Protecting Black Girl Genius
Last year was a fabulous 12 months for black girls if your name was Taylor Townsend, Gabby Douglas or Quvenzhané Wallis, but it wasn't without its setbacks, writes Salamishah Tillet at the Feminist Wire.
2012 was the year of black girl prodigy: tennis sensation Taylor Townsend, two-time gold medal Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglass, and the wunderkind Wallis. And yet, in each case – on the hard courts, red carpet or in red leotard – their talent has been publicly ridiculed or in the case of Townsend, rejected away.
Historically, the term prodigy has been so racially coded as white and sexually coded as male that there are almost no black girls to which the public has applied this term. We've only very recently with "the celebrations of Nobel Prize Laureate Toni Morrison," writes Columbia professor Farah Griffin's in her book on Billie Holiday, "grant[ed] black women the title genius."
In fact, as Griffin argues in If You Can't Be Free, Be A Mystery, black women and by default black girls have been thought of as "incapable of possessing genius." Instead, they emerged as the ultimate icons of hyper-sexuality and social invisibility and their achievements as "the very opposite of intellectual achievement."
Read Salamishah Tillet's entire article at the Feminist Wire.
The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.