Megan thee Stallion: a Cautionary Tale for Young Black Women

So, Megan thee Stallion revealed this week that yes, it was Tory Lanez who shot her last month, and the internet has gone absolutely wild. I’ve been watching this story for weeks now, and I hate to say it, but I predicted this would happen. I knew she was going to eventually spill the tea, and why: She realized that trying to help others would actually and actively hurt her.

Meg laughed a little in her “tell all” live Instagram video, but there were also some tears in her voice at one point. She’s hurt. She has been hurt physically, and she is hurting mentally and emotionally. I suspect she just internalized a painful lesson that almost all Black women have to learn eventually: You have to protect yourself. You cannot count on anyone else to do it for you.

I am so grateful that I didn’t grow up with social media. Young people really seem to have a problem with it as far as separating what people say about them with their internal feels of value and worth. Of course, while I can take or leave most of the stuff I see online, I also don’t have millions of followers. Nor is the world making memes about me after a traumatizing incident. I feel like I’d shake it off, but who knows?

I believe Megan when she says that she didn’t tell the police what happened immediately because she was scared, and why she was scared is very, very important to acknowledge. This young woman, who had just been shot and was by her own admission still bleeding when police arrived — with a helicopter, thank you very much — believed that her life could be in danger from the police, and she was not wrong. Or is someone planning to deny that the police have a consistent tendency to shoot black people first and ask questions later? This entire situation could have been far, far worse if she had not been circumspect in what she said at that moment.

I also believe her when she says that she kept her peace because she didn’t want to cause problems for the people with her, including Lanez. It’s a shame that her reticence does not appear to have been reciprocated. It’s terrible that we live in a culture that, I think, drove this young woman to reveal herself in this graphic way. She’s been the butt of jokes for weeks on end, and recent record breaking accomplishments with her new single “WAP” have been tainted by the shooting incident that she is probably still recovering from.

There’s two lessons here:

One, be careful who you keep company with. She seems to have done the right thing in the moment: She got out of the car when an argument escalated. She wasn’t violent toward anyone, but she shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Sometimes we have to learn lessons the hard way. It’s part of being young. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be smart out here. Keeping company with volatile people who illegally carry guns? People who not only carry them, but deliberately point them in your direction? That’s a big old no no.

Two, never let social media influence your behavior. I believe Megan ultimately told what happened not because she was compelled to set the record straight out of any civic-minded feelings about right or wrong. She told her truth because she’s trying to defend her character. She’s been under attack, and she’s tired of it.

But now her image is really going to suffer. She has lost control of public perception, and it likely will cost her financially and myriad other ways. And now, having knuckled under to social media pressure, she’s opened up several additional cans of legal and financial drama that are going to haunt her for some time to come. If the police are running true to form, she can expect to be slapped with all sorts of charges for quietly trying to live and let live.

Earlier I mentioned that Meg learned a hurtful lesson that almost all Black women eventually learn: That you have to protect yourself because you can’t depend on anyone else to do it for you. There’s several things to unpack there.

Black women have always been hyper sexualized by society. Megan even more so because she’s embraced that stereotype in her music and career. There’s a serious downside to that. When something bad happens to a Black woman, sympathy, empathy, these are in short supply because you somehow become the reason why it happened. Whether you are at fault or not, there is no expectation of goodness for you. There is no automatic virtue attached to a Black woman the way it is to a white woman. So, the fall out is exponentially worse. That’s part of the reason why the gossip-hungry public was so quick to basically turn her trauma into a meme.

It reminds me of this article I saw earlier this week. New research from Princeton revealed that people consistently perceive poorer individuals as more “hardened” to life due to their assumed prior challenges, and therefore they are emotionally “thicker skinned.” The belief persists across Black, white, Asian, and Latino groups. There’s more to it, of course, but the connection to Megan is the Black bodies, and the perception of being hardened and therefore having thicker skin. Meaning, you’re not hurt, and if you are, you can take it. There’s no need to coddle you or treat you gently.

Dig into it. Ideas like these are the reason for many health disparities that negatively impact Black people in general, and Black women in particular. Forced or unnecessary sterilizations, medical experimentation, it’s deep, and those beliefs still exist today, believe it or not. There are healthcare professionals — and many other people outside that industry — who actually believe that Black people are less susceptible to pain, and it carries into how we’re treated not just in healthcare scenarios but in almost every area of life.

Black women, please protect yourselves. You must be your own advocate and always consider your personal and professional safety. You must guard and control your image. That means you can’t allow pressures from social media to influence your behavior in ways that may hurt you. That definitely means that you have to be smart about who you engage with. They may not shoot you physically, but they can still put huge holes in your spirit, not to mention your personal and professional capital.

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