The Matter Of The Daughter Of Clifford Harris

The Black body is a constant source of policing.

The Black, female body is a constant source of policing, shaming and control.

I wrote a mini series about this called, For A Fast Girl, earlier this year. Click here for that. It is 5-parts, and I encourage you to read that–and come back to this.

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Welcome back!

When I first heard this story, I thought it was a whole joke. I heard about this, and I thought that people had to be playing. The fact that this happened, this happened to a Black girl, a Black woman–as a Black woman–is triggering! It makes me feel a mixture of rage, sadness, and embarrassment.

First thing:  Deyjah Harris is 18.

On the podcast, Ladies Like Us, Clifford (No, he will not be referred to as T.I. or TIP here) was saying how he goes to gynecologist visits with his daughter. Okay, I can ride with that. Let her be responsible for her own body. My first gynecologist visit was when I was 17. My mother was a nurse, an L & D nurse, and wanted to make sure I knew she knew I would not be under her roof always. Meaning, I got a Pap Smear (part of Well-Woman Exam), and my mom got me a script for Birth Control pills.

Me:  “Mom! But I’m not doing anything!”

Mom:  “Just in case you are.”

That was the extent of that. My mother knew that as much as she wanted me to remain a virgin/wait till I got married/wait for true love. The fact is, I was 17. Teenagers make stupid mistakes! She would rather me be safe than sorry. That, and she didn’t want me to be a teenage mother. This is also the woman that told me, and I am quoting damn near verbatim:  “You better stay a virgin till you leave my house! I’m an old L&D nurse:  I know what to look for.”

 

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Bruh, I was not prepared to test that. So I didn’t.

But no, my mother–MY MAMA!–still didn’t come into that examination room with me. She didn’t ask my GYN if my hymen was broken. She didn’t ask if I was still a virgin. She turned the control of my body, over to me.

Now, I cannot speak for the goings-on at the Harris Household in Atlanta, but the Bush household? My mother was aware of all goings-on as it relates to her daughters. I cannot speak for the quality of motherhood that Tameka “Tiny” Harris has given to her daughter, but I will say this. Tiny needs to remind Clifford that the only vagina he needs to be concerned about is hers. All others–including these outside chicks he’s dealt with!–he need not be concerned about.

Deyjah is grown. Deyjah is 18. Deyjah is in college.

If she wasn’t a virgin (an intact hymen is not concrete proof that a girl has not been penetrated), was was he going to do?

The thing that I cannot ride with is him asking the doctor to make sure her hymen is in tact. I cannot ride with him asking the doctor for ‘his results.’ I cannot ride with the fact that after a birthday party, he put ‘Gyno’ on a post-it where she could see it. The fact that he considers his daughter’s body property? That is unsettling to me.

Here is why.

This behavior is the same shit that I grew up in! And I am now 20 years older than 18. Clifford is the type of dude now that he has all this money, can’t no body tell him nothing! He figures he can move in an around the world as he sees fit, because money (ergo, power) insulates him!

In the clip heard through here through the YouTube Channel, King Of Reads, the played details exactly what Clifford said. And how serious he is about this. Keep in mind, this same energy isn’t given to his sons when they start having sex! I don’t remember any news about Clifford taking his sons for STD testing, or making videos on teaching them proper condom techniques! There is nothing in the news about when his sons break the hymens of other women’s daughters, or other men’s daughters.

The Urban Prophet Nasir Jones, said it best on his Life Is Good album–the track, Daughters: God gets the ‘foulest players, and heartbreaker’s by giving them girls. I believe that. The hosts of the show are heard giggling as he is detailing what lengths dude has gone to in policing his daughter’s virginity.

They giggled.

They laughed, as if they couldn’t believe it

They didn’t challenge this.

