Shaniya Davis: The Details of Her Rape and Death Emerge
I figured this was what Mario Andrette McNeill did with Shaniya Davis. He choked her to death and tried to hide the evidence of his crimes under bags of deer carcasses. No wonder he had that flicker of a smile on his face as he was being photographed and videoed. He was famous, even notorious now. No wonder he and her mother, Antoinette Davis, are separated from the jail population for their own protection. That there is honor even among thieves, so to speak, says a lot about how heinous a crime that has been committed.
I am going to say this: black people did not resist slavery in order to visit this kind of thing on our people. We saw so much and were probably reeling from so much even after slavery officially ended. And in some cases, it got worse for us. That’s exactly why our ancestors didn’t talk too much about their memories of slavery, of the days during and after Reconstruction, and of second-class wage slavery and American apartheid to their children and grandchildren; it was too painful on which to linger.
That even as a child of 10, 11 or 12, you could fall prey to a master, a master’s son or other relative, a white manager or worker. Or, to a master’s archaic ideas about multiplying his “herd” or “flock” by putting a ‘tween black girl with a fully-adult black male like horses or mules.
A girl’s feelings about who they are aren’t that well-developed, no matter how people may argue that the current culture has sexualized and desensitized children into thinking that they are mature. Now imagine a girl child of five being forcibly, wrenchingly introduced into that adult world of carnality. She’s not able to process mentally, much less physically, what in the world is happening to her. Shaniya could have sustained massive internal injuries during the rape. Had Shaniya had survived, she may not have been able to bear children. This isn’t anything new either. We have the testimonies of black women like Billie Holiday and Maya Angelou–Holiday and Angelou through autobiographies and memoirs–who were raped as baby girls. It’s just that simple–and horrifying to explain. Those stories were also meant as warnings, not just protest literature. It happened to us; it was not our fault.
Somehow, though, by not teaching and talking about this legacy–making it real beyond simply a school assignment–and by not repeating the poison of self-abnegation, we’ve got some generations who know no limits to dealing despair and cruelty to each other. So slavery too is back with a vengeance. Some 100,000 children of every color between 10-14 years old are sex slaves, some being pimped by their parents, the majority selling themselves on the street as runaways or being pimped by other adults. And there is indeed a market. We know there is, but it could be as distant from our minds like the modern slave trade in Africa. We need to agitate here so we can have some understanding of what is going on over there. A mother, who looks like a denizen from a bad dream, to sell her own daughter for some coke rocks? I thought that I had seen the last of this kind of thing in the Eighties and Nineties.
Even wearing McNeill and Davis wearing their hair in dreadlocks gives a bad name to the hair style. I don’t think Marley meant for his Rasta dreads to be imitative of dope fiends, but of released-from-mental-and-spiritual-bondage, proud-of-who-they are and lionized black people. But there they are on these two wastes of blood and semen. This too is how a legacy is obscured and misused. When I admired a brother’s dreads in New York at a subway station, he cautioned me about touching them because he considered them as nothing less than a sacrament. I had heard about people like this, but when confronted with it, I had to respect him. My curiosity could go no farther. I could not lay hands on him, or anything on his person, without his permission for whatever reason. There are limits about treating things and people that you don’t understand with disrespect, or robbing them of life.
But people like McNeill and Davis feel nothing. They look like they don’t give a flying you know what. All they feel is the rock talking through them. Antoinette in particular seems zombified. And so now, because of their own dreadful choices, they don’t even have their own lives any more because they have robbed this child of life. Did Antoinette feel nothing about the child while she was in her womb at all? What did she feel when she gave the girl to McNeill? Did she really think that she could have sanitized the girl’s absence with her father? All this because of Antoinette’s drug habit. Like I said, the bust in the summer could have been the reason why. Because the cops got his stash while McNeill was living with her sister, Antoinette must have owed him. Did he use a gun or just his physical strength against the mother in order to get “paid”?
Shaniya reminds me of my brother’s girls, my biracial nieces Tasha and her sister when they were little babies and toddlers. I can only look at their photographs as they were when they were five, and shake my head.