In the early morning hours of September 12, 2016, several images of 4th grade Atlanta, GA teacher, Patrice “Tricey” Brown began circulating the internet causing a commotion. According to many (and most) people, she was too sexy for school and should not be wearing what some deemed “club attire” in the classroom. One mother insisted that Ms. Brown “would not be caught teaching their children.” I call BS! Let’s just keep it all the way real and get to the root of the issue. Let’s be honest and say that it’s not the children who feel any particular way about Ms. Brown, it’s the parents- specifically mothers, trolling on the internet, upset with Patrice Brown’s body.
While this is a very silly situation, we can not afford to overlook and ignore it due to the very serious implications. The jealousy and anger from many parents (many of whom aren’t even remotely close to Atlanta, GA) have led them to begin seeking ways to have Ms. Brown fired or placed on administrative leave. In reality, here’s the issue: Black women’s bodies (historically, as well in the “urban”/modern context) are policed and scrutinized simply for being whatever they are. For centuries, the bodies of Black, femme identifying people have been viewed as undesirable and their natural curves imply an element that is simply… too much: Our hair was too nappy. Our skin was too dark. Our lips were too big. Our thighs and behinds were too… much. Now, big lips, thick thighs, and big behinds have been deemed attractive – and even celebrated – but only when attached to non-Black women’s bodies. That’s crap. Even when our body parts are commodified and supposedly desired, what is natural to us and on us is still always declared unacceptable.
As a “society”/ “community” we take immense concern with the natural way Patrice’s body curves more than we’re take concern with the non-Black teachers who resemble bad breeds of Matilda, Daria & Nanny McPhee that are actually interacting sexually with their extremely young students. Worry about them. Police them. Patrice’s professionalism and ability to educate 8/9 year old children is not somehow compromised because she wears stilettos and her dresses fit her form. No matter what she wears, she is a curvy, Black woman. Therefore, her figure is going to show, and while her figure is gorgeous it is not a mate calling.
Comments on the internet are evidence of how dangerous internalized misogynoir and anti-Blackness is. The hypersexualization of Black women’s bodies must stop and if Patrice’s plight isn’t enough for people to see that, I don’t know what it’ll take.
If y’all really want to be upset about something and you insist on calling the school board, consider calling about what her salary may be. Think about Patrice’s income and benefits in relation to what is should be considering that she has to deal with parents like the ones on the internet and their children. I’m sure she, like most teachers, isn’t paid nearly enough for the crap she experiences. I’m certain that a majority of the parents who commented against Patrice on the numerous sites that exploited her, have never even stepped foot inside a PTA meeting. It’s easier to be a concerned parent online than only a daily basis, within the walls of the schools.
Patrice’s cyberbullying draws many comparisons to Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman’s experience as a Khoikhoi woman who underwent an unprecedented amount of abuse at the hands of ‘whiteness’ during the 19th century. She was the most well known of at least two Khoikhoi women who, due to their large buttocks, were apart of freak show attractions in 19th-century Europe under the name Hottentot Venus. Two centuries ago, on December 29, 1815, Sarah Baartman died after years spent in these “freak shows”. The exhibition continued, “featuring” her remains. After the show ended, her brain, skeleton and sexual organs remained on display in a Paris museum until 1974. It wasn’t until 2002 when her remains were repatriated and buried. In reality, many people don’t believe that Patrice’s outfits are inappropriate, but are actually implying that her body itself is inappropriate.
This has by far been one of the most annoying internet debates yet and the fact that so many Black women are spewing the hate is ridiculous.At the end of the day, Patrice is a beautiful, educated, Black woman and unfortunately, the deeply misogynoiristic and policing of body expression only applies to Black women. Class/social status, career aspirations, and poise don’t matter. Our community has failed yet another Black woman. Patrice was in fact “reprimanded” at her job after numerous phone calls were made to Atlanta Public Schools. It’s sad and utterly disgusting that Patrice has to experience that while she simply spent 99.9% of her time minding her own business, trying to teach our “next generation”. The principal at the school where she works released a statement stating that Patrice is being “guided” in how to dress appropriately and she is in fact not a teacher, but a paraprofessional. That also has elicited a flood of criticism with comments like “All this fuss over a bitch who isn’t even licensed or certified lol”. The Black community claims to love Black women so much, but refuses to offer them basic rights and privileges. Ms. Brown is a beautiful Black woman and that has been enough for her to be vilified by internet trolls, many of whom should be calling her “sister”.