Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Black Teen Girls



Google "black teen girls."

Go ahead—I triple dog dare you.

But don’t do it while your babies are standing by your side.

Because if you do, your children are going to catch an eye-full—a bevy of sites highlighting every sexually-charged, nasty, smutty, dirty thing a perv could ever fantasize about our girls, laid out in black and white, page after filthy page, for all the world to see. If it’s not a porn site dedicated to showcasing “young hot” poontang, then it’s a link to a story about how many black girls have STDs, YouTube videos of them popping their booties, or sites showing them beating each other to a bloody pulp.

Dead. Fish. Eyes.

I stumbled on this madness a few days ago while helping a friend of mine, who, in the middle of writing a book about black teen girls and self-esteem, asked me to help her find organizations dedicated to ushering our girl-children into womanhood. Now, it’s hard to shock me; I’m a black woman in America and I know how poisonous and unforgiving pop culture can be, particularly when it comes to images of African-American femininity. But this right here? I simply didn’t expect it—not so blatant, so in-your-face, so ridiculously callous.

And then we wonder why our girls are catching hell at every turn. We’ve got barely-legal singers like THIS FOOL singing chart-topping songs about how he’s going break headboards banging girls, and fashion companies hanging in the center of urban communities billboards LIKE THIS, featuring a young woman on her knees, looking like she’s either about to suck—or just finished sucking—on some boy’s privates, like she was made to master it. And statistics that ring the alarm on the state of black girls—poor graduation rates, high teen pregnancy stats, low self-esteem, increased suicide rates, boots in sexual violence against our babies—go virtually unaddressed, virtually ignored.

I wrote a feature story about this for the April/May issue of the incredible health and lifestyle magazine, HEART & SOUL, the issue with the beautiful actress Regina King gracing the cover (it's on stands now—cop a copy!). In it, I explored the state of black girls, and let’s just say, it ain’t pretty. In the piece, I talk to social media activist Gina McCauley, founder of the website, WHAT ABOUT OUR DAUGHTERS, who told Heart & Soul that the staggering statistics speak volumes to the need for a focused, intensive intervention on behalf of black girls.

“Black women and girls are the living dead,” said McCauley, whose site calls attention to injustices against black women and girls—from unfair media coverage and pop culture to crimes against them. “We’re ignored because we’re walking around and we have the audacity to survive the crime, the violence, and the turmoil. But if you look at all these problems we have, they all lead back to the fact that we are in insecure situations and we’re all catching hell. The African American community surrounds black men, but the crisis of black women gets marginalized or dismissed altogether, and that does nothing more than hurt us all.

“But if they will not fight for us,” McCaughly added, “we must fight for ourselves.”


Indeed. It was scary enough to usher a black boy through teenhood without him getting arrested, killed, marginalized, dismissed or snatched away from us in some kind of crazy fashion. Like I wrote HERE about our son, Mazi, he turned out pretty okay. But now, Nick and I have this whole other world of danger on the horizon, where our daughters will be seen as nothing more than future porn stars or disease-carrying sex addicts or mini-thugs beating the hell out of each other between takes of them shaking it fast for the latest YouTube entry.

This—this is what a men in Germany, women in Switzerland, teens in Japan, aunties and uncles and mamas and papas in Idaho and Hawaii and Puerto Rico and Iraq see and think about our children when they Google “black teen girls.” One dimension—that’s all our babies get.

How on Earth do we even begin to change this?




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22 comments:

  1. It's a frightening world we live in where our girls are growing up way faster than we ever did when we were kids. I can't say it enough...talk, talk and more talk until you are blue in the face. Sometimes, just having the chance to really show them what's wrong with the picture may open their eyes and make good choices. It's hard to be a tenn and put blinders on when the peer pressure is forceful enough to make girls give up their true selves just because they want to fit in.

    My niece who is 14 has been "preyed upon" by a junior in high school who claims that he just likes young, beautiful, innocent girls. Come to find out, this boy preys on the young innocent girls because they are naive to his sex antics. He has gotten 3 girls pregnant. When does it stop???

    I'm glad that programs do exist but too bad that those programs aren't located everywhere.

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  2. My friends and I talk about the state of youth today and wonder what it's going to be like in 10 years. My husband and I are planning to have children soon and it's just hard to be optimistic sometimes about the future our children will have in this society.

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  3. We sorta laughed and chuckled when Chris Rock said that his goal as a parent was to keep his daughter "off the pole." But with the decline in morals, music and family structure...this is becoming an increasingly realistic concern. I feel for our teen girls. I feel the plight myself as a brown woman but I try to keep my voice. I know our brown girls feel less empowered. The place where we can start is "each one, reach one." We can start having dialogue with the young brown beauties in our lives and drill in them daily their worth.

