Washington Post op-ed declares ‘America hates to let Black women speak’
An op-ed published by The Washington Post raised eyebrows among some critics on Thursday declaring in the headline, “America hates to let Black women speak,” following the vice presidential debate.
Washington Post Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah began her piece by saying Sen. Kamala Harris had to “break glass ceilings while walking on a tightrope” at Wednesday night’s debate, calling the plexiglass that separated Harris from Vice President Mike Pence an “onstage reminder of the barriers that non-White women face when vying for political power in this country.”
“The stakes felt high Wednesday night in what was already a consequential campaign, and not just because President Trump recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Harris had to perform a delicate balancing act, one tasked to women of color especially,” Attiah wrote. “We have to be prepared, but not sound clinical. We need to be likable. We must appear experienced, yet humble. Black women in particular need to be a little ‘sassy,’ but not too aggressive, lest we are not seen as feminine. Black women especially have to be seen to be tough, but we aren’t allowed to be angry, even if our anger is justified in a country that too often silences us.”
Attiah said it was “striking just how hard Harris had to fight to be heard” on the debate stage, citing Pence’s reported 16 interruptions compared to her nine instances throughout the night. She then accused debate moderator Susan Page of allowing Pence to “blow through his allotted time but cut into Harris’s time to speak,” calling it “distressing and insidious.”
“For Black women, this was, in prime time, like watching Whiteness and the patriarchy at work. Pence’s interruptions of Page and the way he plowed through her attempts to silence him showed his disrespect for her. But the way Page more aggressively tried to limit Harris’s time was all too familiar in how White women can also be complicit in silencing Black women,” the Post writer explained. “Americans love to make empowering memes and sound bites showing powerful Black women fighting to reclaim their time, and yet time and space are sometimes the last thing America wants to wants us to have, even when we play by the rules.”
She continued, “Harris pushed back at both Page and Pence, and tenaciously fought to make her case for a Biden presidency. Harris made walking that tightrope look easy. But I wish Black women didn’t have to work so hard. I yearn for an America where non-White women don’t have to battle for the bare minimum: to be allowed to speak.”
Critics on the right slammed the op-ed on social media.
“That’s absurd. We don’t care about the color,” radio host Jesse Kelly reacted.
“So this must be why Oprah Winfrey had the most successful TV talk show in American history,” Washington Free Beacon contributor Noah Pollak wrote.
“But I thought the plexiglass was a demand from the Harris campaign to keep her from getting coronavirus from Pence (even though he’s tested negative for at least a week now),” NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck pointed out.
“They literally spoke the same amount of time,” radio host Dana Loesch replied, citing a report showing Pence had just three seconds in speaking time over Harris.
“If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that making declarations about what ‘America’ hates or loves is obviously sophistry – we’re a big country with lots of people who all have complicated, messy points of view,” First Watch media critic Steve Krakauer concluded.
Other members of the media suggested that Harris was at a disadvantage because of her gender.
“We’re so used to seeing White men, but definitely men on the stage when it comes to being on the ticket,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper said. “Senator Harris is only the [fourth] woman to be on the ticket… And I wonder if a woman candidate feels like she can’t push as much or steamroll as much as say Mike Pence can for fear of seeming and offending some segment of the electorate. I’m not saying it should be that way but I’m wondering if it is that way.
ABC News anchor George Stephanopolous went even further, accusing Pence of “mansplaining” Harris, which got pushback from his female panelists.
“I don’t know. I didn’t see it that way, George. I didn’t come across to me,” former Bush administration official Sara Fagen told Stephanopolous. “I do think that he should have stopped talking a little quicker, but I don’t think he was disrespectful of either woman.”
“When I hear people say- talk about mansplaining and talk about these things with Kamala Harris and ‘a man shouldn’t interrupt her and it’s going to look bad’… Kamala Harris is a vice-presidential candidate. She should be able to stand up for herself,” ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz similarly said. “Yes, it’s history-making. Yes, you can talk about her history and who she is and she’s a woman of color there but a man can interrupt another vice presidential candidate. It is up to that candidate to talk back, to interrupt themselves, or to hold on to that debate in any way they could.”