This election season, and for the past year, most politicians have not served my interest. As a seasoned organizer, I’ve stepped out of the political arena to focus more on serving my community in more direct ways than the current political culture allows. I’ve stopped donating, I’ve stopped volunteering and I’ve stopped listening to most politicians.
So with that amount of dissatisfaction with the current political milieu, I was thrilled about the cute narrative being pushed on Twitter, and by major media outlets, of black women deciding the Alabama election. I felt empowered, for a quick minute, that possibly my interests could actually be better addressed in Washington. I was hopeful that the needs of people, like me, would be recognized and defined by more than just our ballot.
I was hopeful that my concerns as a black woman, such as the decline of black business owners throughout major metropolitan areas, could possibly be addressed. That particular concern, just important as not letting the Senate run rampant with sexual impropriety, is a concern not just for black women, but America as a whole.
Yet, as always, America and the media only love us for one thing: our collective rubber stamp on the Democratic Party. If you're not rubber stamping their party, you’ll be vilified and labelled angry, combative and incompetent.
Enter Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit.
The media’s quick and dismissive caricature of a black women as angry and irrelevant is consistently the favored narrative. Although others have left the White House as well, Omarosa hasn’t made the friends that would help her secure a graceful exit as the White House regroups their efforts to find the right fit for their administration.
The media swept in on her vulnerabilities and picked her reputation clean off. In particular, The Wall Street Journal had no problem naming an unknown source saying Omarosa was “physically dragged” and “cursing.” Their unnamed source’s quote was then repeated at outlet after outlet, such as Vanity Fair, People Magazine and even UK-based paper, the Daily Mail.
The American Advertising Federation's (AAF) Mosaic Center for Multiculturalism, and the historically black sorority Zeta Phi Beta, recently published research on the media’s portrayal of black women, and it wasn’t pretty. It laid out that the "angry black woman" stereotype is projected by the media, and outlined what just happened to Omarosa. Their report said that 67 percent of Caucasian and African-American female millennials believe African-American women are portrayed negatively in the media.
Their report outlined that our society is still incredibly segregated, and the media's depiction of black people is sometimes the only depiction that other races have ever had of the African-American race. I’m calling the media out for continually contributing to this negative perception. The report by AAF demonstrated the harmful impact that the media plays to society at large by over-vilifying black people. Their study demonstrated that this continual vilification of blacks in the media impacted non-blacks perceptions of blacks in reality.
The study was first introduced at the Congressional Black Caucus' (CBC) 47th Annual Conference this year. The study’s legislative recommendation was to support the Healthy Media Act from 2010. None of the Democratic representatives, or the lone Republican Mia Love, from the CBC have stepped up to address this issue and re-introduce this act.
Our black legislators don’t get a free pass, and neither does the Democratic Party. Yes, African-Americans voted in full-force in Alabama, but it wasn’t because of Doug Jones. It was a vote against Roy Moore. I, and many of the black activists that I have talked to across the country, recognize what is going on. The voting in Alabama exemplifies it. Omarosa being bashed is a symptom of it.
The next story that the media publishes vilifying black people, I hope the readers of this piece take a pause and evaluate why you are drawn into this. Next election, I hope you expect more than a vote against abuse, but a vote for elevating our country’s collective values, communities and economic prosperity.
In the end, let’s all recognize why the press was so quick to disparage a black woman. Our 15-minutes of fame for saving the country from Roy Moore couldn’t end soon enough. It’s back to relegating us as the angry women who just couldn’t handle the heat.