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  4. As the mother of a 13-year-old girl, this sickens me. Right now, she is not much affected by this, but hormones are raging and that will change soon.

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  5. I want to tell you it isn't necessarily Google's fault. It is the chicken or the egg syndrome. Google's algorithms are designed to get people the information they search for. The method is ranked based on key words, image names, actual text on the site, links coming to and from the site (used for relevance). The system for the most part does its job, if finds what you ask it to find.

    The larger issue is the industry that exploits these girls because like it or not there are a substantial amount of people out there that consider our children to be "throw-aways". Picture a single mother leaving her house at 6am to return home at 11pm every day. You see, or rather, hear about this scenario more times than not. What you hear little about is that shifty eyes in the shadows watching the comings and going of Mom and the morally askew mind contemplating ways to take advantage of the little girl.

    There are men that have the means and will travel to another country to be with underage girls. Men that consider the availability of these girls to be one of the lost treasures of slavery from America's past.

    The problem isn't so much that Google gives these things such high ranking (and trust me there is something wrong with that in it self), but like all thing done in the dark, these searches highlight the position our girls are in society right now.

    Not so funny thing, google: teen girls. Not much difference right. Here's the thing the web is huge, Google is a glorified filter. Consider the hand(s) wanting to make the pedophile pie, the stores providing the "ingredients" and not so much the tool they use.

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  6. As a control, I searched "white teen girls", and the results are equally as chilling. Most of the sites are dedicated to (you guessed it) prOn. Maybe you could attribute it to the value our society places on women...period?

    *side note*

    Now if you REALLY want to be suprised, compare/contrast the results when you search: "black teen boys" & "white teen boys"...Wow!?

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  7. This is madness to the highest level and I am about to explode with anger right now. I guess as parents we must be very good examples to our children to show them the way. I keep a close eye on my daughters also make sure to enlighten them on real life situations (they will be reading this post later as well as doing the Google search). All we can do is educate our children and keep it real with them. It is up to US the break the cycle. Great post!

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  8. This is beyond depressing because I am a 20 year old female that is trying to turn the now Professional Black Woman image back into the rule instead of the exception. I try my best to shelter my babygirl (I'm a primary care giver for a 4 year old)from the nightmare that is sure to come her way. The hard part is they are making cd's called "Kid's Bop" that have all the popular songs sung by children. These cd's are being played at daycares in Cleveland, Ohio. What ever happen to Mother Goose Tales, and Sesame Street? It doesn't help that the 'celebrity' Black Men are degrading us as Black Women as well. I still cannot believe that Flavor Flav was able to score high show rating by having a show dedicated to degrading women of all color. WTF! And there were female's coming to school talking about the show as if it was "Charmed School." I don't know what generation I was born into, but makes me afraid to bring a child into this world. I would seriously like to know, FIRST, is there anything we could actually do to get this image transformed into something positive, or it is too late????

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  9. EXCELLENT post Denene! THANK YOU for writing it! Just putting the issue out there will make folks more aware and then we can begin to address it. We have GOT to do more to help and empower our girls and to change the way the world (yes, the world!) sees them. (And I'll definitely pick up a copy of Heart & Soul.)

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  10. As a black father, I'm angered and troubled by these perverse images and portrayals of our young girls. We must teach our daughters that they have more to offer than their sexuality. And we must teach our sons how to properly respect and appreciate black females.

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  11. I googled...now I nauseated. It seems that Google and other search engines should be doing something to block these sites so that they don't rank so high on result pages.

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  12. As a teenager myself, I find this article embarrasing, yet important at the same time. I've had the unfortunate experience of seeing what black girls are defined as online and it's not beautiful at all. It's disgusting, extremely sad. But the worst part about it is when I go to school each day and I sit in the same classroom with girls that are trying to live up these expectations. Not only is it on the internet, but on tv and radio, and most importantly in young black girls' minds. THAT'S sad.

    Lakeisha

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  13. Denene, as a mother of FOUR daughters and one teenage daughter, I must say that it has been a true challenge raising her in this technological age. With computers, web cams, and videos on Tv, I found my teenager wanting to be more like the girls in the videos than the heroines in her textbooks. It's has been so truly difficult for me, that in January I sent my 17-year-old to live with her father in Virginia, who is a pastor. I had to do what I had to do because I refuse to lose my daughter. We have to change this by going back to that adage, "it takes a village to raise a child." It takes mothers, grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers to step in and take part in the rearing of the child, just like it was when I was growing up. We can't raise our girls alone. She needs to know that she is loved by a man--her father-- and that the people around her VALUE her for all that she is and she does NOT have to use her body to get attention. We have to tell these girls from the womb that their mind will make them millions if they want, and not their booty!! We can do it, if we return to the values that WE grew up with.