 

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Perhaps, they have never been called ‘fast.’ Perhaps they had never been told the body you have is a temptation to weak men, and it is your fault if something happens to you in regards to rape, accosting or molestation. Maybe they have never been the victim of a father telling a doctor to ‘check her hymen’ and ‘give me my results.’ Perhaps they have never been told that the body they walk through the world in isn’t theirs. That is both weapon and distraction. The giggling was acrid.

Toxic patriarchy is acrid. And it grows putrid flowers that have the toxic ambrosia of hubris powered by influence! There is something so insidious about what he did to her; what social media is dragging him for; what the internet is doing–to her.

This type of policing of the female form  is often seen in countries where religious regimes are in power. Where women are chattel, to be possessed–as they are feral, wild and more animal that human.

This ain’t cute, Clifford! This ain’t cute, Tameka!

I know there are people that will champion what he did, what he is doing, and will say those that feel as I do are ‘overreacting.’ Or say, ‘these girls are fast and they need their fathers to be involved in their lives!’ I know there will be people whom will say that I, and those that feel as I do, which will dismiss my opinion. That is their right.

Ignoring something that does not make it more palatable. Does not make it vanish. It does not make it less easy to address. Cancer that you ignore, becomes metastatic–meaning it spreads! Bell Hooks said that patriarchy has no gender. I agree.

I am in full support of fathers being involved in the lives of their children. I am in favor of fathers being knowledgeable of how their children’s bodies work. The world is a dangerous, dark and evil place. But, this? Like this? No.

When does a Black woman own her own body? Someone needs to let me know.

 

[Top image from TMZ, middle image-Twitter, last image-AZ Quotes.com]

 

The Women You Least Expect

Author Note: I am a cisgender, heterosexual woman married to a cisgender heterosexual man. As a woman acknowledging my own privilege, I can no longer be silent about the murder of transwomen, especially Black transwomen.

I am a fan of two specific YouTube Channels: JahairasMission and DiamondStylz. In finding out these women were trans, didn’t allow me to see them any different. What the vessel of YouTube has allowed is for me to remember this life is not the same for everyone you meet.

In becoming more vocal about this issue was time and personal reflection. I am a fan of Jahaira–she called me her sister in a video she did. I follow Diamond Collier on social media, including the podcast Marsha’s Plate. I adore Janet Mock! And POSE on FX?

YASS. More. Please!

Am I aware of the brutality facing Black transpeople? Transwomen especially? Yes. It is abhorrent to me now as a Black woman, whom is writer and mother, to not say anything! To not add my voice to this conversation. I believe it is in poor taste to love POSE, and not speak out about the murder of Black transwomen.

You cannot have ugly cried when that John killed Candy on POSE and be silent. This is not to say that I’ve been unaware of these murders till recently. No, quite the opposite! What I have done is allowed Black transwomen to lead this conversation. I acknowledge my privilege as a cishet/cis-het woman.

Some spaces just ain’t for me to be the lead voice.

But in listening to Diamond on her podcast Marsha’s Plate, in appreciating everything Janet Mock does, I had a gut check. I don’t celebrate these women as mere Black transwomen. I celebrate them as Black women. That was powerful! In seeing that, recognizing it, I was compelled to say something about the murder of Black transwomen.

With that acknowledgment, I remembered what Diamond said about transwomen needing allies. And, how cis-het women can be trash about being allies. The women whom look like me, whom come to their Black womanhood a different way, need my voice. Not to overtalk or over take, but to add power.

As of this month, there have been 19 Black transwomen murdered in this nation. This is a pandemic! You cannot, should not be allowed to kill someone based on how they believe, need and choose to walk through the world!

I am tired of these arguments that say these women aren’t women, but men. I am tired of hearing transwomen are out here tricking or catfishing men! In weary of the gay-panic defense! Like Ilan Nettles in New York who was murdered: she was clocked by a group of young men and one of those young men killed her! Why? The young men he was with told him that she wasn’t a woman, but a man.

And he killed her!

The disconnect. The callousness. The ignorance.

