Who's Off Limits?: On Black Girl Criticism and Double Standards

Originally posted at Sangria & Stilettos

Last week, the Black blogosphere and social media commentators rightfully came together and in full force to show support for Quvenzhane Wallis after The Onion posted a deplorable Tweet about the nine year old actress, E! Host Kelly Osborne called her “Little Q” instead of Quvenzhane and model Chrissy Teigen (and others) have called her “cocky” and a “brat”. And we all got upset.

Around the time that her first film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” started to gain popularity, her name was criticized by a few Black people online (some who I know) as being too “hood” or ” ghetto”. Jokes were made about her never being able to find accessories with her name pre-printed on them and public discussion turned again to what Black parents name their children in order to set them up for success in mainstream/corporate America. Talking poorly about her name was “okay” when a small group of Black folks were doing it with each other, but when non-Black people started to get involved in the conversation, it took a left turn and everyone was outraged!

Should Black folks get a pass when talking about and criticizing certain topics? Wouldn’t that be a double standard?

Contrast the support of Quvenzhane with all of the severe criticism that Willow Smith (daughter of superstars Will and Jada) received right around the same age. She’s been in the news for shaving her hair (Jada’s response was perfect, as per usual), posting a picture of herself with a fake tongue ring, her fashion choices and more. Just Google her name and then read the comments section of any article that pops up. Another double standard. And why? Because her parents are famous?

Why is one nine year old off limits, but okay to attack another? Where is the consistency of thought? When did it become acceptable to go after children at all in this manner? If it were your child, how would you feel about people repeatedly and publicly questioning your parenting skills and attacking your child?

Then take what happened to singer Fantasia Barrino. She is on the cover of JET Magazine’s March 18, 2013 issue and was publicly critical of a 10 year old photo that was chosen for the cover instead of more recent photos her team had provided the publication. Although I do agree that she might’ve handled her displeasure differently, instead of receiving support for trying to take control of her brand, she received flack. Just click the link above to read the story as covered by The Huffington Post (which appears slanted in favor of JET) and the accompanying comments. It seems that there was a lack of communication from JET to Fantasia’s team about how they chose the pictures or, considering what happened next, maybe there was just a general disregard for her feelings from the beginning of the project and she felt she had to go public with her displeasure.

The general consensus seemed to be that she should “be grateful” that JET was even making her “relevant” (as a side note, I hate the trend in using that word to describe a human being). I’m sure her personal problems were a part of the reason JET wanted her on the cover in addition to the new project that she was promoting. They weren’t solely doing her a favor by giving her the cover – the interest in her story translates to magazines sold. JET Editor, Mitzi Miller released an explanation (not the apology that Fantasia asked for) of why the photo that was ultimately used was chosen and that should have been the end of the story. Except, it wasn’t.

Ms. Miller chose to take to her personal Facebook page and wrote:

“The fact that I wasted an hour of my workday writing a press release to address an issue created by a person who cannot even read it is just… #whyiwannaBahousewife.”

First of all, the glaring unprofessionalism and insensitivity to an issue as widespread as illiteracy was astounding, which, Fantasia has been working on overcoming and should be lauded for being a role model in that aspect. Next, as a magazine editor, one would assume that Ms. Miller has more of a familiarization and sympathy with the issue than the Average Joe since she works in the publishing industry. In my opinion, illiteracy, at least in this country, says more about the educational system than it does about the individual.

Finally, Ms. Miller is Black. Fantasia is Black. If Ms. Miller had been a white Mr. Miller at a white publication, I have no doubt that they would’ve received the same backlash that was unleashed on The Onion and there would have been a plethora of angry emails flooding JET’s offices with people planning an accompanying protest march. That’s definitely a double standard.

Does Fantasia not deserve to be supported and protected in this instance because of some of the personal decisions that she’s made? Do we only act offended when a white person says something disparaging about a Black person? Shouldn’t that work the same if it is Black on Black offense?

And Rihanna. Last week’s Law & Order: SVU followed their “ripped from the headlines template (untimely considering the original incident was four years ago) by exploiting her assault via bad acting and depicting a tragic end.

Is that what some critics of her relationship with Chris Brown waiting for? Since you don’t accept that she has forgiven him or that it was reportedly a onetime incident? Will it satisfy your sick need for an “I told you” if real Rihanna meets the fate of SVU Micha/Rihanna?

She has said that she forgives him and that she is not a victim. But that’s not enough for some people and she receives criticism for giving forgiveness. She was abused physically and then has to be abused some more by people’s continued cruel comments because she’s not behaving how they want her to. Where does that make sense?

Some seem to forget that pictures of Rihanna’s face after the assault were leaked by the LAPD to the tabloids and her privacy was invaded by two female officers. As the show made a point to throw in everything else about the case, I’m surprised that was left out. Her rights were violated by the police. This entire incident may have taken a different turn in terms of public perception had those images never come to light. I have yet to see widespread outrage on that angle of the case, which is fairly significant.

What are your thoughts?


For Quvenzhané: Call Me by My Name and “Cunt” Ain't It
A New Model For Black Motherhood: Why We Need More Jada Pinkett Smiths A New Model For Black Motherhood: Why We Need More Jada Pinkett Smiths
IS FANTASIA FAKING IT? Family, Fame and Falling down

At what age do we stop protecting our Black girls / women? When is it okay for some to become fodder for negativity and intense criticism?

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