Quvenzhané Wallis is a hero at age 9. If being a movie star before hitting the double digits weren’t enough, she’s a hero for being a Black girl who makes sure you know how to say her name. For those of us who have names that are less-than-easy to pronounce if you’re only used to hearing Mary, Sarah and Brittney, you may have experienced moments where you wanted to—needed to—stop someone from calling you the wrong thing, but you just didn’t have the heart. Perhaps the speaker was ‘close enough,’ or you didn’t want to call more attention to yourself. I’ve allowed a number of people to call me “Jah-MIL-lah” instead of “Jah-MEE-lah” over the years, largely because I didn’t feel like having to correct them. But baby girl has no problem calmly breaking her name down at any opportunity: Kwe-VEN-zhah-nay.
Sadly, it seems that Wallis is already being informed of how the world sees Black girls who dare to own themselves.
Last night during the (long and boring) Oscars telecast, the person tweeting for satirical publication The Onion decided to make a joke at Best Actress nominee’s expense: “Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?”
Unbelievable. Except, it isn’t.
I’m more surprised when the world gets it right when it comes to Black girls and women than I am when they get it wrong. Sisters are far too often on the butt-end of a joke or diss lobbed by some White folks or our own brothers. Hood girls are eternal punchlines. The First Lady’s brains, body and bangs are the subject of scrutiny from both writers and conservative leaders who couldn’t even level their White and male privilege to match her accomplishments. Beyonce was a treasonist for using a backing track at the Inauguration. And now, on what should have been the most sparkly day of Quvenzhané’s life, some fool made a cheap attempt at getting LOLz by calling her a dirty word.
We already know that in the inevitable interviews that find the 9-year-old forced to acknowledge the nasty tweet, little Miss Wallis will say something wise and remind us just why we love her so much—just as she has when chopping down reporters for butchering her name. Her puppy purse and poppin’ curls aren’t gonna stop for The Onion, believe that. Nor will they stop for the gross quip host Seth Macfarlane made about her and George Clooney, who has a penchant for dating much younger women. Speaking of the Family Guy creator, who is being widely panned for his “sexist, racist and homophobic” jokes last night, it’s safe to assume that Rihanna won’t be fazed by his domestic violence quip—yet another one that I doubt we’d hear if the 2009 Grammy fight involved Taylor Swift instead of the Barbadian bombshell— at her expense either.