I understand the part toxic masculinity and patriarchy play in these crimes. Which is why silence about these matters is detrimental! This goes beyond treating someone as you would like to be treated. It goes beyond keeping your hands to yourself.

This pandemic is at fever pitch! Black transwomen are being killed for existing! Existing! And murdered under the guise of ‘I was tricked’ or ‘I’m not gay’ or ‘She a whole man.’ Like that justifies anything!

Pro-tip: it doesn’t!

If I am tired of hearing about the murder of transwomen, I cannot imagine the exhaustion to be a transwoman hearing it! I cannot imagine what it is like to be damn near hunted because of how you walk through the world!

I have never had a moments doubt about being female. I have never looked in the mirror and not seen anything not female. Never. I cannot fathom the pain to look in a mirror and not see who you know are. I cannot imagine, as Laverne Cox did once, death would be the only way the world can acknowledge who you are!

As a mother, all I want to do is wrap my arms around every transwoman that will let me. A hug which will acknowledge and strengthen! A touch that will affirm humanity and visibility. From that bringing in, of us together, my hope is she feel protected. That someone is looking out for her. That I will do all I can to help, assist and support–and know she has a right to exist.

Black transwomen, too, deserve to see the promise of tomorrow! There is enough sun for us all to get some.

[images 1-colorlines.com 2-entertainmentforus.com 3-huffpost.com]

Click here for Diamond’s piece in Essence magazine regarding Dave Chapelle’s latest Netflix special.

American Girls, Addy & Me

I am almost 40.

This means I am old enough to remember when the American Girl dolls came out. I was in fifth grade and totally enraptured by Samantha. Keeping in mind, the first three dolls (Kristen, Samantha and Molly) were all White. I, ten-year-old girl in St. Louis, was not. It would be 1993 when Addy would be added to the American Girl doll line; with her addition, her story.

I have always played with dolls. My first doll I remember having and taking care of was a female Cabbage Patch doll named Lynn. She was white.

My first Barbie dolls were white.

My godmother got my first Black Barbie when I was in third grade. But throughout my toys in my girlhood, I always had White dolls. There were always more White dolls, and Black dolls were harder to find. If there were ever any.

Seeing Addy as an American Girl, even in reflection, has me sad. I am glad that such representation exists. Yet, my first question is why does she have to be a slave?

Why did the first Black girl to be marketed to other girls–namely Black girls—have to be a slave?

We can debate about history, recognition and visibility. We can have the free versus slave argument. We can even debate using Addy as a teaching tool! But the question still is, “Why did the first Black girl to be marketed to other girls–namely Black girls– have to be a slave?”

The diaspora of Black people does not have its genesis here on colonized shores, nor will it have its zenith here. Having Addy being this controversial is only a further indication of the chasm that is race relations in this country. The thing which I don’t think we pay enough attention to is the American Girl company was not founded by a Black woman or a person of color. That unique cultural awareness–that mix of representation, honor and sensitivity–was absent.

Just like with the founders of Mattel. The first Black Barbie was sold in 1968–as Christie. But a BLACK BARBIE was not marketed until 1980! I was born one year later. The first Black Barbie I ever remember being given to me was Peaches and Cream Barbie. She was so pretty–but you have to understand. Black dolls, Black Barbies especially were hard to find! I know this was only 30 years ago, on the heels of all things Black:   from Civil Rights, Voting Rights, literature (Roots and Queen by Alex Haley for example), the Cosby Show. Yet, there seemed not enough Black Barbie dolls in St. Louis for every Black girl that wanted one.

So imagine My delight, when I find out American Girl had this doll.

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Who is this girl?

Cécile Rey was the eleventh Historical Character of the American Girls, representing 1850s New Orleans. Cécile was released in 2011 along with Marie-Grace Gardner.

In May 2014 American Girl announced that they would archive Cécile’s entire collection; she, Marie-Grace Gardner, and their collections were archived prior to the BeForever relaunch. Their books remain available for purchase.

