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The Quvenzhané Wallis Bundle (Context, Responses, #Footnotes)

Quvenzhane Wallis

Because I am convinced racism laid me low with the flu this week, I’m offering up a second cathartic bundle. This one is for Quvenzhané Wallis.

The Onion’s apology:

On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.

The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.

In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.

Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.


Steve Hannah
The Onion

Jamilah Lemieux’s summary of where everyone began to go wrong:

If Wallis had a difficult to say Hebrew or Eastern European name, I think reporters would would do their job and simply learn it; they’d probably apologize for getting it wrong before ever daring to say “I’m just gonna call you something I can pronounce and understand.” I also doubt that so many would feel so irked by Wallis if her curls were blonde and her eyes were blue.

Warsan Shire asks us to forget wrongness in favor of being:

“give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”

And Moya Bailey writes a practically perfect post-Oscars love letter:

You are great! I love your name! And your puppy purses! How do you find them?! I am so excited that you will be in more movies!

Moya also provided a reading list for black girls/girls of color and their parents.

For black artists who hearken back to their schoolyard days and invoke the voice and characters of the girls they were (and will always be), see Gwendolyn Brooks, A Street in Bronzeville (1945) and Ntozake Shange’s, for colored girls who have considered suicide/@hen the rainbow is enuf (1975).

For a look at black childhood during the period of slavery see Wilma King’s Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America (1998, 2nd ed. 2011). For a case study see Harriet Jacobs’ narrative (full-text here) including this choice quote:

“Even the little child, who is accustomed to wait on her mistress and her children, will learn, before she is twelve years old, why it is that her mistress hates such and such a one among the slaves. Perhaps the child’s own mother is among those hated ones. She listens to violent outbreaks of jealous passion, and cannot help understanding what is the cause. She will become prematurely knowing in evil things. Soon she will learn to tremble when she hears her master’s footfall. She will be compelled to realize that she is no longer a child. If God has bestowed beauty upon her, it will prove her greatest curse. That which commands admiration in the white woman only hastens the degradation of the female slave….”

The voices of contemporary black girls have been missing from the discussion. We would do well to take a look back at this classic text for and by black girls/girls of color/marginalized girls: Michelle Sewell’s Growing up Girl (2006). I can guarantee ‘c–t’ is not the worst word our girls hear and deal with on a daily basis and none of the raw words, daily insults and assaults, petty violences and afflictions–none of them are okay. None of them are deserved. I hope we see Quvenzhané in all of our girls, whether they are members of the Academy or members of the Twerk Team.

Regarding the film Quvenzhané was nominated for, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Social Text is hosting a discussion between Jayna Brown and Christina Sharpe titled, “The Romance of Precarity.” Find parts I and II here.

The bundle includes other, less delightful items, including a tweet from William Tracy at the Onion wondering in which cultures the “phenomenon” or racism might be found, and essays on Seth MacFarlane’s general sexism and racism during the award show. The original Onion tweet, now deleted, was unavailable for bundling but can be found with a bit of Google.

Have a response that spoke to you? I’m happy to add links to the bundle. @ me or leave them in the comments.

Image Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times