The scariest thing this past Halloween weekend? Not vampires, zombies, or ghouls but how terrifying it still is to be a black woman in America. We went into the weekend reeling over more stories of black women being harassed in Barney’s and other stores, but were shocked even more with how many white people felt the need to don blackface and disrespect the personhood of black women for their Halloween costumes on Saturday. And while Julianne Hough’s blackface “Crazy Eyes” costume was publicly singled out and had the star tweeting a rapid aplogy, she was not the only one.
Because we were shocked again when even more white men felt the need to don blackface and dishonor the memories of our sons lost to white vigilante racism from 1619 to the present with blackface Trayvon Martin accompanied by George Zimmerman costumes. Or the story of the mother who dressed her son in a KKK costume, saying it was “family tradition.” Says network producer and cultural critic Jamil Smith: “Melanin is not a costume. Blackface is wrong and racist. So don’t do it folks (schedules the same tweet for the next few Octobers.)”
And please don’t ask why white people putting on blackface is so offensive—if you are not aware of the history and context of racist minstrel shows and the power dynamic of white supremacy in this country that began with slavery in 1619 and continues today, do not make us responsible for your ignorance. Go read a book. Or maybe two.
But it gets worse still. One of the top trending topics on Twitter in the United States on Sunday? #stopblackgirls2013. Filled with a barrage of rude, stomach churning racism directed towards black women, the hashtag included hate speech primarily poured out on little black girls and babies. The rest of the hate speech vilified black women for doing things white women are lauded for—punk Mohawk hair styles like Pink’s, Lady Gaga inspired meat and saran wrap dresses, and clothing that, while revealing, seemed demure compared to Miley Cyrus’ new fashion trend. Because, while people rush to defend these white women, black girls are torn down and publicly humiliated instead.
And while some of the perpetrators, like @Concernedmum420, were white women and men, most were black men like @mertinlooferking and @nathanbatoba8. Indeed, states cultural critic and blogger @thetrudz: “Stopblackgirls2013 is internalized racism, sexism, and misogynoir by mainly black men. It’s deflection from their culpability in abuse.” It’s easier to blame black women for being disrespected then to work towards protecting them from the society that disrespects them and have to do something about it.
But what kind of message are we sending to little black girls who go on the internet and see such hate directed at themselves for no reason? Agrees blogger and artist Franchesca Ramsey: “Stopblackgirls2013 is trending? And people ask why we need organizations like black girls rock cause SOMEONE has to tell our girls they mean something.” And so someone did. @Blackamazon resurrected her 3 year old hashtag #openseaononblackgirlsisover to counteract this hatred. Tweeted @Blackamazon: “ We survived slavery, dogs, crack and Reagan. Twitter and Facebook thugs are nothing. #openseasononblackgirlsisover”