The Day Rue Became Black (2022)
A few months ago, I watched a YouTube video titled "The Day Rue 'Became' Black." The video recalled 2012 when the first Hunger Games film premiered to the public. It also recalled the outrage surrounding the casting of then-14-year-old Amandla Stenberg as Rue, a 12-year-old girl who is killed halfway through the film.
When watching this video made me recall memories I had surrounding the release of the movie. I remember seeing it and being so happy to see the portrayal of a young, Black girl around my age on the big screen. I was so excited that I dressed as her character for book character day at school. However, while I recall my excitement around the event, I also recall the public's response of outrage and disgust.
A tweet in the video said, "Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the innocent girl you picture." Furthermore, several other tweets indicated viewers were less sad about her character's death now that she was depicted as Black. Several comments hinted that Rue's innocence held less weight, or any at all, due to her skin color.
Little Girl Essay #3 (2022)
Urban Dictionary defines fast as an “adolescent girl who acts much older than she is by dressing like a skank, dancing like a hoochie, or just being a general hoe” (aahzkerh. “Fast”. Urban Dictionary. 2005). Despite this definition not including a specific race, I believe that this word is most frequently associated with Black, female adolescents. Fast or being fast is a term I remember being used prevalently within the Black community growing up. And while I don’t recall ever hearing it from family members, I do remember the word being thrown around quite frequently in social settings.
I remember growing up and having conversations with female friends my age about what was defined as being ‘too grown’ or ‘too fast’ by our parents. I’ve compiled a list of things I remember fitting into that category:
1. Wearing Juicy Couture sweatpants
2. Getting your hair straightened without the ends bumped or curled
3. Hairstyles that were too long
4. Dark-colored underwear
5. Red and/or black nail polish
6. Growing into your body at a young age.
This list could, of course, be expanded on to encompass the experience of many Black, young girls growing up. However, it’s just interesting to see how many Black, female adolescents had to abide by rules to ‘appear’ our age. Especially since these often did not extend to our white counterparts. Yet, despite many of us being subjected to these confinements, it didn’t stop society from trying to push adultification onto Black girls.
A prime example of this is the character Dijonay from Disney’s Proud Family. Her character, despite being a middle schooler, could often be seen chasing after boys, wearing ‘provocative’ clothing, and fitting into the ‘ghetto’ stereotype. While young Black girls and adolescents were at home, acting our age, the media, and society were aging us up.
Little Girl Essay #2 (2022)
I remember around the age of nine or eleven, my sister and I stayed the night at my grandmother’s house. I remember my sister and I being excited to stay the night at a place other than our home. And overall, it was a fun night. We watched TV late at night while holed up under blankets and pillows in the living room. It was an enjoyable night at our grandmother’s.
However, when day broke and night shifted into the morning, I remember our grandmother coming in to ask how we slept. And from then, I remember her telling us that our cousin’s then-boyfriend was coming over soon and for my sister and me to put some clothes on. And I remember being confused. Our sister and I were still in our colorful pajamas, slept in from the night before. Were our clothes not sufficient? And why must we, as children, be taught that our pajamas aren’t considered adequate covering for our bodies?
And while I couldn’t verbalize that at that age, I remember the embarrassment and shame I felt as my cousin brought me a huge t-shirt to cover my sleep clothes. I recall wishing that I had less embarrassing clothes to put on.
Although I hold no ill will over my grandmother for this moment, I can recognize this memory having an impact on the way I view my body, especially around a male audience at an age that I shouldn’t have. I can also recognize my grandmother and her mother before her falling victim to the adultification of Black girls. It is a cycle I’m hoping to break.
Little Girl Essay #1 (2022)
There's a saying I read a few years ago that states that Black children grow up faster than other races of children. When I first found that statistic, I remember thinking it couldn't have applied to my life. When I reflect on my childhood, I recall being surrounded by loving family and friends who gave me constant support. However, as time has passed, and I find myself thinking about my adolescence, I find more and more memories that align with that statement. And while it is not the sins of my family, it is the world's sins.
A specific memory lives vividly in my mind to this day. I remember being a sixth-grader and hearing that my middle school was having cheerleading tryouts for the upcoming school year. You had to bring a parent to the informational meeting to try out, where they discussed costs, calendars, and payment methods. I remember checking in with my mom, and the coach looked me up and down and said, "Are you sure she's 11?". I remember feeling uneasy and confused. At the time, I didn't understand what the coach was implying.
The coach went on to conduct a similar incident the following year. By then, I was a permanent team member, and my body had been developing well. We were in the middle of practicing a routine when the coach called us to stop. From there, the coach looks at me and says, "You're walking like you're on your way to a strip club." I remember trying to brush off the comment by saying that that was how I walked, but to no avail.
I was 12. And while these comments felt so insignificant then, I can now reflect on how they shaped how I viewed my body. I can remember catching lewd looks from older men as my body shaped itself. I can remember feeling bad about myself. I was considered a woman before I even knew what that meant. And as I reflect on this as an actual woman, I can see where my adolescence turns bitter. So, when I reflect on my childhood with nostalgia, I also can't help but ignore the tension.