Posted on

Singled Out: Black Women Journalists in the Age of Trump

The general point that Donald Trump dislikes the media isn’t lost on anyone. Whether he’s caterwauling about “fake news” or tweeting that the media is the “enemy of the American people,” Trump’s contempt for the fourth estate has been well-documented. What is often lost in that shuffle is the way that black women journalists have been particularly targeted for marginalization or demotion in the age of Trump. Three black women journalists in particular have been casualties of Donald Trump’s caustic attitude towards the media. Tamron Hall, April Ryan, and Jemele Hill have all been directly or indirectly professionally impacted by his hostility towards the media.

Of the three women, Tamron Hall’s Trump-influenced career woes are probably the least obvious to the casual observer. A 10-year veteran of the Today Show, Hall parted ways with NBC in February of this year after the network hired former Fox personality Megyn Kelly to replace her in the 9 o’clock hour of the show. Kelly, though having spent more than a decade at Fox expressing very conservative views and delivering right-leaning political coverage, was shockingly remade into a feminist icon overnight in the wake of Donald Trump’s opprobrious response to her line of questioning during the first Republican presidential debate in August of 2015. Hall was offered millions of dollars to take a reduced role at NBC, but rebuffed that proposition and chose to partner with Harvey Weinstein on a new project. Unfortunately for Hall, this new partnership with Weinstein would be short-lived, due to revelations that Weinstein has serially abused women in Hollywood for decades. There are no indications that Hall had any knowledge of Weinstein’s misdeeds, but her career ironically, again suffered a setback due to another rich, powerful, well-connected, and sexually abusive white man.

Tamron Hall’s career decline during the political ascendance of Donald Trump is particularly ironic when compared to Megyn Kelly’s rise during the same time frame. NBC courted Kelly with the prime 9 a.m. slot on the Today Show, her own Sunday evening news program, and a contract worth $23 million a year to boot. With such a generous compensation package, one would assume that the woman who replaced Tamron Hall would be a ratings juggernaut. One would be wrong in that assumption. Kelly’s tenure at NBC so far has been beset with miscues and dismal ratings. There was her controversial and widely panned interview of right-wing conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook denier Alex Jones. Then there is her difficulty in booking celebrity guests for her show.  Finally, there are her generally poor ratings. Kelly’s ratings during the 9 a.m. hour of the Today Show are 24% lower than Tamron Hall’s ratings last year in the same hour of the show. Of course, this ratings slide will come as no surprise to any professional black woman who has ever lost her job to a white woman who was less talented, but “more relatable.” While Megyn Kelly reaps millions of dollars a year for underperforming expectations, propped up by NBC’s desire to cash in on her role in the 2016 presidential election, Tamron Hall finds herself bright, talented, and capable, yet underemployed.

photo credit: EURweb.com
Tamron Hall

April Ryan had been a journalist in the White House press corps for twenty years before she became a topic of the news herself in  February.  When she asked Trump if he planned on conferring with the Congressional Black Caucus, he asked her if they were friends of hers and then asked her to set the meeting up–as if just because she is black, she should be the presidential liaison to the CBC. During a now infamous exchange with erstwhile White House press secretary Sean Spicer, Ryan pressed him on the pervasive perception that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government in the 2016 election. Spicer’s response was sexist, racist, and condescending. Telling a grown ass black woman to stop shaking her head while you are clearly bullshitting her and the American people was a new (but not the last) low for the Trump administration. Ryan described that experience as becoming “roadkill.” She also found herself in the position that journalists always try to avoid–becoming part of the news story themselves. Lost in that exchange was Ryan’s serious and substantive inquiry about the Trump campaign and Russian collusion. As time has now revealed, those questions were well-founded, because there are concurrent Senate, Congressional, and a special counsel investigations into just that.

Ryan, like Megyn Kelly, was able to parlay her run-in with a member of the Trump inner circle into another gig. Though she kept her day job as the White House press corps journalist for National Urban Radio, she also became a CNN political contributor in April.  Unlike Megyn Kelly, however, Ryan did not displace anyone more talented to land her new job, nor did her new network back up a Brinks truck to compensate her for her efforts. Lastly, Ryan is not underperforming her compensation package with CNN. The irony and the justice in her run-in with Sean Spicer is that for all his proclamations that legitimate media outlets are fake news, after his firing, Spicer has been unable to land a job with any of the media outlets he spent the better part of six months trying to delegitimize.

photo credit: thegrio.com

When ESPN’s Jemele Hill used Twitter in September to opine that Donald Trump was a white supremacist who surrounded himself with other white supremacists, the Trump administration became apoplectic. From the lectern of the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders implied that the veteran sports journalist should be fired for it. Let’s sit with that for a second. The White House press secretary–a government official–singled a journalist, suggesting she be fired for criticizing the president of the United States. Though such an action is par for the course in repressive governments like Russia, Uzbekistan, and Cuba, the United States and by extension, the office of the president, hold themselves out as the arbiters of justice and moral rectitude–except when a black woman journalist exercises her 1st Amendment rights, apparently. Though Trump and his administration have been incredibly hostile to media in general, up to that point they had never singled out a reporter to be fired for criticizing the president. There is a first time for every new low in Trump’s America, and the administration reached it there.

