It’s pretty hard not to be in the know where Mo’Ne Davis is concerned. Even if you were previously unfamiliar with her name, you certainly heard of her story. She is that (now) 13 year old girl who played in the 2014 Little League World Series and is the first girl to earn a win and to pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history. That means she can throw a ball really, really fast.
Her face has become ubiquitous in the sports world, with skill so phenomenal that she made the cover of Sports Illustrated and a back-story so inspiring that Disney has approved a movie to be made about her life. This did not sit well with some people, and one person in particular – Joey Casselberry, a junior first baseman at Bloomsburg University – took to twitter to make one of the most disgusting comments about a girl barely older than my first born by saying the following:
A grown man, who has never had any sort of interpersonal contact with this 13 year old CHILD, called her a slut.
Everyone has agreed that this is pretty offensive and definitely unacceptable, and Mr. Casselberry has been dismissed from his team. As far as I and 98% of the world are concerned, this was absolutely the right move for the university to take. However, his remarks left young Ms. Davis in an awkward position as people were clamoring for a response from her. Her response was one typical of any girl her age – which was to forgive. She even went as far as to plead on his behalf and ask the university to give him a “second chance”.
Every mother to a Black daughter I know experienced cognitive dissonance when news of Joey Casselberry’s sorry apology and Mo’Ne’s crusade to spare him discomfort came to light. Many have gone as far as to term her actions as “mature”…and that is problematic for me. Sure, her actions are righteous, but they are not right. A grown, crusty man should not be putting a girl this young in the position to act righteously in response to his boorishness.
Let me just get to the point: The fact is, Joey Casselberry’s remarks are a direct reflection of a culture that sexualizes young Black girls and their bodies, then moves on to demonize and punish them for labels not of their own choosing and ultimately marginalizes them. Girls of African descent are built differently from any other girl on the planet. By the age of 5, our hip to waist ratio often mirrors those of our mothers. I have had trouble fitting at least 2 of my girls for trousers and pants because the items are cut for (white) girls who are built straight up and down. (This is a battle Black women have to fight our entire lives.) It is not the responsibility of the 5 year old to cloister herself so as not to have these labels ascribed to her; it is the responsibility of grown men to check their privilege so that she can thrive.
This is not the first time a Black girl has been sexually degraded in the media at large by those who occupy positions of power and privilege. In 2013, 9 year old Quvenzhané Wallis was called a “cunt” by The Onion on twitter during that year’s Oscars.
As I recall, this was in response to Ms. Wallis refusing to let a journalist refer to her as ‘Annie’ because she was too lazy to figure out how to pronounce the child’s name. She made a “mature” decision to check that chick, and in return a representative from an organization dominated by white males labelled her a moniker that is so disgusting, it makes bikers shift in their seats. But it’s free speech, right? It’s satire, ain’t it? Making jokes about Black girls’ bodies is funny, isn’t it? Remember how Black male comedians jumped to Don Imus’ defense when he called an entire basketball team “nappy headed hoes”?
All ascribed to girls who are barely old enough to knock on Womanhood’s door – and suspiciously – all at the top of their game in specific fields.
The main reason that Davis’ acceptance for Casselberry’s apology sickens and saddens me so much is that it is yet another spoke in the wheel of accepted public violence against Black women and girls. The part that Mo’Ne plays in this cycle is by shielding her abuser in the name of turning the other cheek and maturity. How many Black women refuse to call the police on abusive husbands and boyfriends because they have been conditioned to believe it is their job to protect them, or their responsibility to be strong enough to endure the abuse for the sake of peace? THIS is exactly where it starts…and that is not Mo’Ne Davis’ fault – it’s ours. While I applaud Mo’Ne for her poise and level headedness in this situation, it is not okay that she should have an innate sense that this particular reaction is expected of her in a situation like this. These are not the lessons we should be teaching our young girls of color, especially in a world that views them as provocative minxes before they’ve had a first date, first kiss or first menstrual cycle.