Yesterday was a terrible day to be Black and female.
Depending on what sources you follow, it may have seemed like just another news day, where frantically regurgitated Trayvon Martin updates reported by outlets that initially disregarded the story peppered a standard line-up of hum-drum traditional reporting. However, if you follow the right people on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, and visit the right blogs, you signed into your various accounts only to find your timelines flooded with specific instances of publically blatant disregard towards Black females; specifically Amandla Stenberg, a twelve-year-old movie star; Rekia Boyd, a twenty-two year old Chicago native; and Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty , a twenty-three year old international pop star.
Last week, exactly one month following Trayvon Martin’s murder, Rekia Boyd decided to hang out in a park along with several other individuals. Not long after, a gunshot fired by an off-duty cop fatally struck Boyd’s head, ultimately killing the young woman. Despite the officer’s claims of having a gun drawn on him by another park visitor after telling a group to quiet down, no weapon was ever found on the scene. Apparently, only “good” news travels fast these days, because many outside of Chicago were not made aware of Boyd’s death until four days later on the morning of Monday, March 26.
Thanks to Twitter, Boyd’s story was tweeted and re-tweeted enough times that citizens were informed of the event without the help of major media outlets. Yet most national media outlets have still failed to pick this story up despite the similarities between Boyd’s death and Trayvon’s.
And then another disturbing story began to filter into the afternoon updates. Swarms of “Hunger Games” fans had taken to Twitter and Facebook to voice their heated dismay at the casting choice of characters Rue, played by fresh-faced newcomer Amandla Stenberg, and Cinna, played by Lenny Kravitz. The fans’ main concerns about the castings were based solely on race, with most claiming that they had not imagined the two characters to be Black.
These scathingly racist comments have been brilliantly cataloged on the Tumblr “Hunger Games Tweets”. The simple page was created to “expose the Hunger Games fans on Twitter who dare to call themselves fans yet don’t know a damn thing about the books.” Racist tweets are certainly nothing new, yet being that “The Hunger Games” fans are primarily tweens and young adults, the vitriol sent out from their cell phones, iPads, and latptops speaks volumes for the future of race in this country.
One could say that the third story broke the back of the proverbial camel, yet in the case of Black females, said camel’s back has been smashed long ago. Yesterday, Georgia chef Richard Miley decided to add in a dash of what he considered to be amusing social commentary to a specialty burger served at the restaurant Chops & Hops in Watkinsville, Georgia. Miley created the ‘Black and Bleu’ burger in honor of Chris Brown and Rihanna.
Yes, you read that correctly.
“Put your hands on this Caribbean black and bleu sandwich,” read the burger’s advertisement on Chops & Hops Facebook page. “Chris Brown won’t beat you up for eating this unless your name starts with a R and ends with A.” The backlash poured in from all over, beginning with the comment thread on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Despite the restaurant’s having issued a statement of apology and claiming not to advocate domestic violence in any way, shape, or form, Miley unapologetically stood by his decision. “I’m not going to take it off Facebook, because I’m not afraid of what I did,” Miley said. “I’m just trying to have fun with food. Some people like it and some people don’t.”
Given the widespread feelings of frustration, rage, shock, and helplessness born from the fatal shooting of an unarmed young Black male, the more casual racism towards Black Americans that is often disregarded or answered with a simple eye roll is more troublesome than usual. Three such occurrences collided all at once yesterday just made me sick to my stomach.
There is one positive element that can possibly be drawn from this series of remarkably appalling events: the power of social media and the ways in which it empowers individuals to voice their stories, publicly decry and denounce damaging and negative acts. People across the globe were able to unite and say “this is WRONG.” That helps, at least a little. But this Black girl is truly ready for some good news, more now than ever before.
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Patrice Peck is a writer and journalist whose work explores the intersection of race, culture, and identity. Her work lives at www.patricepeck.com.