I don’t understand Bloomsburg University baseball player Joey Casselberry’s tweet about Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis.
“Disney is making a movie about Mo’ne Davis? WHAT A JOKE. That slut got rocked by Nevada,” Casselberry tweeted Friday night. Before his account was deactivated Saturday, according to Philly.com, he tweeted a two-part apology.
“An example that one stupid tweet can ruin someone’s life and I couldn’t be more sorry about my actions last night. I please ask you to . . . Forgive me and truly understand that I am in no way shape or form a sexist and I am a huge fan of Mo’ne. She was quite an inspiration.”
Apology notwithstanding, I wonder why the tweet happened? Not only was it foul, but it was inexplicable. And it has raised other questions.
Is it simple misogyny, because Davis is getting the kind of attention that Casselberry might want? In addition to the Disney movie, Davis has a line of shoes and a new autobiography — “Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name” — and is the subject of magazine covers and interviews on ESPN. Maybe her success made Casselberry feel left out, so he reached for the most reductive word for women that he knows.
Or does this visceral association, this connecting of two unlike things, of 13-year-old and slut, happen because Davis is black?
“I guess it would be equal parts misogyny and racism,” says Regina Bradley, who teaches African American Studies at Kennesaw State University in Georgia and researches issues related to popular culture, race and society. “I feel like black girls are not considered to be kids. We go from being born to being adults. We don’t have language to include black girls in the innocence of childhood.”
Bradley cites a 2013 tweet by the Onion Web site that used an even more offensive sexual slur in referring to then-9-year-old Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis. It was meant as satire, but “there was no humor in the remark. There was no critique being made. It was just a crass statement about a black girl who had a cute little dog purse to go along with her dress.”
Actor Seth MacFarlane, hosting the Oscars that year, joked that Wallis was on her way to being too old for George Clooney. In a game of word association, of thought association, it’s a linking of black girls and sex.
I remember feeling equally puzzled last November, when Elizabeth Lauten, a communications director for a Republican congressman, said in a Facebook post that Sasha and Malia Obama, 13 and 16, who had joined their dad for the White House turkey pardon, looked as if they’d dressed for “a spot at the bar.” I remember marveling at the psychic distance Lauten had to travel to place the teens in such an adult and sleazy context.
These kinds of remarks are rooted in history, Bradley says. For hundreds of years, slave women were property, so no language existed for assaults against them. “Black women were considered hypersexualized beings, and that trickled down to girls.”
In an ESPN interview Monday , Davis said that she had asked Bloomsburg officials whether Casselberry could rejoin the team. He’d worked hard to get there, she said, and “everyone makes mistakes.” He “didn’t mean it in that type of way,” she said, and “why not give him a second chance?”
Commentators marveled at Davis, calling her a hero and a class act. She is surely all that, but she also said in that interview that she’d been “pretty hurt” by the tweet, and I’m wondering about that side of it.
I’m thinking that the eagerness to see her as so mature feels like yet another, more subtle part of her black-girl invisibility.
A 13-year-old just got called a slut before a national audience, and I don’t hear experts talking about how that might have harmed her self-esteem. No one is saying, “Are you okay, sweetie?” Or telling Davis that they’d understand if she were angry and not ready to forgive. Instead, the story pivots right back to her actions on behalf of the white guy. To how strong she is for carrying gross insult on her thin little shoulders.
The willingness to see black girls as preternaturally immune to hurt is not the same as calling them sluts and saying that they’re dressed for the bar. Not by a long shot.
But it’s also not nearly the same as seeing them as vulnerable young girls.
For more by O’Neal, visit wapo.st/lonnae.