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An Open Letter to Nia Green

Nia Green is a 16-year-old girl whose mother beat her after finding pictures on Facebook of the teen and her boyfriend wearing only towels. The beating was livestreamed to Facebook and went viral. This is an open letter dedicated to her, from one Black girl to another.

Dear Nia,

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that you’re another Black girl that the world didn’t protect. But, I guess the world doesn’t really protect any of us Black girls. I’m not going to use this letter to condemn your mother. No, I’m not condoning her actions, but I think far too many people have used their Twitter fingers and Facebook statuses to yet again scrutinize the way a Black mother parents. When white parents make parenting decisions, it’s a private matter. When Black parents, particularly Black mothers, parent, it’s always up for public discussion. The Department of Family and Children Services seems to only be necessary for Black and Brown folks.

But, I do want to say that your mother reminds me of my own. They want so badly to protect us that they will do anything to get us to submit. They know the world loves to condemn carefree, Black girls. They inflict their own traumas onto their children as a form of protection, not always realizing the hurt and trauma that they are creating. They also know that Black parents who can’t control their children will have their children taken. Our public shaming and punishing serves as evidence that they are capable of taming their “wild” children. This in no way excuses the things that your mother did, but I believe your mother’s actions are another testament to the way that white supremacy traumatizes Black families.

I, too, was a young Black girl exploring my sexuality. My mother didn’t know that I put myself on birth control until two years after the fact, when she suggested I start it before leaving for college. My mother doesn’t know when I had sex for the first time, who I had sex with for the first time, or how many people I’ve had sex with since then. I remember the shame I felt in secret as my mother gossiped about all of the other “fast-tail” and “hot-behind” girls. The only time I didn’t feel ashamed was when I talked with my friends. We would laugh and giggle as we swapped stories of our experiences. We’d share tips and tricks with each other. When I had a pregnancy scare in high school, it was my best friend who gave me a pregnancy test, not my mother. Ours and your actions are not up for public debate and commentary. We aren’t provided with comprehensive sex education, contraceptives, or access to reproductive healthcare. Yet, when we explore intimacy and sexuality on our terms, we are always to blame for our “reckless” behavior.

Nia, you’re not nasty. You’re not a thot. And you’re not a hoe. You’re a Black girl living in a world that seeks to exploit and destroy Black women and girls. You don’t deserve to be an another example of a young Black girl beat as the world watches. You shouldn’t have to “keep things to yourself” as an act of safety. You deserve so much more than the world has ever been able to offer Black girls. You deserve to be in a world that affirms you, your sexuality, and your autonomy.

And Nia, for you and all of us Black girls out in the world, I hope that one day is soon.

With love,

Quita

Header image credit: 68/George Doyle/Ocean/Corbis

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South. She holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in Sociology from Georgia State University, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from her alma mater. She is a member on the board of directors of Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, and is a former content creator for the The Body Is Not An Apology. As a femme, feminist, and queer Black woman, it is through her lived experiences and complex identities that Quita has come to believe in the power of storytelling and the validation of lived experiences.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South.

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