It’s been difficult to write about Megan Thee Stallion, 25, being shot in what appears to be an act of interpersonal violence. On July 12, Megan suffered gunshot wounds to both of her feet and needed surgery to remove the bullets. During an Instagram Live stream on Tuesday, she said the experience had been “super scary.” It’s speculated that she was shot by Tory Lanez, a 27-year-old Canadian rapper, who is allegedly involved in the incident.
The online response has been twofold. Many of Megan’s fans have expressed genuine concern for the rapper’s well-being, and wanted to know what happened and who should be held accountable. Others, however, have resorted to cracking jokes and crafting memes.
“I want you to like me so much you shoot me in the foot too,” said Draya Michele, a former reality TV star, on the Wine & Weed podcast. “We’re talking about 24-year-old Meg. … I wish I was 24 and could go through this type of shit. This shit is fun.”
Chrissy Teigen, in a now-deleted tweet, said, “I have a Megan Thee Stallion joke, but it needs to be twerked on.”
Rapper 50 Cent posted a meme referring to a scene in Boyz n the Hood, where Ricky is running away from the man who fatally shoots him. In it, Tory’s face has been photoshopped over the shooter while Megan’s has been photoshopped over Ricky’s. The scene is one of the movie’s most gruesome and emotionally provocative. Ironically, and perhaps unbeknownst to the rapper, its purpose is to highlight the human cost of gun violence and how it can eradicate hope within a family.
Most of the disgraceful “humor” came from random online users who posted the ugliest things they could think to say. Transphobic insults, in a gross attempt to justify the shooting, have been made at the expense of trans women who do experience violence once their identity is revealed. One of the more prominent meme variations is: “Tory Lanez set the tone. You bitches getting shot this summer.”
As I’ve sat here trying to write this story, I’ve wondered how to make my rage about the violence inflicted upon another Black woman palatable. I’ve wrestled with how to articulate a grand argument about why Megan being shot isn’t humorous. I’ve mulled over publicly asking folks if this scenario would still be funny were it your mother, sister, or daughter instead. But you shouldn’t need beautiful prose or a personal relationship with a woman in order to respect another’s humanity.
I could rant about the data, the ugly truth that Black women experience violence at a rate disproportionate to our white peers. Or that Black women are 8 percent of the population but 22 percent of homicide victims as a result of domestic violence and 29 percent of women victimized overall. I could tell you that out of 10 Black women you know personally, four of them have been raped, beaten, stalked, or experienced some combination of the three by an intimate partner. But you shouldn’t need factoids to understand that interpersonal violence isn’t funny in any scenario. It shouldn’t be difficult to understand that violence is not a joke, nor is it a meme that allows you to perform your activism.
Black women’s humanity is often rendered invisible online. Our pain becomes the lifeline of the most prominent internet jokes. These jokes aren’t simply offensive; they have real consequences. The instinct that drives people to mock Black women online derives from the same thing that perpetuates physical violence against us in real life. The meme “Eat the cake, Anna Mae” is a reference to a scene from Tina Turner’s biopic, which details the extensive abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband Ike. The dismissive quip “Bye, Felicia,” was originally uttered by Ice Cube’s character in the 1995 film Friday. But a 2015 biopic of N.W.A. attributed the phrase to a moment when Ice Cube and his group mates humiliate a Black woman by locking her out of a hotel room without her clothing. The actual women were forgotten while their pain became a punchline.
Ultimately, I keep coming back to Megan. I hope that she is receiving the love, support, and care that she deserves. It’s unfair that she’s had to take breaks within her healing to come online and ask for privacy before returning twice more to defend herself—all because y’all think violently asserting power over a Black woman is funny.