Hill’s initial Twitter comments followed Donald Trump’s abysmal reaction to the deadly violence that erupted at a Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.  ESPN responded by warning her about her comments on Twitter. As the NFL season began in September, and numerous players emulated Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest, Donald Trump inserted himself into the fray, insisting that a player who would dare kneel in protest is a “son of a bitch” who should be dragged off the field. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined many of his fellow NFL owners in kneeling with his team in a self-serving act of “solidarity” designed to protect his product. Only weeks later, Jones was singing a different tune, insisting that players who knelt would be benched. “The policy and my actions are going to be if you don’t honor and stand for the flag in a way that a lot of our fans feel that you should, if that’s not the case, then you won’t play,” he told a Dallas sports radio station. Hill responded by tweeting that if fans were upset by Jones’ stance, they could boycott Dallas Cowboys’ advertisers:

 

ESPN suspended Hill for two weeks after her October 8th tweets in a move that upset many African-Americans and 1st Amendment enthusiasts. Even though Hill was definitely not the first journalist to criticize this president, she was the first one to be sanctioned by her employer for her journalistic conduct stemming from a complaint from the White House. Hill will be back on the air at ESPN this Monday, and today issued a statement indicating that she had deserved her suspension. Whether this sentiment is reflects her actual attitude towards suspension or represents a chilling effect of a black woman journalist criticizing the government in the age of Trump, we may never know.

photo credit: citizenjour.com
Jemele Hill

The profession of journalism itself is under fire from the Trump administration, and with precious few black women in it, we can ill-afford to have their voices silenced as the fourth estate is attacked on all sides. Tamron Hall’s journalistic perspective was jettisoned for Megyn Kelly, who is currently struggling to attract new viewers and maintain old ones. April Ryan was demeaned and condescended to by a man who served as Trump’s chief propagandist, and the seriousness of the questions she was asking was obfuscated in the process. Jemele Hill called out Donald Trump’s platform of white supremacy and was ultimately sanctioned by her employer for doing so. Despite these threats to their livelihood, I suspect that journalists in general, and black women journalists in particular, will continue to be on the front lines to speak truth to power and hold the powers that be accountable for their actions.

 

 

 

Posted on

Sunken Place Saturday–Diamond and Silk

diamondandsilk.com

This Sunken Place Saturday, I find myself again perplexed by the plastic-haired, shuck-and-jive duo of Diamond and Silk. These biological sisters from North Carolina comport themselves more like Plantation Cubic Zirconia and Polyester, but more on that later. By now, everyone has heard rapper Eminem’s “freestyle” in response to the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto abomination that is the Trump presidency. For better or worse, Em articulated many people’s frustration with the divisiveness, racism, sexism, and rank stupidity exemplified by the Orange Overlord. But, like many idiots before him, he has followers that are aggressively and blindly devoted to him. Among these devotees are Diamond and Silk, two black women who share Donald Trump’s affinity for absurd hairpieces.

One might wonder what Diamond and Silk have to do with Eminem. Well, these two ladies have made their own hippity-hop video–a self-styled “clapback” to the diss track Eminem levied against their lord and savior Donald Trump. Rapped in the key of slave major, and heavy on buck and shuffle dance moves, their low-budget response to Eminem’s performance was um, interesting. See for yourself:

 

Yes, friends. This is real life right now. Someone’s crooked-wigged aunties have decided that they needed to rap and coonwalk in this “rap video” to reassert their devotion to Donald Trump. I’m not sure how much they are being paid for this modern-day minstrel show they continue to perform, but I suspect that they get paid in Crown Royal and wig glue.

The sisters claim that they support Donald Trump because they are “deeply concerned about political corruption and the unethical tactics of special interest groups and lobbyists.” Yes, friends. Again, I remind you that this is real life right now.

Of course these women, though revolting, are not uncommon. Black history is replete with individuals who aligned themselves with oppressors and their interests. There were slaves who alerted slave masters about escape attempts. There were black people who infiltrated the inner circles of MLK and Malcolm X to curry favor with the government that conspired to kill both men. There were black women who intentionally wanted to become impregnated by white men, so they could breed out their black features.

So the question remains. What’s in it for Diamond and Silk and their Sunken Place shenanigans? Do they get a seat at the policymaking table? Do they get awarded cushy government appointments? Do they get White House visits to get audience with the president? The answer to all of these questions is of course, no. I think all they get for their efforts is being the black friend that racists always refer to when trying to prove that they aren’t racist.

So  in the end, for co-signing white supremacy by co-signing Trump (and not to mention for wearing wigs that look like Mrs. Potato Head attachments), Cubic Zirconia and Polyester Diamond and Silk find themselves in the Sunken Place this week. 

