One of the two teens involved in Leigh Anne Tuohy’s recent social media stunt has spoken out on Instagram (his name has been blurred out for privacy):
Person One a.k.a. Teen Leigh Anne Tuohy approached at KFC:
Yeah people don’t know what really happened because I actually had money I have a job and have had one for over a year I was gonna pay for my brother the other guy in the picture but he was insisting on waiting on his uncle but his phone was dying so we were charging it which is the reason we were in KFC in the first place.and the game was only a 3 min walk up the street I don’t see why she said bus fare that kinda ticked me off a little but the way she worded it is making us sound less fortunate and that isn’t the case at all & when she came over to us she never mentioned her initial reason was because of her friends comment im just now finding that out
May I ask how she asked for the photo?
Yeah she never actually asked for it as she was handing us the money she was like “hey you know what I think this would be a great picture” and everyone with her was yeah totally so we just kinda went along with the situation like sure why not your Michael Oher’s mom but the whole time I was thinking you know why’d she come up to us in the first place I was still clueless up until she posted the picture on social media and stated “the person with me said I bet they’re up to no good.”
I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a Black teenager, especially a boy, just trying to exist in a public space. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to constantly wonder what white people might find threatening about you, and try to adjust your appearance and behaviour accordingly. There’s no right answer, of course — there’s no actual magic formula that Black people can apply in order to not trigger a racist reaction from a white person. It’s like trying to hit a moving target — once you think you’ve got things figured out, the Earth shifts again under you and you have to add yet another must-not-do to the extensive you already have. Ijeoma Oluo recently catalogued 25 things Black People Shouldn’t Do Around Cops, and I know that this list is by no means exhaustive (nor does it just apply to cops). It seems like every day there’s something new to add to it — apparently the most recent one is “don’t charge your cell phone in KFC.”
For anyone defending Leigh Anne Tuohy, I want you to consider how absolutely mortifying this must be for those kids. Think about what it would be like to have some white woman come up and pepper you with questions about who and what you are while you’re just sitting there trying to mind your own damn business, and then think about what it would be like to wake up the next day to find your picture being used by a quasi-celebrity as some kind of race parable. Not only that, but in the picture you are being misrepresented – instead of a middle class kid trying to charge his phone, you’re a have-not case, taking charity bus fare to get to a basketball game. And now think about all the comments you get to read from racist white folks making assumptions about where you got your necklace from and why you were loitering in a KFC in the first place and you were probably just going to use that money to buy drugs like every other Black kid and look, honey, here’s a perfect example of what’s wrong with Black people today, they’re always hanging around wanting hand-outs.
All of this because you dared to be Black in public.
In response to all of the uproar, Tuohy took the haters-gonna-hate route and shared the following image on Instagram:
I’m not here to disagree with any great Greek philosophers or anything, but I’m willing to bet that even Aristotle would have a few words to say about the value of criticism. Criticism isn’t fun, but it’s what helps us grow and learn — it challenges us to change our perspective and be better people. I’m not saying that all criticism is valid, and of course it can be challenging to figure out how to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to people calling you out, but it’s incredibly vital that we learn how to do so. In this case, I would really encourage Leigh Anne Tuohy to take a hot second a listen to all of the Black people explaining why her actions and words have been hurtful. Because if your end goal is racial equality, then a good starting point is treating People of Colour as equals who deserve to be heard and not just objects in need of your gracious white help.