On July 15, Megan Thee Stallion revealed on Instagram that she had “suffered gunshot wounds” in both feet during an altercation on Sunday morning outside of LA’s Hollywood Hills. The 25-year-old “Hot Girl Summer” rapper cleared up initial reports that said she had cut her foot on broken glass. While Stallion did not name her perpetrator, singer Tory Lanez was in the SUV with Stallion during the incident and was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. It’s now alleged that he shot her.
As soon as the news broke, many social-media accounts, including those belonging to notable celebrities, began cracking jokes and sharing memes about the incident. 50 Cent posted a now-deleted Boyz n the Hood meme on his Instagram making fun of the scenario. Basketball Wives star Draya Michele managed to romanticize an alleged abusive relationship and joke about gun violence, saying, “I predict that they had some sort of Bobby and Whitney love that, you know, drove them down this snapped-esque type of road. And I’m here for it. I like that. I want you to like me so much that you shoot me in the foot too.” Chrissy Teigen chimed in on Twitter with a joke about Stallion that was unrelated to the incident, but still completely tone-deaf in light of the circumstances. After Twitter users called her out on it, Teigen deleted the tweet, writing, “I’ll delete because you guys are sooooo fucking annoying. Just unfollow me you absolute tools,” and locked her Twitter account.
All three celebrities have since apologized, presumably because of backlash from internet users as well as Stallion herself, who has taken to social media to call out those who made jokes and speculations at her expense after the traumatic incident.
Afterward, the rapper tweeted, “Black women are so unprotected & we hold so many things in to protect the feelings of others w/o considering our own. It might be funny to y’all on the internet and just another messy topic for you to talk about but this is my real life and I’m real life hurt and traumatized.”
Then, on Monday, Stallion opened up about the situation on Instagram Live, tearfully explaining that she was shot in both of her feet and had to get surgery, calling it the “worst experience” of her life.
“I was shot in both of my feet, and I had to get surgery to … get the bullets taken out, and it was super scary,” she explained. “Oh Lord, I didn’t think I was going to cry. I had to get surgery. It was super scary. It was just the worst experience of my life and it’s not funny, it’s nothing to joke about and nothing for y’all to go and be making fake stories about. I didn’t put my hands on nobody I didn’t deserve to get shot.”
The entire incident highlights a disturbing but extremely prevalent issue: on the internet and in the media, violence against Black women is often made light of — if it is even widely reported in the first place.
Roots drummer Questlove took to Instagram weeks after the first-reported incident, baffled the story took so long to reach his radar. “I just wanna know how come this isn’t taken in a serious matter (I’m dreading I already know the answer as I type each word) everything about this story is mad….fucked up? Hardly heard no news coverage, nothing….don’t even know @theestalllon like that but I hope she recovers & gets justice?” he wrote.
During Stallion’s Instagram Live, many Twitter users wondered if the media coverage and overall response to the incident would have taken a more serious tone if it had happened to a white woman like Kylie Jenner, who was at the party with Stallion and Lorenz before the altercation. Others, like singer Janelle Monae, mentioned the maddening number of jokes and memes that were made in light of Stallion getting shot, while some noted the fact that during her recovery, the rapper was forced to remind people the traumatizing incident is not a laughing matter.
Very recently, the meme-ification of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed by Louisville police after they executed a no-knock warrant on her apartment and shot her eight times while she sleeping, has drawn much-warranted criticism. Sincere calls for justice quickly devolved into an insensitive running joke with no substantial action attached to it. The pithy fake-out posts would start with a banal anecdote before abruptly ending with “arrest the cops that killed Breonna Taylor,” much in the fashion that a similar joke about convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein (“Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself”) did after his apparent suicide last year.
As many others have pointed out, the posts ultimately act not to celebrate Taylor’s life or advocate for real justice, but instead serve to erase her life, relegating it to the status of a tired internet punchline. Like the jokes about Stallion, they make light of the very real, brutal and traumatic violence perpetrated against Black women that often goes unnoticed, ultimately making it easier for the rest of us to brush it aside and go on with our lives.
Allyship with those who suffer from racial injustice is not a a trend, a joke or a meme. It requires sincere, proactive and sustained engagement on behalf of the individuals, organizations and media properties that claim to espouse it. And when it comes to the violence against Black women that is endemic to this country, the current status quo falls well short of that description.
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