I will not be angry. I will merely educate and respond, line by line.
Some of you may be aware of the well-written piece on Mad World News by Amanda Shea about the Black Girls Rock event hosted by BET. In summary, the article criticizes Michelle Obama’s attendance at an event meant to uplift black women because it “sends [the] message to white girls that they don’t matter.”
Now, many of you may feel angry about what was said in the article. I, for one, merely laughed at the ignorance that this woman is ranting about. So, I have decided to respond, not with anger, but with a well-thought out open letter to the writer:
I hope you do not mind me using this very public forum to discuss race and politics with you, since these are both topics that are typically taboo. I cannot help it, however, as I have taken issue with several of the points you have made in your article.
Let’s start with the thought-provoking title of your piece: “Michelle Obama Sends Message to White Girls That They Don’t Matter.” Amanda, this is definitely an attention-grabbing title. Kudos to you for getting your readers latched on from the beginning! I do not need to really go into detail about why I think this title is problematic, as this will be revealed throughtout the remainder of this letter.
Now, I am going to move on to the second paragraph of your op-ed. You stated that “If it wasn’t for the ceremony’s title, ‘Black Girls Rock!’ displayed across the stage and shouted ad nauseam throughout the night, this event would be commendable in honoring girls who have accomplished great things – but only as long as you’re black.” Yes, Amanda, this event was celebrating girls, specifically black girls. Do you know why? Because black girls are very rarely given recognition in our society, especially for being bright, smart, funny, accomplished, etc. When I was praised by my peers in school for all of those things, people that I even considered friends at the time did so by telling me I “wasn’t like other black people.” Is it so wrong to want to finally step up and give a group of girls who are traditionally ignored some recognition and encouragement to continue to pursue their dreams? Is it so problematic that an event would shine the light for one night on a group under-represented in a poitive light by the media, the government, etc? When a little black girl never sees people who look like her being represented in a positive light, sometimes it is hard to remember that black girls do rock like the other little girls on TV.
I am now going to address another issue I’ve found with your piece. You go on to state that “nobody seems to belive there is an issue with it, despite the fact that you have to be black to attend.” Amanda, I would love to know where you got this information. Did you see the invitation personally? Was it written there that one must be black to attend? I highly doubt it. If a white woman wanted to attend this event, I am sure BET would have allowed her to do so. Why? Because the purpose of the event is to show black girls that they are cherished by their communities and that they can be successful. If a white woman or man or anyone who was not black wanted to share this message, I’m sure he or she would be welcomed with open arms. But it seems that a lot of support for black women and girls actually comes from within the black community itself. Shocker.
Next, I’d like to discuss your point that Michelle Obama is “essentially telling white girls they aren’t ‘good enough’ since she doesn’t address them with the same overwhelming support she does her own race.” This statement in itself is so problematic. For one, any time you are addressing a group of people, you are speaking directly to that specific audience. Not in a single word spoken by our First Lady was there any inclination that she does not believe white girls are good enough. Speaking to a group who rarely receives recognition is not diminishing the significance of the groups who do. No, Michelle Obama did not specifically address white girls in this instance, but there have been plenty of times when she has spoken up for ALL girls. In this instance, she wanted to stress the point to the girls who can identify with her the most, the girls who look in the mirror and see the reflection of someone who feels like she is at the bottom of society’s barrel.
And finally, your last statement is the epitome of privilege whining: “The issue isn’t with holding this event and encouraging education in youth, even if just for black girls, it’s that only certain races get away with such segregated ceremonies, while whites could never do so.” You’re right, Amanda. I’m sure a lot of people would have a problem with a whites-only ceremony. Why? History. Let’s not forget where segregation came from. While I do not believe that most white people would support segregation today, think about the message it would send for anything to become whites-only again, especially when it involves education and esteem.
Contrary to what you seem to believe, this “segregated” ceremony was not intended to separate black girls and tell them they are better than anyone. The ceremony was intended to tell them they are just as good as everyone else. Why do they need a special event to do so? Well, because while opportunities do exist for everyone, it seems that black women, and actually, most non-white women, have to work harder to get there.
And so, while I am sorry you felt offended at not personally being invited to the Black Girl’s Rock event, I do not believe you need to feel slighted in the least. I welcome you to turn on the television, read the newspaper, peruse the internet and count how many positive representations of women there are. Now, please, of those you have found, tell me how many of those are women of color. That smaller number that you would undoubtedly find is the reason why an event that brings together so many successful black women is needed.
I love all people. I am a feminist, for lack of a better word. But I am also black, and if no one else is going to tell the little girl who feels like she can’t identify with the successful women in the media, I have no shame in proclaiming to that child that BLACK GIRLS ROCK.