Last week in Charlotte, 16-year-old Tyesha Roberts was charged with the first-degree murder of 18-year-old Laqueda Antoinette Hall. The two had a lot in common. They were young, African-American teen mothers fighting over their baby’s father, who has yet to be identified in the press. I find it interesting that while all of the details about the young girls, their interaction with one another and the horrific details surrounding the incident are becoming known, the identity of the man at the center of the dispute, at press time, remains unknown.
As someone who works with young people, it is not lost on me that a 16-year-old has thrown her life away over some foolishness, and an 18-year-old is dead. Two children are now without mothers essentially because a man didn’t respect them enough to even use protection in this day and age.
While checking message boards, I noticed that people are divided into camps about who was wrong. Team Tyesha is saying that Hall came to Roberts’ home to fight her, so she was asking for trouble. Roberts didn’t mean to kill her, but she was defending herself from a grown woman. Team Laqueda says that even if Hall confronted Roberts, she didn’t have to stab her. After all, Hall was unarmed. Of course there was little to no mention of the “baby’s daddy.” As I read people’s reactions, I thought to myself, who cares? The lives of two young girls are gone forever — one physically from this earth and the other will possibly rot in jail for the rest of hers. What does it matter who was wrong or right?
Someone even had the nerve to suggest that the girls were both wrong for fighting over a man. She postured, “Everyone knows you’re supposed to make men fight over you.”
Therein lies the problem. There isn’t supposed to be violence from anyone in any relationship. The culture of violence in relationships is so normalized that people don’t realize how stupid they sound. We could sit here and blame the media, or violence in television, or celebrities, but I blame us. Adult behavior influences how teenagers behave.
You cannot tell me that these young girls had not witnessed women sharing and fighting over men in their young lives. It is a part of our culture. Even though this behavior is largely attributed to the black community in popular culture, baby’s daddies are all over the place. It goes beyond race and class: John Edwards, Jackie Chan, Mel Gibson, Jesse Jackson, Tom Brady and even the late senator Strom Thurmond are baby’s daddies. I merely use these high-profile examples to demonstrate how unprotected sex, man-sharing and women fighting over men permeate all parts of society. Young people witness this type of inappropriate behavior from friends, family and members of society who should behave better.
It is not surprising that a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old would be fighting over some no-good man. The fact that this “man” is not man enough to face the devastation that he helped cause speaks volumes about this person’s character. Let the two girls take the hit and be dragged through the mud, while he escapes blame and humiliation. Just to be clear, I am clear that Roberts killed Hall. But this unknown man with multiple children by multiple partners does not escape blame. We’ve seen this on talk show after talk show, where women try to destroy each other physically and verbally over some dude, while he sits there in the middle saying and doing nothing. The women are so focused on hating each other that his role in the fiasco goes unchecked.
This is what appears to have happened in this situation. Why would Hall be going over to Roberts’ house anyway to discuss the amount of time the baby’s father was spending with his child? Isn’t that the father’s job? It is his child. How did this discussion turn into a fight? Maybe Hall intended to fight Roberts all along, but over this guy — a man who clearly didn’t care enough about her to not make children with other people while clearly still dating her and who remains silent as she is buried under six feet of dirt.
Which leads me back to what I was saying: There is a culture of violence in relationships that stems from dysfunctional behavior. Most people cannot handle sharing partners. In this day and age with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV and the number of crazy people walking around, why would anyone want to be a part of that? Young girls having babies with guys to try to keep them only trap themselves. Who needs the stress of a raging baby’s mother in one’s life? I’ve never met a man worth enduring verbal and physical abuse at the hands of anyone, let alone someone he used to date. If adults don’t think more of themselves than to engage in this type of risky behavior, why would teenagers?
Again, I know that these two girls created their awful situation, but there is blame all around. If we adults don’t stop putting our hands on each other in a perverted version of love, young people won’t stop either. If we don’t stop having ridiculous relationships, young people won’t either. If we don’t stop fighting over men (or women for that matter), young people won’t either. People are not possessions. When will we learn that — and when will we teach it?
This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing, where Nsenga serves as cultural critic. She is also a regular contributor to TheRoot.com.