By now we’ve all seen the viral video–a woman named Danielle with her scared kids clinging to her while interviewed by CNN reporter, Rosa Flores. Cold, disheveled, and utterly traumatized, Danielle’s composure finally breaks when the reporter asks her to recount dragging her kids through rushing floodwaters to save them. She lashes out. “People are really breaking down and y’all sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the fuck is wrong with us!” She went on: “And you really trying to understand with the microphone still in my face! With me shivering cold, with my kids wet! And you’re still putting a microphone in my face!”
As someone who was personally impacted by Hurricane Katrina, I recognized those familiar survivors’ tics–the wild eyes, the trembling from fear and cold, the disorientation, frustration and sheer amazement of still being alive. Before she had even said a word on camera, I knew this poor woman was in no condition to be giving live interviews. This woman and her kids had just survived possibly the most terrifying event of their lives. What we witnessed was raw and unfiltered human emotion spilling over after trauma. You’d think that her reaction would be met by understanding and compassion, but she’s a black woman, so nope. She doesn’t get to be human. She doesn’t get to process her trauma. She has to perform respectability.
Social media was merciless.
Here’s a snippet from Facebook:
And a couple on Youtube:
I defended Danielle on social media. One guy couldn’t get enough of criticizing her. “Show me someone else that displayed that behavior and I’ll hush mouth,” he said.
Too easy, I said. The entire Trump Administration, for example was filled with people paid to answer tough questions from the media who threw tantrums by either hiding in the bushes, or going on profanity-filled tirades. And this was just at a regular day at work. No life-threatening floodwaters threatening to snatch the lives of your children. And who can forget when Cheeto Jesus himself said that he could grab women by the pussy, and still get elected to the presidency?
When mediocre white men have meltdowns over regular ass shit, they get elected president. When black women who have literally been through the flood and fire, crack under the pressure of seeing their lives flash before their eyes, they get called ungrateful, ignorant, and selfish. Oftentimes (as was the case in some of the most vicious insults) it’s black men holding black women to such impossible standards.
Even in the midst of category 4 hurricanes we are expected to be scared, but deferential–traumatized, but gracious. No one has time to perform all of these unrealistic emotions for you so that “they” can see our humanity. The truth is, Danielle knew in that moment that CNN wasn’t really interested in her as a human being. They were interested in capturing her pain as a vehicle for ratings. But as always, there are people who insist that no matter how cold, wet, scared, and traumatized she was, she should have put on a happy, dignified face for the cameras.
It’s hard enough to be a black woman in general, but being asked to be one on camera on the worst day of your life so that strangers can pick you apart is trash. I hope that Danielle and her family are on the road to recovery. No thanks to the people who are high and dry playing respectability politics on social media, though.