Darnella Frazier’s Heroism And Ma’Khia Bryant’s Danger Are The Same Old Narratives Placed On Many Black Girls
Frazier is receiving critical acclaim for her courage while Bryant is receiving criticism.
April 25, 2021 at 11:33 pm
Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity's.
Last week, two different Black girls’ names flooded the media for two different reasons. And although the reasons were not the same, they’re indeed related.
Immediately following the verdict of Derek Chauvin’s case, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier was hailed across news and social media platforms for her bravery during the final moments of George Floyd’s life.
A high school student at the time of Floyd’s murder, Frazier thought to pull out her phone and record the entire scene.
CNN reported that Floyd’s aunt, Angela Harrellson said, "The sad thing is if it hadn't been for that 17-year-old girl, Darnella, it would have been another Black man that was killed by the police … and they would have said, 'Oh, it was drugs, oh it was this.’”
On Twitter, several notable Black women expressed their praise for Frazier’s bravery.
Political analyst, Yamiche Alcindor, tweeted about Frazier’s testimony at the bench, mentioning there are nights she stays up “apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more.”
Former advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, recognized her “strength and composure” during those excruciating 9 minutes and 29 seconds Chauvin’s knee weighed down on George Floyd’s neck.
Even Oprah expressed her gratitude toward Frazier.
Meanwhile, amid the appreciation for one Black girl, another Black girl, approximately an 11-hour drive away from Minneapolis, surfaced on the internet.
16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant lay dead on the concrete in front of her foster home in Columbus, Ohio, after being shot multiple times by a Columbus police officer.
These two Black girls’ stories so clearly depict the irony of Black girlhood and womanhood in these so-called United States of America.
Adultification bias is present in both of these instances. Monique Morris, author of Pushout, defines adultification bias as an age compression that erases normal adolescent behavior and heightens our propensity to respond to young people as if they’re fully developed adults.
Darnella Frazier should not have been the savior in the case of Derek Chauvin, and Ma’Khia Bryant should not have been a martyr less than 24 hours after the verdict in the murder case of another Black life.
Frazier is receiving critical acclaim while Bryant is receiving criticism.
Black women and girls are often looked at to protect and save everyone in their community and beyond. However, when it comes to the harm done to Black women and girls, who steps in to protect and save them?
In the released bodycam footage, Bryant held a knife in her hand, prepared to protect herself from harm. But she had already been deemed as a threat across social media — as someone who deserved to die.
Simultaneously, folks were moved to exalt Frazier for her valiant act, while others were moved to lift up Ma’Kiah’s life as one that mattered, despite her circumstance.
Those criticizing Bryant in her death are choosing to ignore the fact that she was a child — ignoring the fact that she was responding to potential danger and harm from a system that had failed her, like so many other Black girls in this country.
Rutgers professor Brittney Cooper wrote in her book, Eloquent Rage, that "we live in a nation that does everything to induce our rage, while simultaneously doing everything to deny that we have a right to feel it. American democracy is as much a project of suppressing Black rage as it is of legitimizing and elevating white rage. American democracy uses calls for civility, equality, liberty and justice as smokescreens to obscure all the ways in which Black folks are treated uncivilly, unequally, illiberally and unjustly as a matter of course.”
In Frazier's case, the fact that we even have to celebrate her for the decision to act heroically during such a traumatic experience speaks volumes to how Black women and girls are seen. But we continue to collectively lift her up for using what she had at the moment to bring some form of justice, and to do what so many Black women and girls are expected to do — save the day.
And at the end of the day, the reality is that both Black girls were using what they had to protect themselves. Because if not them, then who?