Personality and Facts

Cécile comes from a well-to-do and highly regarded family within the New Orleans community. Cécile wishes to become a stage actress, and shows a talent for storytelling, recitation, and poetry when she volunteers her time at the Holy Trinity Orphanage. Unlike Marie-Grace, Cécile is homeschooled.[5] She finds her lessons to be boring and especially dislikes writing. Cécile takes voice lessons with Marie-Grace, but unlike Marie-Grace, she doesn’t feel she’s very good at singing. Cécile is very good at keeping secrets, as she kept both Armand’s and Marie-Grace’s secrets.

Cécile is characterized as being confident, curious, and loving the limelight. She likes to be original. Americangirlpublishing.com describes her as bold. Cécile loves to make others laugh. Cécile is popular and has many friends in contrast with Marie-Grace. Cecile is outgoing and loves parties. One of her dreams was to become a famous actress, and dance at parties every night.

While Cécile can occasionally be outspoken at times, she is also shown to be sensitive and caring, such as teaching Marie-Grace French, spending time with elderly people of color at La Maison, and keeping Armand’s desire to become an artist rather than a stonecutter a secret from Papa. Cécile has also shown interest in distant lands, traveling, and adventures as she loves to hear the exciting adventurous tales her Grandpa tells her and is in awe with Marie-Grace’s experiences.

Cécile is quite interested in clothes and her appearance, and often tries to avoid getting her clothes dirty. For this reason, she’s not too fond of Marie-Grace’s dog Argos, who often has muddy paws.

She is always full of clever ideas and can be quite mischievous.

Her nickname, Cécé, is a diminutive of her full first name.

[taken from Americangirl.fandom.com]

See how deep this goes? See how imperative it is for Black children *to see themselves outside of what is reinforced? I understand not every child was born into such privilege as Cecile but not every Black child was born into chattel slavery either! I can appreciate that American Girl tried to make Addy as connected to her African culture (with her earrings and celebration traditions). I can appreciate that they tried to have Addy be an exception of sorts as it relates to chattel slavery. I can appreciate the effort to try and embody everything an entire culture familiar with erasure would need. The problem is, it wasn’t enough. There was more that was needed.

The doll did not, does not challenge the Master Narrative. Neither should that responsibility be laid on a toy company, or on the plastic soldiers of a doll. Addy began the conversation, but she has only scratched its surface. Leave to a White-loving world to think a Black girl, even a doll, can fix everything.

*-To date (with Cecile included), American Girl Historical Collection only has 3 Black American Girl dolls, 1 Latina doll, 1 Native American doll and two doll which can be classified as a POC.

[images from American Girl fandom]

They Didn’t Hire Me To Entertain The Staff.

Despite what the reading public thinks or says, I’m an introvert. I like to be left alone, I like quiet, and people are taxing. This doesn’t mean I’m sociopathic, or people-hating or even unapproachable! I grew up as a shy, quiet Black girl in a family of loud people. My quiet nature led to me being shy–which is not an asset in a public school.

I learned to be loud, and vocal–just like I learned to write. I learned that as a quiet, introverted kid, I needed to have a loud persona.

But then came life after high school. There was this unspokenness around me when I entered college. The school I was at (the now closed Deaconess College of Nursing) was predominately White. My high school was predominately Black. So, I really didn’t know how or where I fit in at.

But what I did notice was my White cohort thought I was unapproachable when I was quiet. Thought I was mean when I spoke my mind and needed my banter to feel comfortable. Even on some jobs that I have worked, I have noticed the same thing! When I’m quiet and doing my job, I am seen as someone worthy to be suspicious of. I’m legit just working.

But, when I am more open, soft-spoken and quiet at certain intervals, then I’m seen as a team-player, consistent in my work, and easy to work with. That is my personal favorite.

(Thee personification of my silent rage.)

