In Cleveland, Texas, about 45 miles northeast of Houston, a video of an 11 year old girl being gang raped by at least 18 young men and boys (and perhaps as many as 28), ranging from ages 17-27, surfaced months after the incident occurred over Thanksgiving school holidays. Charges were filed and arrests were made when a video of the event surfaced and a friend of the child reported it to the school district and police department.
Some in the community and beyond have speculated that the young girl voluntarily committed sexual acts with the men and boys and as such, she alone should be taken to task for her actions. Some claim that this eleven year old girl was promiscuous, dressed as a mature woman and invited the attack by going to an abandoned trailer home alone, with a nineteen year old boy who made his intentions clear.
The accused men and boys include the son of a school board member and star high school athletes. As such, emotions in the community run high because the stakes are high. Each charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14 is a felony, punishable by 99 years in prison. Racial tensions are also elevated because all persons arrested in the case are black, while some community leaders insist that all the perpetrators in the video are not.
Even as the justice system sorts out this case, one thing is crystal clear. An eleven year old girl is incapable of making an informed decision about her sexuality, her appearance and her demeanor among men. Those are decisions that a child relies upon her family and community to make for her. The self esteem required to steer a young woman past the pitfalls of premature sexuality begins at home and is fostered by a community that bands together to keep children from falling prey to rapists and opportunistic scumbags.
In Waco, Texas, a controversy brews over the opening of a neighborhood restaurant called Fat Ho Burgers. It is commonly understood that “ho” is slang for the word “whore.” Owned by a young black woman, LaKita Evans, the menu at Fat Ho Burgers is rumored to include such items as Little Ho meals for children. While Ms. Evans enjoys living in a country where she is free to name her business as she pleases, she misses the connection between the image she projects and the image that is perceived. What she feels is a clever marketing strategy and fun word play is actually a serious indictment on black children and on women of any color.
Just like the words and images emanating from some contemporary music and the accompanying videos, the daily messages children receive from their environment shape their minds, hopes and dreams for themselves. If a young girl is repeatedly called a “ho” in music lyrics, by people she encounters and even on a restaurant door, who is she to think that she is really not a “ho?”
Perhaps the most disturbing piece of the Waco story is the silence of the black community. As yet, no pastor or community leader has stepped up to offer assistance to LaKita Evans to help her turn her business skills toward uplifting her community rather than contributing to its ruin. On KWTX’s morning radio show, Commissioner Lester Gibson admitted that he would not want to take his young grandchildren to eat a Fat Ho Burger, but backpedaled when asked what he thought the name of the restaurant meant. Gibson further insulted the intelligence of the listeners by suggesting the owner may have been referring to the “Ho Ho Ho” laughter of Santa Claus, a garden tool (hoe) or Ho Chi Minh City.
Unfortunately, the silence of the black community in Waco merely sets the stage for another child to face what the 11 year old girl in Cleveland is facing. If another child is gang raped, we must all face accountability for being a part of that gang.