In July of 2020, Megan Thee Stallion suffered gunshot wounds after a gun was fired at her feet while leaving a Hollywood Hills party. Almost immediately there was public speculation about whether or not the rapper was telling the truth about her injuries, in part because she initially told police she had stepped on broken glass. She later said in an interview with Gayle King that she was scared to tell the police what really happened, stating, “... I didn't want them to kill any of us or shoot any of us, so I just said I stepped on glass.” But even after sharing photos of her gunshot wound, the Grammy-winning rapper continued to be labeled a liar in the media.
This past November, almost two years after the incident, The Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium penned an open letter of support to Megan. The letter was signed by several influential women such as Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson, and MeToo Movement founder Tarana Burke, to name a few. It serves as an apology to Megan for the rampant misogynoir (the unique intersection of misogyny and racism that Black women experience) and public vitriol she continues to face since the shooting, and an acknowledgement that we as a society have failed her and all Black women. Even after a public outcry for racial justice following the murders of Black women like Atatiana Jefferson and Breonna Taylor, Megan Thee Stallion’s shooting and the fallout since are a harsh reminder for Black women that our country's institutions were not built to protect them. Just a few months after she was shot, Megan penned an emotional essay for The New York Times titled “Why I Speak Up for Black Women.” In the essay she briefly addressed the incident, but mostly spoke about the way this country unfairly treats Black women, “Even as a victim, I have been met with skepticism and judgment. The way people have publicly questioned and debated whether I played a role in my own violent assault proves that my fears about discussing what happened were, unfortunately, warranted.”
Thank you to @blackgirlsdream and all the signers of the letter to support our founder Megan Pete and women around the globe. pic.twitter.com/HtnC6TX2ms— Pete and Thomas Foundation (@petethomasfdn) November 10, 2022
Now that the trial has begun, there has been a resurgence of public doubt and criticism cast at Megan. Drake’s latest project includes a lyric presumably referencing Meg and claiming she lied about getting shot. Even more recently, Rapper 50 Cent tweeted a meme comparing Meg to Jussie Smollett, who was infamously found guilty of faking a racist and homophobic attack. In relation to Meg’s shooting, fellow artist Tory Lanez, whose real name is Daystar Peterson, is facing charges of assault with a semiautomatic handgun, discharging a firearm with gross negligence, and possessing a loaded, unregistered firearm in a vehicle. Peterson has pleaded not guilty and denies ever shooting Meg. If he is convicted, he could face up to 23 years in prison. It is a complicated, messy trial, and it seems just about everyone has already made their mind up about what happened, one way or the other. But what we do know is that Megan Thee Stallion was shot. It is not an opinion to be debated, or a piece of juicy tabloid gossip, or a lie. But a lot of the conversations surrounding the now infamous July 2020 incident frame it as such.
Let’s be very clear about who and what is on trial here - it is not the woman who was a victim of a shooting, and the fact that the validity of her experience has been the main talking point surrounding this trial is, frankly, disturbing. It is a prime example of how women aren’t believed when they speak up about their abuse. Rather, women and their pain are turned into a spectacle. There are several societal failings that lead to a Black woman’s trauma being questioned so haphazardly. Literally every detail of the incident Megan has chosen to speak about has been dissected and examined under a cruel and metaphorical microscope, and for what? Why can’t we as a society take this Black woman’s pain seriously? Why can’t we give her the respect, nurturing, and protection she needs and deserves after experiencing an act of violence? Why is a woman sharing her pain and trauma met with such unwavering apathy and disregard by the court of public opinion?
Despite all of the memes, public hypothesizing, and attempts to discredit her, Megan has made a point of using her platform to keep the importance of protecting Black women at the front of the narrative. During her Saturday Night Live performance in October of 2020, she included a powerful call to, “protect our Black women,” with the same statement on the wall behind her as the set design for her performance. She has and continues to demonstrate an incredible amount of bravery and poise in the face of so much hate. She should not have to.
As we await a final verdict for the trial, we must all reflect on the way our culture treats violence against women, and especially Black women. When we’d sooner make a meme about a woman’s trauma than a call to action, something is rotten. This feels like one of those major pop culture moments that we will look back on and cringe at our collective apathy–so let’s try to do something about it now instead. Positive action can be as simple as believing the Black women and girls in your life when they tell you something happened to them. Seek out local resources and organizations for Black women in your own community and ask them what you can do to help, like making a donation. Organizations dedicated to uplifting, protecting, and nurturing Black women–especially Black women facing domestic violence–like the Southern Black Girls and Women’s Consortium, the National Black Women’s Justice Institute, the Loveland Foundation, The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community (Ujima), The Safe Sisters Circle, and more could do great things with your support.
Top photo: screenshot from October 3rd, 2020 "SNL" performance on YouTube
Zoë is a writer and journalist from Minnesota currently based in Chicago. In her free time she likes to watch TV but she usually lies and says her favorite hobby is reading. She is working towards a career that combines her passion for comedy and journalism to create a more informed and equitable world.