This bears repeating: Black women are awesome. In a few weeks–actually, in a few days–if you asked someone who Antoinette Tuff is, there is a chance that the response will be, “The lone woman MC named in Kendrick Lamar’s verse,” or something else equally silly and clueless. Even though we will, we shouldn’t forget Antoinette Tuff’s name. She saved a lot of lives, including that of the person who tried to take hers. Last week, Tuff, the bookkeeper at McNair Elementary School in an Atlanta suburb, saved numerous lives by talking a gunmen out of opening fire in the school by being compassionate, empathetic, and vulnerable. She’s a hero.

There are no news cameras or morning shows camped out outside McNair School to cover what could have been the latest Newtown tragedy. Sure, Tuff has gotten some recognition, even a call from the POTUS, but I don’t think she’ll be doing the talk show circuit anytime soon. If Oprah still had a talk show, maybe we’d hear her scream “Antoinette Tuuuuuuffffffff” to call her to the stage and join other “everyday heroes.” There will be no memes circulating the internet because Tuff’s behavior did not fit into an act that could be easily fetishized to tickle the racist funny bone. Instead, I imagine, things are slowly getting back to the normal cadence of a regular school year. That is not to say that any of this should be happening. Rather, I want to point out the way in which we recognize and reward our heroes.
Because Tuff is who she is, her heroism will fade into the ether or our shoddy collective memory. There will be no parades. But hey, look on the bright side. There will also be no (hopefully):
  • Fixing of Tuff’s life with Iyana Van Zant. Tuff was able to reach Michael Brandon Hill, by talking about the difficulties she’s experienced in her life, including a divorce. I’m sure if the media delved a little more deeply into Tuff life, Iyanla would find some reason to take a trip to the A, start calling Tuff Beloved and telling her, in the kindest way ever, that she ain’t shit.
  • Sex tapes brought to you buy Russell Simmons, et. al. What happens when a black woman saves a gang of lives? Folks start making jokes about how she entrapped a white man to execute her heroic duties.
  • Hiring by Paula Deen. Tuff is a little too uppity for the Butter Queen, yes?
  • Tuff biopic. Lee Daniels’ The Bookkeeper has a ring to it. But please, no.
  • Viola Davis as Antoinette Tuff is said biopic. In the scene that garners Davis another Oscar nomination, she’s on screen, telling Hill, “You is smart, you is special, you is impo’tant.”
  • More calls from the POTUS. Can you picture it? Barack hollers again, only to put Arne Duncan on the line to asking Tuff to become a spokesperson for charter schools. She’ll become the title character in the sequel to Waiting for Superman.
All jokes aside, Tuff is a magnificent example of humanity. And there are schools across this country who benefit from folks who are like Tuff. To the students, teachers, and staff who are returning to school today, hats off. There are so many teachers and staff who accomplish heroic feats every time they step onto school grounds. They may never be properly recognized, but they are still heroes. Have a great–and safe–first day of school.