It was just another average Saturday evening. After I decided on and ironed my Sunday church clothes, I perused my social media timeline one last time before heading to bed. While on Facebook, I saw that a friend of mine linked a video to her page posing the question of whether or not this father went too far in disciplining his daughter. Because I trust this friend, who is a mother to a beautiful Black girl and an educator in the public school system, I clicked the link. I was not prepared at all for what I was about to see. It has been several days since I watched the video but the image still haunts me. Admittedly, I went back and forth with myself about whether or not I would link the video to this piece. On one hand, this is indeed violent and I don’t want to be responsible for spreading the abuse this young girl endured at the hands of her father across the internet. On the other hand, I want people to see this horrific act of violence so that they will be pained, they will be disgusted and be moved to action. After prayerful consideration, for those who wish to view the video, it can be found here.
This is not the first time WorldStar has given many of us pause. Earlier this year, Marc Lamont Hill facilitated a HuffPost Live discussion regarding the site’s penchant for fight videos, especially those featuring or between Black girls. Even Urban Cusp founder and Washington Post columnist Rahiel Tesfamariam called for WorldStar’s death. Many people have defended this site’s existence and the variety of videos that can be accessed. During the HuffPost Live discussion, in his defense of the sites, independent filmmaker Mandon Lovett called WorldStarHipHop.com an “uncomfortable truth” of what is going on in our communities. After seeing such aggression at the hands of a father widely distributed and celebrated on this “truthful” medium, I can’t help but fear for Black girls everywhere.
While much discussion has centered around social media’s obsession with urban youth fight videos, sadly, some parents have joined in the mix. Daily, you can see videos uploaded of parents disciplining their children. Recently, I saw a video of a father shaving zigzags into his son’s head because his son went from all As last year to Ds and Fs this term. The father proudly boasted “My kids know I don’t play with that school s—!” Another video showed a mother make her daughter stand in the street in a bra and panties because she was caught flashing a boy in school. The daughter, visibly distraught, hears her mother tell her that she’s not raising a whore and plans to show all her daughter’s friends on Facebook and Twitter what happens when you act grown in her house. To put it mildly, all of these videos disgust me. Instead of showing wayward children, they show immature and inattentive parents. These mothers and fathers are trying to prove to the world that they can rein their children; unfortunately, all they are proving is that they would rather be internet famous than a concerned parent. When does a father realize that there is something profoundly wrong with a child going from the top of his class to the bottom of it and embarrassing him on social media doesn’t fix it? At what point does a mother learn that throwing her half naked daughter in the street to be gawked at by strangers is not an effective discipline strategy? All of these videos make me sick. It makes me physically nauseous that, in a country where Black boys and girls are considered threats to society and treated as such, they are not even safe in their own homes. And while all of these internet parenting videos disturb me, none of them have impacted me like that of the 13 year old girl being dragged by her hair and beaten by her father. In those 19 seconds, you never see this girl’s face but I have not been able to get her out of my mind.
I found it interesting how WorldStarHipHop chose to describe this video. According to them, this video depicts a 13-year-old girl who’d been missing for 3 days who came back “dressed like Beyoncé.” Watching the video, seeing how the young girl was dressed and learning that she’d been missing for 3 days, I immediately assumed that she’d been trafficked. Sex trafficking in the United States has become a major epidemic, with Black girls comprising the majority of its victims. According to DOJ statistics, Black girls constitute 40% of those trafficked in America, 81% of sex trafficking suspects are male and an overwhelming 62% of sex trafficking suspects are African-American. It happens every day in our communities whether we’d like to admit it. A young girl is approached by, oftentimes, a Black man who tells her that he knows someone who can get her into the modeling or music industry. This man tells this unsuspecting child that all she has to do is go with him to the audition and she’ll be home before her parent or guardian gets off work. Eager for her big break, the young girl goes with this man and isn’t seen for days, weeks or ever again. This happens all of the time. Yet, instead of rejoicing that their daughter was alive, that they were not going to the morgue to identify her body- as many parents unfortunately have to do, these parents engaged the record function on their cellphone and began to assault their daughter physically, verbally, emotionally and spiritually.
And, if you read the comments on WorldStar and Facebook, she deserved that and some more. She’s a THOT (an acronym that means “that hoe over there”) and she better be glad that’s all they did to her. One by one, I read as many comments as I could stomach. For every one person who said the behavior was unacceptable, at least 50 celebrated it. Even on my friend’s Facebook page, where I originally saw the video, people I admired were applauding the parents for their actions. With each comment, I became more and more heartbroken over the fact that so many people found it okay for a child to be beaten and cursed by her parents. The venom spewed at this child was unconscionable. We may never know why this little girl went missing. However, given the welcome she received upon her return, I can understand if she wanted to be anywhere but home. I wonder what would happen if we looked at that video and asked different questions. What could make a girl go missing for three days with no ability to call home or notify authorities? Who bought or gave a 13yr old girl such a revealing outfit and why? What would make parents react in this particular manner and decide to film it? Perhaps beginning with these questions will enable many to see what these parents did quite differently.
Our young people, without question, are under attack. Yet it seems extremely difficult to have conversations about the specific ways in which Black girls are attacked without being met with great resistance. With this 19-second video, we sadly get it all. We witness a daughter being abused by her parents. We see a girl being physically violated by a grown man. We watch this teenage girl being bullied in the streets. We see all the ways in Black girls are victimized in society. And it should make us mad. It should make us mad enough to challenge the ways in which Black girls are objectified and that objectification is celebrated. It should make us mad enough to teach our sons, whatever age they may be, that to disrespect their sisters, whatever age they may be, is to disrespect themselves. It should make us mad enough to declare sacred the body of Black girls and all places those bodies should enter.
I may never know the young girl in this video but I have prayed for her daily. I have prayed that WorldStarHipHop.com would indeed die. I have prayed that the adults in this video would be arrested for child abuse and prosecuted. I have prayed that legislation would emerge that would make the creation and distribution of these kinds of videos illegal. I have prayed that my next steps to ensure that legislation would become even more clear. Mostly, I have prayed that this beautiful Black girl knows that, even if she doesn’t feel love at home, somebody in this world loves her immensely and wants her to be safe, healthy and happy.