When I came across this article on BESE.com by Sequoia Holmes, I rejoiced. Every woman in me, lived before me who had taught those women, telling them to hold on for me, screamed.

Can I not just come to work, make this money and leave?! Please?! Damn!

But I know that predominately White places police anything and everything which isn’t White, or White and male! From the names on resumes, to if you bring a dish to the office party or participate in Secret Santa. You are consistently monitored to see just what kind of Black girl you are.

If you don’t play the role of a Mammie or a Sapphire, then you have become identified as a problem. White America loves sexy, sassy, loud Black girls! Introverted Black girls need not apply.

Let me help the White folks you work with right quick:

The powers that be did not hire me to entertain you. They don’t pay me enough to banter with you, make up nicknames for you or teach you how to twerk. Don’t touch my hair when I change it. If my door is closed to my office do not knock. I meant to close it, I do not care what y’all are getting for lunch. You slick wanna see what I’m doing. If I am at my cubicle working quiet, that means I am doing just that.

I’m minding my business.

You should try it.

Black women have to be and do so many things just I have peace walking through the world! This none so apparent as when we work in predominantly White spaces. It is tiring: enter code switching, shifting and have a persona you put on from the moment you darken the door in the morning.

You cannot just go to work and be left alone–because introverts need to recharge from people. It’s just how we are wired. But Black girls are expected to be on in order to have some peace at work.

At work.

My job is to do what my job requirements are, and no more. Not every Black girl is Tiffany Haddish or desires to be! Not every Black girl dances or watches Scandal or Power. I don’t have to placate your expectation about being Black people to be seen as valuable to a company.

The same respect you give to David who never opens his office door until he leaves, to Becky that brings her cat pictures to work because it soothes her, is the same respect I need when I come in and sit at my desk to answer emails.

Let me be Black and remain employed.

Thank you.

For My Daughters-Lesson 2: Value

Dearest Ones:

The world outside my door will confront you on all sides. It will try and tell you what you are not, what you will never possess, and need to attain to be whole. What I want you to know, what I need you to remember, is your personal value. I want you to remember that value–is priceless.

I never want you to sell yourself short. I never want you to think your value–how you see your own self–should be or is determined on something as ordinary as how you look. Or what you wear. I want you to never fear what people think of you, or have your worth be tied to what people think!

I want you, my dearest hearts, to remember worth and value are internal work. They come from, and spring up from what you  know of yourself; the things you know of yourself! You have been created for success, beauty, travel and ambition! I want you to embrace all that life has for you. Regardless of what the  world thinks:  they don’t matter!

The world outside my door is fickle, forgetting and feral in matters of the evaluating of what is feminine, girl and woman. You cannot depend of the opinion of the collective, any collective to determine who you are. Or what you must do! As young women of your mother’s blood and ilk, I want you to remember who you are.

I want you to discover the things about you which are different and unique.

I want you to be steady in the things which make you distinct. Your interests be determined by your own counsel and desires. I want you both to be confident in what makes you–you.

There are things about this life which desire to uproot and change fundamental things about you. As you mother, I will give you a key to withstand these onslaughts when they come. The way these sling and arrows of outrageous fortune will not win is when you know who you are–and refuse to change. You resist transforming when people are uncomfortable.

My dearest ones, I know who you are. So you must never forget.

 

Love,

Mommy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For My Daughters-Lesson 1: I. Love. You.

Dear Babygirls-

I want you to know that I love you. For this cause, I will always have something to say about anything that happens in your life! If love holds up the world, nothing can be lost. But I want you to know one crucial thing:  the people that say they love you will always want the absolute best for you, whether it benefits me or not! Remember this.

What I want you to remember these three words are going to be influential, manipulative and anchoring. What I want you to remember is that being in love and loving someone is not the same thing. Being in love with someone means that they are a support, a pillar and resource. Being in love with someone means you are concerned with someone–down to the minutia of them. Loving someone? That is a little harder. It is harder because loving someone (besides yourself) requires more of you. Sacrifices. Patience. Stamina. There is something in you that wants the best for another person–and hopes that it will be enough.

