Dear Black girls,
This letter is for you. This weekend marks one year since Breonna Taylor’s killing during a police raid in Louisville, Kentucky. For some of you, it’s been another year in a string of years since you were born that’s featured adults acting out, behaving in ways that are harmful, unreasonable and just straight-up foul toward Black girls and young women.
Some, like Taylor’s death, have sparked movements for change. Too many others fall below the mainstream’s attention, leaving us to bear the brunt of the effects. It would be nice if we could just ignore those incidents, because sometimes showering something with our attention only empowers it.
On the other hand, as this last year has showed us, staying informed on what’s happening in the country can also empower you. Then, whenever someone calls you overly sensitive, dramatic or “crazy” for declaring that Black girls across the gender spectrum have a unique experience in this world compared to other young people, even Black boys, you’ll have all the receipts. So, let’s do this: I’ll run down some of the events from the last few months with links in case you want to know more details.
We have to begin with the police and other authority figures who are harming Black girls, even in schools and other safe spaces. It’s also almost impossible to avoid the videos of this harm that are being plastered on social media and news articles. Yet the response to this harm and violence against Black girls is different from the way society, even our own community, responds to the same police violence against Black boys and men.
Politicians in at least two dozen states are trying to ban transgender girls from playing school sports with their cisgender sisters, for no other reason than wanting to spread hate and divide the country.
Famous pastors and other figures in spaces that are glorified and powerful have been telling Black girls and women how to behave so they can fit into their own narrow definitions: definitions of what is good and right and proper; definitions that are not the same for young boys or men; definitions that put all of the responsibility of an impossible idea of perfection and righteousness on the shoulders of girls and women alone.
Singers and actresses that were once the same ages you are now 20-something adults. They have not stayed the same children that the adults are used to, they aren’t behaving the same now as when they were young, which adults find confusing — and scary. And so, Black girls and women like them are also being shamed because of society’s unfair and unequal racist beliefs about their bodies. Despite what detractors say, individuals have control and say over their bodies, and the belief that there are right and wrong ways for bodies to look is 100 percent false.
You may feel confused. You may feel angry. You may feel ignored. You may even be wondering why, when adults are looking back at how mistreated white celebrities like Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan were in the 2000s, your current mistreatment is being overlooked.
But you are not imaging the pain you and other girls like you feel at all. It is unacceptable that it exists, because you are just as human and valuable as the people who cause it.
You are not imaging the pain you and other girls like you feel at all. It is unacceptable that it exists, because you are just as human and valuable as the people who cause it.
I keep track of all of these events because even as a Black woman I sometimes need to run through the receipts and prove to myself that I am not imaging or overestimating just how messed up things are right now for us.
Also, I’m a journalist, a career I entered to tell the stories that I did not read or see growing up myself. Even after years of this, having to process disturbing, stressful events like the ones I listed above back-to-back can be traumatic, mentally and physically, especially during a worldwide pandemic. And the list of offenses has only grown since I first sat down to write this.
This is a letter to assure you that I see you and value you. So do the countless Black adult women of all backgrounds and identities who were once you. We are fighting daily to ensure your safety, protect you, hear you, respect you, and love you. Know that.