Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane. I’m from Virginia. More specifically, the eastern part of the state known as Tidewater or colloquially Hampton Roads. I tend to claim the entire region as home more than a single city. I was raised and lived most of my life in Virginia Beach. I’m from, where my parents lived upon my birth, the city of Norfolk. However, the actual place of my birth, where I was physically born was in Portsmouth.
Portsmouth is a bit of a curious city. It’s pre-history is quite the story. Goes back to one of our state’s earliest settlers, Nathaniel Bacon, who was in a dispute with the loyalist governor, William Berkeley, because he ruled against the settlers in a dispute with local Indian tribes. He, along with hundreds of other settlers from Tidewater took up arms against the governor and lead a revolt known to history as Bacon’s Rebellion, which Thomas Jefferson considers a prelude to the American Revolution itself. In it’s aftermath, one of Bacon’s lieutenants, a landowner named William Carver, was arrested and hanged. Years later, the land he owned was given to local politician, William Craford, who had it surveyed and convinced the General Assembly to establish the city as Portsmouth, Virginia.
That’s it’s pre-history. The modern history is no less rambunctious. Small, with a tightly compact population, Portsmouth is notable in the region for the urban decay. Growing up, the city was known for it’s high crime, rampant poverty and political dysfunction. However, over the last few years, much of that has changed. Businesses have slowly been coming back, crime(or the reputation of it) has receded, and this has come with a new brand of political leaders as well. Among them is the city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Stephanie Morales.
Stephanie is a Hampton Roads native. She graduated from Norfolk State University and attended William & Mary for law school. Initially elected in 2015, Stephanie gained prominence in 2016 when she prosecuted a white police officer for killing a black man, which was only the 5th time there was such a prosecution of over 10,000 such shootings in the last 10 years. And this should have been her story. An enterprising Commonwealth’s Attorney daring to make Black Lives Matter in a field where it’s typically seen that they matter less.
Unfortunately, this week has seen many across Portsmouth call for her to be recalled from office. Why? Prosecutorial misconduct? No. Corruption or abuse of power? No. Believe it or not, her egregious error was to be in a rap video. Yes, she is being shamed and pressed to be removed from her office because she decided to support her kid’s interest in music production and get her family involved in making a video. The video itself could be described anywhere from, at worse, cheesy to light-hearted fun and even creatively entertaining. Looking at the video myself, there’s a interlude where Stephanie raps to a beat. Another where she and her husband dance together, in what could just as easily be a ballroom waltz. The rest of the video is of her husband and kids enjoying the summer weather.
There is absolutely nothing threatening, sensational or otherwise salacious about the video or her behavior in it. Yet, there have been segments of the community that has saw fit to question her ability to be a role model to her kids and other kids who see her in a (gasp, clutch my pearls) rap video(oh dear heavens!!!!). And, yes, there are others who are attempting to have her removed from office for it.
Now, far be it for me to tell anyone who should or should not be their role model. But Stephanie Morales is one of the more impressive persons I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Not only does she has a delightful personality, but she’s CLEARLY dedicated to her job and to her community. More than that, she has a beautiful family, which is the one thing that is visibly shown in the video, but as evident of the video itself, she cares about her family and supporting her children, which is exactly what we ask of our mothers. But when that mother is also a city’s top law enforcement officer barely into her 30’s, there’s is nothing but commendation she should be given.
Nevermind her kids, Stephanie Morales is MY role model. And I’m older than she is.
The real debate should be whether or not she has bars. Not whether she should be behind bars. Or anything remotely close to it. But to question her sincerity, dedication, motherhood and womanhood because she danced in a video is, well, let’s call it what it actually is: slut-shaming. People are trying to censor and harass and demean her for doing nothing more than what we’ve all watched local police do dozens of time through the summer with their lip-synch challenge videos, singing and dancing in recorded videos. But when Stephanie Morales does a video with her family she’s somehow worse than they are? A nation full of police can sing and dance in rap, rock, pop, country, grunge and folk music, but somehow it’s not okay for a dark-skinned black woman to do the exact same thing with her family? Because you know if this was Stephen Morales instead of Stephanie Morales, no one would care.
The blatant reactionary hypocrisy is only out matched by the dogged yet imbecilic sexism.
There has been a lot of wrong in the history of Portsmouth, Virginia. Hopefully, one of these days, years, decades or centuries, we’ll learn to appreciate when our local leaders that are just right as they are.