Amber Cole and the devaluation of black girls

While many folks were committing a felony and watching the video of 14-year-old Amber Cole giving oral sex to a male while two other boys watched (and filmed), I was disturbed, but not surprised, to see the many tweets denouncing the child as a whore and as someone who deserved to be shamed.

(Editor’s note: I will not paste the video or a link to it on this website since possessing and distributing child pornography is a felony and can land your ass in jail).

Many of us have crossed passed with other Amber Coles in our lives: a young black girl with little to no self-esteem, desperate for acceptance and validation, willing to do anything to please anyone. We may have crossed paths with Amber Cole in high school. We may be married to an Amber Cole, have her as a sister or another relative or even have her as a co-worker.

I remember when I was in 9th grade and a classmate of mine was caught having sex with a guy in one of the classrooms. Shame and humiliation was immediately brought upon the girl involved, but the boy was lauded, praised or was met with ambivalence among classmates. Aside from his punishment, no one lampooned or ostracized the boy from high school society.

What I find the most troubling about the Amber Cole situation is how black folks continue to sexualize, yet scold, black girls and women while turning a blind eye from the promiscuity of black boys and men. Our community continues to regulate and control the minds and bodies of black women and girls.

The Twitter users and blogger criticizing Amber Cole have been brainwashed to believe that black female sexuality is inherently immoral and game for public scrutiny. Since black female bodies and sexuality, both young and old, continue to be publicly policed and scrutinized by both Big Media and the black community, the Amber Cole outcry and sweeping disapproval came at no surprise.

No one openly criticized the boy in the video or the two boys who decided to commit a felony and video tape the incident. No one questioned why Amber Cole would feel the need to perform oral sex in an open public space in front of a group of people. No one seem to even ponder what impact this could have on Amber Cole or other young girls who find themselves in a similar situation.

No one seemed to ponder the boy’s decision to record Amber Cole and his obvious devaluation of this girl’s personhood. I’m sure Amber Cole had no idea she was being recorded. This boy’s decision to record this sex act is indicative to his subconscious belief that somehow Amber Cole (and other girls like her) are not worthy of respect and thus fair game to humiliation and objectification.

Black girls from the time they can talk are taught contradictory messages about their bodies and their sexuality. On the one hand, we are taught by the Black Church that female sexuality (and woman herself) is inherently evil and can cause world destruction if her mind and body aren’t routinely guided by men in the right direction. On the other hand, we are compelled to believe that our self-worth and self-esteem is tied directly to pleasing and gaining approval from black men. We are taught that our bodies and our sexuality is not our own and our bodies are and should be available at the drop of a hat to any man when he wants to get his rocks off.

The advent of music videos and other forms of media that portray black women as licentious, oversexed creatures communicates to black girls and women that they, too, will get the adulation from black men if they employ these characteristics in their everyday lives. On the flip side, black women and girls are banished by her peers from social circles as a whore and slut if their hyper-sexual behavior becomes a reputation.

I saw a Madame Noire (I know, I know) article that lamented the fact that feminists organizations have yet to step in and criticize the resounding denunciation of Amber Cole’s actions. I honestly don’t expect feminist organizations, run mainly by white women, to stand up for Amber Cole as white women have been complicit and actively involved in the policing, shaming, subjugation and oppression of black women and girls for centuries. White women have benefited and will continue to benefit from policing and devaluing black female sexuality, as it affirms their white womanhood and white female sexuality as the epitome of being a woman.

It’s no surprise no one felt the need to question why Amber Cole and other girls like her feel the need to risk contracting an STD just to gain acceptance and approval from black boys. It’s no surprise that the black community rushed to judge Amber Cole for her actions. Black men and women both have been compliant and active pushers of the subjugation and devaluing of black women and girls within and outside our sphere. The black community has consistently shown its contradictions of praising the mythical strong black woman, but refusing to come to our defense when our bodies, personalities and minds come under attack and public scrutiny.

Instead of standing up for the Amber Coles in our community, black folks continue to shame and alienate these young women by promoting an unsafe space that reminds them of their second-class citizenship.