A few days ago, a video emerged showing a young woman named Sharkeisha mercilessly pulverizing another young woman, Shamichael. The event may or may not have been the result of Sharkeisha’s belief that Shamichael had taken her boyfriend. Honestly, why she did it doesn’t matter. It was an unjustified attack.
I’d first seen the name when my Facebook and Instagram feeds became overwhelmed with Sharkeisha memes and commentary, but I didn’t pay it much attention because I thought it was a random parody or something like that. The name in itself made me wonder if the culture of online bullying and voyeurism had indeed, well, jumped the shark.
Before long, it became clear that this was no parody. It was something much bigger that would serve as a prime example of how tolerant we’ve become of public barbarism. We now celebrate and make insta-celebrities of out human beings who conduct themselves in the most debase manner. To my dismay, the name Sharkeisha was not being used in hyperbole. This was actually this girl’s name, and based on her conduct, it seems she was fully prepared to live up it. And the masses love her for it. No shock there.
The online responses to the video did not surprise me. Some people were entertained and others were disgusted; I was simply reminded of the numerous times in my childhood when I fell prey to people like Sharkeisha. These were people who targeted, shoved and battered me because I was a non-conforming, quirky, bookish, introspective kid who wasn’t like them. I learned early on that there’s a penalty to be paid for being different. I also learned how to be a victim and it would take years to undo the devastation to my self-esteem and self-worth.
It is our jobs as parents, community leaders, educators and social media users to take a stand. By sharing that link, creating memes and glorifying Sharkeisha, with no thought of Shamichael who was on the receiving end of her punches, we do girls like me who were brutalized a grave injustice. It reminds of the kids who rooted for me to get beat up and the adults who shook their heads in silence.
From Victim to Victorious
The bullying started at about age 5 and continued to until I was about 15 years old. I can remember being beat up by a girl I thought was my friend because some other kids coaxed her into doing it. She pummeled me with her 6-year-old fists and I cowered. I was unclear about why she was beating me and too docile and afraid to fight back. Through the years, neighborhood kids enjoyed teasing me, hitting me and even outsourced kids from other neighborhoods to come and fight me. On three separate occasions, a more subdued, but none the less Sharkeisha-styled attack was launched against me. Each time, I was left feeling bewildered about what made people have so much disdain and cruelty towards me. What was wrong with me? I was unaware of how to defend myself and hesitant to bring harm to another human being, but that would change.
At age 15, I’d had enough. A group of girls decided to follow me and another friend home from school. It was typical teenage stuff. One of their boyfriends liked me, so in retaliation the girl thought it would be a good idea to try and intimidate me and maybe rough me up bit. As they hurled insults, mocked my clothes, hair and body, I decided that I wasn’t going to be a victim anymore. Usually, I’d try to avoid the conflict, ignore the taunting and hope it didn’t escalate to physical violence. I’d always shied away from the thought of physically hurting someone, but this time I welcomed it, because it was clear no one was flinching at the thought of hurting me. The girl went to attack me, much like Sharkeisha attacked that young woman and I fought back with such force that I broke her nose, blacked her eyes and removed a chunk of hair from her scalp. Look who’s the brutal one now?