Veteran writer, filmmaker, activist, pilot, and mother dream hampton has been an active participant in important discourse on Twitter for some time now. But she’s always been vocal about her unease with the medium, citing its occasional distractions from real-life progress and its propensity to foster premature familiarity and inappropriate interaction. In the past, she’s gone as far as deleting her account because of those concerns.
Those who follow her know that, when she’s able to fully engage with the social media site, she’s masterful at using Twitter to facilitate healthy, useful discourse on a multiplicity of topics, from street harassment to domestic violence to international affairs.
Perhaps her most impassioned topic of Twitter conversation is her daughter, whose anonymity she has always fiercely guarded, referring to her only as “the awesome daughter.” Just yesterday, she was informing her followers of the books she’d recommended for her daughter’s summer reading. They included Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Audre Lorde’s Sister, Outsider. She proudly informed readers who offered additional selections that the awesome daughter was already conversant in bell hooks, Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Octavia Butler. Mind you, the awesome daughter is only 15. She’s also a science superstar, as hampton has informed the Twitterverse in the past. In addition, she’s cultured and becoming well-traveled, the latter trait hampton recently discussed in a column at Ebony.com.
Needless to say, dream hampton’s daughter is her pride and joy — and rightfully so. And many of her followers, who are themselves parents, greatly enjoyed hearing about the various creative bonding and educating techniques hampton uses to raise an extraordinary young woman. I can personally say, as mom to a toddler daughter, the anecdotes have truly been inspiring for me.
Despite what hampton’s disclosed about her daughter to the online community, it’s clear that she’s fiercely protective of her only child, as any high-profile mom would be. This makes what happened online yesterday, following dream and the awesome daughter’s VIP experience at one of Beyonce’s Revel shows, so unnerving.
Apparently, a Beyonce “stan” posted a picture of the singer with dream’s daughter to a Tumblr page, where commenters promptly began leaving negative comments about the teen, whose identity was initially unknown to them. dream requested that the photograph be removed. When it wasn’t, she removed herself from both Tumblr and Twitter, to the disappointment and chagrin of many of her followers.
We’re daily reminded that ignorance is everywhere. If any of us remember our middle and high school experiences, we know that unapologetic cruelty is part of humanity’s course. Someone will always divulge information that isn’t theirs to give or hone in with laser-like critical focus on a person’s physical appearance without any regard for who they could be hurting. But even armed with that knowledge, it’s still surprising when adults openly ridicule children, when they ignore the civil requests of their parents to refrain, and when they are fully aware of how hurtful they’re being.
Now, the picture is irretrievable and the damage is done. But in an effort to re-appropriate the concert photograph, which was clearly taken in a moment of unabashed joy (both Beyonce and the awesome daughter are grinning beautifully), Beyonce has posted the snapshot on her own highly publicized Tumblr account. Hopefully, her inappropriate “stans” will realize that this remarkable girl is someone of purpose and value — though it’s a shame that she’d need to re-post the girl’s picture herself to assert that.
Some dismiss Beyonce’s more radical “stans” as irrational parodies whose slavish devotion to her preempts all appeals to reason. “These Beyonce stans out here are CRAZY!” people observe with a chuckle. But behavior like this shouldn’t be excused so easily. Even Beyonce hasn’t been exempt from the kind of backlash dream hampton and her daughter experienced yesterday. When the superstar’s daughter was born, Twitter exploded with speculation about the baby’s physical appearance — some of which was truly reprehensible.
Something should be done. In an information age when celebrities are willing to engage their public and allow us access that would have been utterly impossible ten years ago, shouldn’t we all show our appreciation, for whatever openness they can afford, by being respectful of their families and keeping any criticism we may have constructive and above board?
If we don’t, we will lose our ability to interact with some of the most talented, ambitious, and intelligent minds of our generation. Like dream hampton.