberry and has asked that the school take him back.
You read that right: a grown man took to Twitter to call a little girl, a complete stranger to him, a hateful slur reserved for humans with vaginas, and the 13-year-old, who may not even have known what the word means until a few days ago, went on national television to absolve him of his ignorant, sexist hate speech and do his bidding.
Speaking on “SportsCenter” Monday, Mo’Ne explained that she’d emailed Casselberry’s school to ask that he be reinstated because, “Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone deserves a second chance. I know he didn’t mean it in that type of way. I know a lot of people get tired of seeing me on TV, but sometimes you’ve got to think about what you’re doing before you actually do it. I know right now he’s really hurt, and I know how hard he worked just to get to where he is right now. I was pretty hurt on my part, but I know he’s hurt. He’s hurt even more.”
I mean, maybe Mo’Ne and the people surrounding her are just bigger than me, but, um, ain’t no way my girlpies would be on national TV pressing holy water on the forehead of a devil who thought nothing of ripping this off on Twitter:
Only after he got called on his mess—and, no doubt, in a desperate bid to keep from getting kicked off his team and out of school—did Casselberry apologize, writing: “An example that one stupid tweet can ruin someone’s life and I couldn’t be more sorry about my actions last night. I please ask you to forgive me and truly understand that I am in no way shape or form a sexist and I am a huge fan of Mo’ne. She was quite an inspiration.”
Obviously not inspiration enough, though, for Casselberry to refrain from calling a 13-year-old Black girl disgusting, derogatory names on social media. But this fits, doesn’t it? It’s right up there with the Onion “jokingly” calling child star Quvenzhané Wallis a “cunt” during its live Twitter coverage of the 2013 Academy Awards, and rivals the virtual white racist Twitter meltdown when folk got a gander that the very adorable and very Black Amandla Stenberg starred as Rue in The Hunger Games. Social media has made it quite easy for the most disgusting amongst us to easily and loudly proclaim they absolutely abhor human life if it comes wrapped in skin that isn’t white like theirs or it has a vagina attached to it. And media jabberjaws make matters worse by focusing on calling Mo’Ne “classy” and “grown up” for forgiving her attacker, instead of training commentary on the ass who called a little girl a slut.Mo'Ne Davis shouldn't have been encouraged to advocate for her attacker's forgiveness. Click To Tweet
Don’t be fooled, hoodwinked, run amok or led astray: under no circumstance should a 13-year-old girl ever be expected to or be held responsible for publicly embracing her attacker and advocating for his forgiveness. Whichever adult who advised her to do this—or let her do it if it was her idea—failed Mo’Ne Davis and all the little girls watching her.
Yeah, yeah, I was sitting in the front row during the Sunday School lessons about forgiveness and “He who is without sin cast the first stone,” and my father was—and still is—very big on giving people second chances and not holding grudges and blah, blah, blah. We’re programmed to forgive and turn the other cheek. But I’ve never been one for steadying my face for a second slap. Truly, I checked all up and through my brain and my heart and deep down in my insides and I couldn’t find not even a morsel of damns I could give for a man who would dare fix his mouth to call my daughters sluts. Not in this day and age, when girls are being raped on college campuses with no recourse, and little girls are being drugged and raped at parties and having their attacks posted on social media for kicks. Not when reproductive rights are under assault. Not when 12-year-old Black boys like Tamir Rice are being bucked down in the street by cops for playing with toy guns, or teens like Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin are killed for playing their music loud or walking down the street in a hoodie. Not when young Black women like Renisha McBride are being murdered on front stoops, simply for asking for help and babies like Aiyana Jones are being bucked down while sleeping under Disney blankets on their grandmama’s couch.
Naw, I’m a member of the tribe my homegirl, Dr. Stacey Patton, belongs to. She very eloquently broke it down so it would forever be broke on her Facebook page yesterday:
They call our children “thugs,” “nappy-headed hos,” “cunts,” and “sluts,” and we teach them to forgive. And when they kill our children, like animals, then their parents are asked to forgive the murderers.
You see how “forgiveness” sometimes operates as part of the paradigm of oppression, and how their hatred has no regard for age?
I see it Dr. Patton. I hear you loud and clear. And to be sure that my daughters understand, I talked to them at the dinner table last night about the entire Mo’ Ne Davis forgives affair, too. When told that the young athlete publicly forgave her tormentor and asked that he be allowed back on the team, Mari, my 15-year-old, said she thought it was a nice thing for Mo’Ne to do. Makes sense: she’s the sweet one. However, my 12-year-old, Lila, shook her head violently and offered this pearl: “He shouldn’t get a reward for being a bully. What he did was wrong and he’ll just do it again if he doesn’t get punished.”
I couldn’t agree with the little one more, and I’m glad Bloomsburg University did, too. The school’s officials told Casselberry loudly and clearly that he needs to take that mess somewhere else—preferably far away from their team. Let him sort out how to talk about women and girls somewhere else.
What I would have counseled my daughters to do in that situation (after I calmed down and stopped cussing, of course), would have been to tuck that forgiveness in a reserve for people who deserve it, and instead stomp all over Casselberry’s slut remark by reminding anyone within the sound of their voices that female athletes deserve respect and recognition for the hard work they pour into the game and that Bloomburg University did an amazing job standing against the sexist disrespect of girls and women in sports and Black girls and women in particular. I’d have also had them toss in a few words about online bullying, sexism and racism and the need for people to think before they push send. (No doubt, Nick, with his kind, sensible self, would have crossed out all the “insert a middle finger here” and “add a muthafucka there” exclamations I would have, no doubt, sprinkled throughout the statement for any grown man who dared call my daughters sluts. I have no behavior. Lucky for the girls and for balance sake, their daddy does.)
This is all to say that forgiveness has its place. And in my book, that’s only when the one seeking forgiveness is sincere and understands that punishment is nigh, no matter if you said sorry. That’s only fair. What’s more important is standing up for yourself and advocating for those who face the same hardships as you. Be there for them. Not a loser too sexist and dumb to refrain from calling 13-year-old little girls sluts.
I wish that were the lesson my daughters learned from Mo’Ne Davis this week. We still love her madly, though.
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.