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  14. Thank you, everyone, for all of the thoughtful, supportive comments—they mean more than you know. I find them just as important—if not more—than the posts themselves because it gives us a chance to A) understand we're not alone in this and B) figure out, together, how we can be better—do better by our kids. I appreciate the discourse.

    @Kris: Totally understand the Google ranking of pages and SEO—thanks for the insight. Is there a specific something WE bloggers can do to push more relevant sites higher up in the pages. Like, could we all take, like, a specific day and all post about black teen girls and drive traffic to our sites so that something other than smut can appear on the first pages of "black teen girls"? (And the picture you painted of creeps watching our girls while us mothers are working was chilling. Goodness!)

    @Terrance: Yes, I did google all four—extremely frightening and ridiculous. I chose to focus on black girls because, well, nobody really ever stands up for black women—especially if you're talking about women in general. For way too long, the feminist movement focused solely on the cause of white women, and only when black feminists like Paula Giddings, et al, stepped forward to remind them that it's our cause to, did we get a lil' bit of attention. But I stress a lil' bit. So I chose to focus on the group I personally think is most vulnerable and least likely to have support: black teen girls.

    @Lakeisha and TrayAllDay: Thank YOU BOTH most of all, because you're coming from the perspective of the girls/young women who are in the trenches, watching this up close and living it. Your voices are appreciated. Let me ask you this: How do we adults get through to the girls who are deaf, dumb, and blind to the realities—who don't even realize that they're under siege, much less recognize that they're playing right into the traps being set for them?

    Again, thank you EVERYONE for your thoughtful comments!

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  15. I was gonna' Google it. I swear. I don't have the balls. Not right now.

    Kudo, Ms. Millner, for puttin' this on blast. I'm a regular reader of WAOD and I truly can appreciate women who talk the talk but walk the walk and are on the frontlines for our babies. Hopefully, I'll suck it up with a quickness and join y'all. For my daughter's sake.

    Love what you do and what you stand for.

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  16. Ms. Millner,

    Have you checked this out?

    http://www.soulsofblackgirls.com/

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  17. Why isn't it an option in the black community to actually protect our children?
    Most of the comments above take it as a given that the parent has limited power yet certain communities in America don't leave their children's influences to luck.
    Religious communities such as Mormons, some white southern baptists, orthodox jews and Amish all manage to bring up their children in the modern world still holding onto their traditional values and beliefs without falling prey to negative influences.

    Their formula is simple - CENSORSHIP. As a parent, you censor tv, films, internet, friends, music, books. If you know what's going into your child's mind, you can predict what kind of person they will grow into.

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  18. @Anonymous: I don't think the commenters here at MBB "take it as a given that the parent has limited power" in raising black children. Quite the opposite: The parents here ARE dedicated to being the best parents they can be and constantly searching for ways to do it better. None of us is leaving our children to be raised by "luck" and I'm pretty sure that we hold dear to some pretty traditional values and want the same things for our kids that all of the other groups you mentioned want for theirs.

    What I do think, though, is that WE NEED HELP. None of us is foolish enough to think that what we do and teach in our households behind closed doors is the only thing that will influence our children. We can turn off the radios, TVs and the internet in our homes, and teach our children right from wrong, for sure. But it would be helpful if society turned down the noise on the madness being fed to our children at every turn. THESE ARE THINGS WE PARENTS NEED TO SPEAK UP ABOUT—not just for our kids, but the children whose parents aren't as diligent. Because those kids are sitting next to our kids in the classroom and at the bus stop and yes, at church, and they CAN influence even the strongest minds. It takes a village. That's the truth, no matter how good a parent you are.

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  19. INTELLIGENT BLACK GIRLS

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    The BNP (Black National Party) gets stronger as "STORMFRONT" gets weaker.

    http://raceequalitysecretservice.blogspot.com/2010/02/bnp-black-national-party.html

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  20. OSA - one of the best Indian School Directory where you can find almost all schools in India can can apply for school admissions, here in india.

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  21. Why are there so many white girls beating up black girls now?
    http://wandaphullworld.com/2009/10/10/word-of-advice-to-my-so-call-tough-black-women/

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  22. I am totally worried about my young girl who's almost a teen. It's disturbing to know how "different" kids nowadays are.
    I guess I can probably put a stop to this fad by starting to educate my kids about the dangerous world out there and how they should be careful about the people around them. But advising them wouldn't be enough, I should also be supportive enough to guide them while they grow up. It's not easy to be parents, but it's definitely our responsibility...so we should make the most out of it.

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