Between Quvenzhané and a hard place

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Never let it be said that I don’t have a sense of humor, for those who know me will attest that I can be as silly as a goose. I find laughter healing and restorative.

And yet, some attempts at comedy leave me cold, especially when the butt of the jokes are Black people – or children.

Quvenzhane-Wallis-as-Hushpuppy-Dwight-Henry-as-dad-in-Beasts-of-the-Southern-Wild, Between Quvenzhané and a hard place, Culture Currents Which brings me to the present dust-up surrounding the adorable little girl, Quvenzhané Wallis, the leading actor in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a film on Katrina-era New Orleans.

According to published reports, the satirical news journal, The Onion, referred to the child with an epithet, shall we say, which rhymes with the word “runt.” Incredible.

The Onion promptly issued its mea culpas – “our bad!” – “sorry,” but the damage is done. A child, a brilliant, beautiful little girl no less, is slapped with a word that shouldn’t exist in her 9-year-old vocabulary.

Would the (then) child actress Tatum O’Neal ever have been subjected to such a term? What of the pre-teen actress Dakota Fanning? I think not.

But in this “post-racial” era, where Black folks are fair game once more, and silenced by the shimmering spectacle of a Black family in the White House, a Black child may be slimed by the most sexist, most objectifying of terms. Misogyny in embryo.

But, don’t worry. It’s just a joke.

Can’t you take a joke?

© Copyright 2013 Mumia Abu-Jamal. Read Mumia’s latest book, “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America,” co-authored by Columbia University professor Marc Lamont Hill, available from Third World Press, Keep updated at For Mumia’s commentaries, visit For recent interviews with Mumia, visit Encourage the media to publish and broadcast Mumia’s commentaries and interviews. Send our brotha some love and light: Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI-Mahanoy, 301 Morea Road, Frackville, PA 17932.