I’m sure that everyone has seen the most recent video of the security guard using a taser against a woman at an Atlanta mall. If you haven’t, you’re in luck because in addition to it being found all over the internet, it can also be found below. The video is, however, graphic and before it is posted, let me preface it with a story. I was riding home from work last week, listening to a certain white rapper’s satellite radio show on my way home, and just happened to catch wind of this story on one of the shows. The (white) host of the show explained that when he initially caught wind of the story, he felt bad upon reading the story that the woman had been tased at all – let alone in front of her children. He said that it seemed outrageous – until he saw the video; his breakdown description of the video was incredible to me: he described the store that the armed guard was securing as one of those stores in the ghetto with the “big butt mannequins,” and that the woman, basically being a hood rat, deserved every bit of what she got. Again, warning: some may find this video to upsetting or at the least extremely offensive.
I likened this video to the video of the Cleveland bus driver, which coined many memes including “you going ta jail now!” The video was a shot heard round the world, and the internet enjoyed the video and subsequent memes and videos very much from what I observed. The tasing video and the Cleveland bus driver video were similar in that all parties were Black. The perceived aggressors were Black women, and the perceived victims were Black men in their professional capacity who were defending themselves against violence or at a minimum the threat of violence.
I do have personal opinions of what could have and should have been done in both situations, especially in terms of both the bus driver’s and the security guard’s professional capacities. I also have opinions on who is the aggressor and what should happen when a person feels they are being assaulted. This post is not intended to defend either woman’s behavior, nor to call into question what initiated the assault or the end result.
The burning question in my mind is: what is up with the internet’s fetishization of assaults of Black women?
If you did not know anything about the circumstances or behaviors of the woman who was tased, other than she was tased by an armed guard in front of her children, would the natural response be “what did she do to deserve it?” or “that sounds funny!” What if you heard she was upset about something and verbally assaulting the guard?
And the same question of the lady on the bus on Cleveland; if the only information you had of the situation is that a woman is upset and arguing with a bus driver, and is then physically assaulted, is the response amusement and blame? (In fact, the bus driver made a comment like: ‘you wanna be a man, I’m gonna treat you like a man.’) What about once you are informed that both women are Black women?
Every opinion I’ve witnessed about both assault had few differences.
The similarities included judgments of the women in the videos, characterizations of Black women, statements about poverty (ie, the “hood” and/or “ghetto”), and justification for assaulting Black women. Certainly, in many cases, the first lead a direct path to the last. In fact, in all of this, the people in the videos that aren’t the Black women are painted as victors and heroes for their assault, combative nature, or arguable self-defense.
I got physically angry when the initial commentary I heard on the tasing story included comments about “big butt mannequins,” and hood stores, and the show host said that the ghetto broad deserved every bit of what she got. The Cleveland video was even worse; the teenage girl (who was being unruly and also being publicly embarrassed) was uppercut during the altercation and the public rallied behind the bus driver, petitioning that he not lose his job over the incident.
There are more videos both before and after these, including a locker room fight between two Black teenage girls that was posted shortly after the tasing video. There are memes. There are remix videos. There are dummy twitter accounts in the name of fun. All of these things perpetually devalue the violence perpetuated on the Black women/girls, whether in self-defense or not, and justifies that the violence is rational because they are either poor/ghetto/disrespectful/mouthy/whatever and it should also be recorded and sent directly the World Star immediately.
I don’t know how many hits World Star Hip Hop gets daily, but if I had to guess, I’d probably say far too many. Now, they aren’t the focus of this post by any means, but they are the first place many of these videos appear because they have deemed themselves the “CNN of the ghetto”. You heard me. I avoid World Star just like I avoid Media Take Out and Bossip. In addition to actually exhibiting hip hop and urban entertainment gossip, the site heavily exploits videos of real-life people and situations and capitalizes on the many images of real-life violence depicted.
In a brilliant post on The Guardian just after the Cleveland bus driver incident, entitled ‘World Star Hip-hop: making a bankable brand out of brutality’, Jason Farago writes:
It’s not the beatdowns themselves that make World Star so disturbing; it’s how they get there. We are all videographers now, and bystanders now do the work of media outlets, and for free. There was no thought on that Cleveland bus of stopping the altercation; people were too busy filming! (Indeed, it turns out there were multiple cameraphone-wielding passengers on the bus that day; after the first video went viral, a different angle was uploaded to another site – and then swiftly stolen by World Star.)
Not long ago, the knock against modern urban life was that it isolated people, and that in the face of violence we turned away. How things have changed: today we don’t only pay attention to violence, but we offer it up, gratis, to anyone who wants to make a buck off of it.
He also makes note of videos of fights in general, and not just assaults involving women, that go up on World Star’s website. While there is a mockery made of violence in poor, urban communities, I think that there is a different dynamic added when women are involved. Just like Maury is (still, sigh) heavily watched as a way to slut-shame poor and/or Black women, and ‘bitches be like…’ memes hit the internet daily, women of color are poked fun at daily on the internet. Violence against women of color isn’t the new black, but public acceptance of it is — especially if the woman is, well…ghetto.
I don’t know that it should be stated since it is not the main focal point of this post, but I’ll state for the record (and to avoid backlash) that I think that both the woman in the tasing video and the young lady in the Cleveland video exhibited grossly inappropriate behavior. However, the internet equates colored folks to trash based on the behaviors of the people in these videos, and finds gratification in “ghetto” Black women. Yet and still, I do think that there are other remedies that the other parties in both videos could have taken to diffuse the circumstances as exhibited in the videos. Still, I wonder what the reaction from the internet would be if the women in the videos weren’t poor colored girls? Why are we so amused by these videos?