Oscar night I had the show on in the background while getting some work done on the computer. Of course I had my facebook up. I wasn’t paying close attention to either and I was uncharacteristically absent from Twitter. That’s why I didn’t notice the tweet when it went out live. But thanks to my FB friend Natasha aka @HFofNicholes, I saw it through her response that she dual posted on Facebook, and boy did The Onion make my eyes tear.
Now I realize this all happened initially in the final hours of Sunday night. That the tweet itself was deleted by @TheOnion within an hour. The blogposts started flying, heck, I was even quoted in the Hollywood Reporter in the wee hours of the morning. But by 11am CST Monday morning an official apology was up on The Onion Facebook page and articles popped up echoing that. By Tuesday the World had already moved on to the search for the next Pope, the cast of Dancing with the Stars, and other such business. The Onion was old news. I mean they apologized right? What more could we ask for? Well, I think we should be asking for more. A lot more.
Quvenzhané Wallis is a child. The tweet from The Onion was not a critique of anything, it was just name calling. (The only blatant name calling they did all night by the way.) The Onion is known for creating satirical articles that parody real events. This tweet was not in direct response to anything, and name calling is not satire. Quvenzhané Wallis wasn’t the but of a joke she was the target of hate, and left with no real way to defend against it.
I asked my own 11 year old daughter KAiANN what she thought about the situation. Here are her thoughts.
“I think that using the derogatory words like C$%& or P%$$y is sexist in and of itself. They are slang words that stand for vagina. They are used in a negative manor making the vagina out to be bad or gross. I especially hate it when I hear girls use these words. Don’t they know they are reflecting negatively upon themselves?”
My daughter is right, that C word is a vile, hateful word meant to marginalize women. As the youngest African American female to be nominated for an Oscar The Onion’s tweet, conscious or unconscious, was meant to marginalize Quvenzhané Wallis’ historic contribution. With all of the young stars out there who have fallen off of the healthy and productive path, who are trying to race through their childhood in order to play in the adult arena, Quvenzhané Wallis is uniquely a little girl, dressed like a little girl, enjoying life like a little girl. But for all of her effort to hold onto her childhood innocence Quvenzhané Wallis was dragged into the smutty, cruel adult pastime of demoralizing each other for sport. Guess what, no matter what her mother does to attempt to shield her Quvenzhané Wallis is going to find out about this incident. Reporters are going to ask her about it. And if she didn’t know what that word meant, someone is now going to have to explain it to her. And while they do that they are also going to have to explain to her why someone would try and ruin her special night. They are going to have to convince her that she did nothing to bring this on. They are going to have to try and reassure her that the World isn’t full of monsters trying to get her. That she can still look outside her window and see rainbows and butterflies instead of predatory paparazzi. That no one expects her to rush through and answer to an adult expectation of satire and degredation. They are going to have to explain a lot without very much evidence to back them up other than a general apology posted in Facebook.
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.
They got one thing right, Quvenzhané does deserve better, and so do we all. I tweeted yesterday that I felt the Onion apology wasn’t enough and one of my followers asked me what would be. I couldn’t answer her right away. For one thing I had to be a mother to my own 9 year old, Jaedyn. One of the reasons I wasn’t paying close attention to the Oscars Sunday night in the first place was because she was sick. All Monday and Tuesday were about getting her to the doctor and then cuddling up in the bed with her animals and her Real Toothfairyland books, comforting her pain, making her feel safe, and feeding her imagination. All the things I am guessing Quvenzhané’s mother would do for her. As I look at both of my daughters I think about what amends I would want for them in Quvenzhané’s situation. I tell my kids that when they are in a situation where they need to make amends they need to do so loudly. They need to let the person they are apologizing to see every step of their process to fix the problem and hopefully assure them that the future will be different. I didn’t get that from the Onion apology. Not at all. I don’t consider the apology to be genuine because I don’t think they fully understand what they did wrong. So I want more.
- I would like to know what their new Twitter policy is specifically.
- I would like to know what position the tweeter holds at the company and anyone else who was complicit in the publication of the tweet.
- I would like to know what disciplinary action is being taken for the individuals involved in the production and execution of the offending tweet.
- I would like to see a public promise from The Onion that from now on children under the age of 15 will be off limits to their so called satire.
- I would like The Onion to conduct a company a re-education and training seminar that focuses on gender and ethnic sensitivity and understanding
Now there are still MANY out there who think the apology wasn’t too little, but too much. They say things like, “It’s not that big a deal,” “A joke is a joke. No one has to laugh,” and the most popular comment, “Let it go”. My friend, lawyer and favorite historian @PDeeDixon had something profound to say about that.
“Here is the deal! Demands for acknowledgement, apology and amends of a public or societal wrong by Blacks and women are too often met with “get over it, let it go, it is in the past”. But I don’t think that applies across society. Jews are not discouraged from honoring those lost in the Holocaust, Texans remember the Alamo, Pearl Harbor is still “a day which will live in infamy” and two wars have been waged to address the 9/11. It ties into the unwillingness of the world to see the value of black children which ties into the lack of value that is given to black life. This shit didn’t happen to Dakota Fanning, Jodie Foster, Haley Joel Osment or Anna Paquin. Each of those talented young people were just as poised and articulate as Quvenzhané Wallis and none of them were called out of their name for it. It is only because she is black that her self-possessed bearing, confident carriage and articulate communication make her a target of those who can’tconceptualize her behavior with their beliefs and feelings about Blacks in general. Racism allows too many people to view black people through a veil of inferiority that is false, while supporting the veil of superiority of whites which is also false. When either veil is challenged the holder of the veil is much more likely to lash out than to adjust his world view.
Sandra Fluke is a slut because she violates your view of women. Barack Obama is a Socialist/Fascist/Communist because he violates your view of a Black man. Quvenzhané is a … You lash out, act out and start name calling, vilifying and demonizing the other to put them in their place.
I want to hear the outrage of the white feminist that calling little black girls cunts not okay. I want to hear from Black men, that she is our daughter and precious to us and will be treated well. I want The ONION to know that an apology is a good start. I want people to be educated to their racism. I want a real time seminar where people are reminded of the historical context of slavery and segregation and their privilege, whether concerning sex or race, and to understand how and where it rears its’ ugly head. At the time of the tweet they (The Onion) didn’t get that they had gone too far. Even after their apology I still don’t think they get it.”
Bottom line, this isn’t about cursing, this isn’t about the quality of humor, this isn’t about name calling versus satire, this is about tolerance of blatant marginalization of a people. It may have only been 102 characters but it was as big a deal as if it were a manifesto in the New York Times. We can’t let it slide. We have to be outraged. We have to demand more and better, otherwise really we are the joke.
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