However, there is one thing more thing crucial to this concept of saying ‘I love you’:  say it to yourself first. You have to be able to love you–all of you–before anyone else will! You need to know what it looks like, feels like to love and accept all of you independent of what people think of you. I want you to value all that you are, are you will become, despite what the world outside of you may think. I want you to know what it feels like to look in the mirror and love the girl you see.

Sometimes, I won’t lie to you, that is he hardest thing to do. It will be hard to love you when the world sees nothing to love about you. It will be hard to tell the girl in the mirror she is lovely, brilliant and worthy! But you must tell her anyway. You must tell her until you begin believe it. Once you believe it, and belief it whole-heartedly, no one can give you less love than you give yourself.

Your greatest love, the greatest commandment I can give you as a Black woman and your mother, is to love yourself. Love yourself first. Last. And always. From there, no one can love you less than you can ever love yourself.

 

Love,

Mommy

Break The Cycle, Not The Girl.

 

Earlier this year, I did a miniseries about calling girls, especially Black girls, fast. Click here for that. In this series, I pull no punches. I was as honest as I knew to be. From that honesty, I break down what it means to call a girl fast. From that wisdom, I am enraged at this story.

Not only did her father catch her having sex.

Not only is she 12, and was having sex.

Her father, took a belt, beat her in front of the entire world.

And the story is from the vantage point of how he punished her.

How he punished her?!

See. Therein lies the problem. We have to be able to challenge crazy., toxic behavior. Should this young girl have had sex so young? No. But her father should never have done this to her. This is abuse. It is not discipline. This is not any form of love. I will not suffer to debate that more.

I remember being 10, and I called a boy on the phone. For record this was a boy I knew, and my parents knew. And I consider him my childhood sweetheart. I remember the summer I turned 11 that my parents (mother and father now) spanked me because I called him. But they said I got spanked because I lied about calling him–when I wasn’t ‘old enough’ to call or talk to boys. They spanked me over the course of two days. What did it teach me?

1-My parents were unreasonable.

2-I had to become sneaky to do what I wanted because they wouldn’t let me do anything.

 

What did spanking her teach her? That her body was dirty? She wasn’t worthy to be protected? I doubt it. What spanking her supposed to teach her that her body was property? I am confused what the added element of putting everything online was supposed to do? If he is to truly care and protect his daughter, this could have been handled better. Put the boy out, yes. But talk to her.

TALK.

That thing parents, especially some Black parents, don’t want to do. I have had my mother tell me that I ‘talk’ to much to my kids. I talk to them, so they can get used to talking. So they get used their mother listening to them–rather than yelling. So they can get used to saying what is wrong rather than hiding, lying or thinking they can’t come to me. I never want my children to only remember how I yelled and never listened. I had to catch myself before I called my 11-year-old daughter fast once.

She is 11. And tall. And doesn’t look her age. And she was wearing a dress that showed off things Black girls are taught to cover. If I had called her fast, my own daughter, it would be the equivalent of calling her a whore. No! I will not do that to her.

This story should be the start of conversations. This man needs to be told this not how you raise daughters! This is not how you handle this! You do not reprimand a Black child like this. The cycle of policing the bodies of Black women and girls through violence must end.

While people are talking about how he hit her with this belt, I am wondering what happened to this child once the video ended. I want to know was she left in this room in tears, hurt, confused and bleeding–with only half of an idea why.  This has to end. The toxicity ends when we give onus to both parties involved in this situation!

Beating her won’t keep her a virgin, sir. But it will push her from you. When there comes a time she will need you, where she is drowning, she will not reach. She will remember this, and die in whatever she is in. Why? She will fear the outcome more than the rescue.

{image screenshot from author’s timeline]