Posted on

Sunken Place Saturday–Tina Campbell

This Sunken Place Saturday, it’s hard to think of a more deserving “honoree” than Tina Campbell, member of gospel music duo Mary Mary. Tina Campbell is many things–wife, mother, alto–and a mythical black woman Trump voter. Yes, it’s true.  While black women tried to save the country from the Orange Doom by voting overwhelming for someone other than Donald Trump, Tina Campbell helped usher in the Long Night by voting Joffrey Baratheon in as president.

 

 

The woman who ironically came to fame with a song called “Shackles,” took to the airwaves this week to say that she voted for Donald Trump because he “appealed to my Christian values more than the other candidate.” Ah, yes. Because the thrice-married, pussy-grabbing, thieving adulterer who settled multiple racial discrimination law suits and was the most prolific crusader of the birther lie spoke to her Christian values.

The problem with Campbell and the Great Value brand of Christians in general, but black Christians in particular, is that they see Christianity as only a set of beliefs to be articulated (and to seem righteous for articulating), rather than a set of practices that line up with those beliefs. So for her, it’s enough for Trump to simply say that he believes in the sanctity of marriage, for example, but not such a big deal that he falls woefully short of honoring that sanctity in his own several marriages.

I’m no theologian, but the Bible makes kind of a big deal about insisting that followers of Christ should look out for the vulnerable, the marginalized, the poor, women and children. Let’s look around. Who is poorer, more vulnerable, and marginalized than black people? Let’s take it a step further. Who is poorer, more vulnerable, and marginalized than black women and children?

You know, those same black women he was referring to when he called kneeling NFL players sons of bitches? What about black women journalists like April Ryan or Jemele Hill that he and his administration singled out for racist assumptions about who they know, condescension, or calls to be fired?

What about black and Latino children like the Central Park Five, who were falsely accused and convicted of rape, but whom Trump continued to malign as recently as last year, even after DNA evidence exonerated them? A rich white man can falsely accuse and lambaste poor black and brown children for political ends, but he supposedly speaks to her “Christian values?”

What about Deandre Harris, who was beaten within an inch of his life by Nazis and white supremacists this summer in Charlottesville? Yep, the same Nazis and white supremacists that Trump called “very fine people?” Which of your “Christian values” does that appeal to?

Oh, Tina. I know you’re a singer, but justifying your vote for Trump under the guise of Christianity is simply tone-deaf. The man who spoke to your “Christian values” can’t even say the phrase “Second Corinthians:”

Donald Trump has consistently placed himself on the wrong side of issues that are of great interest to black people. Whether it’s police brutality, poverty, affordable housing, white supremacy, the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, etc, Foolius Caesar has always chosen the position that most disadvantages/enrages black people. And you’re up here on TV pretending that you shouldn’t get all the side eyes for supporting this trash? Girl, please.

For being willfully ignorant of how Donald Trump has treated black people in the most un-Christlike ways possible, Tina Campbell has earned her spot in the Sunken Place.

THE ONLY TINAS WE RECOGNIZE ARE TURNER AND KNOWLES | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

Posted on

Protests, Patriotism, and Profit–Why the NFL’s Owners Turned on Trump

Trump comments on NFL

Colin Kaepernick set off a firestorm of controversy when he decided to begin his silent protest during last year’s NFL’s season. The decision to kneel cost him his football career, but earned him a place in the cultural zeitgeist as a hero or a villain depending on whom you speak to. At a campaign rally for an Alabama senatorial candidate who is now a footnote at his own campaign event, Donald Trump unloaded a heap of opprobrium upon NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem. Though the invective was directed at all kneeling players in general, it was a thinly veiled reference to Colin Kaepernick. The president of the United States spewed, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a bitch off of the field right now! He’s fired!” He went on to say, “When people like yourselves turn on television, and you see those people taking the knee when they’re playing our great national anthem, the only thing you can do better, is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium. I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave.” Beyond that, Trump also suggested that the efforts to improve player safety have ruined the game: “Today, if you hit too hard, 15 yards, throw him out of the game…They’re ruining the game, right? They’re ruining the game. It’s hurting the game.”

The entire league now thrown into a maelstrom, the NFL response at the commissioner and ownership levels was swift and severe in their condemnation of Trump’s comments. What’s important to note is that most owners as well as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, made Trump’s insults towards players the focus of their responses. However, I would argue that the motivation behind their strong responses wasn’t the “son of a bitch” comment or the veiled swipe at Kaepernick. Rather, it was the “leave the stadium…pick up and leave” comments. Therein lies the source of their discontent. After all, it’s not as if this was the first time that Donald Trump had singled out Colin Kaepernick for criticism over his protest. However, this was the first time that he called for a boycott of  the NFL because of the protests, and if the Wu-Tang Clan is to be beleived, the NFL’s philosphy is C.R.E.A.M.

The League finds itself in a very vulnerable place right now. Though Kaepernick is not currently on anyone’s team, his actions inspired dozens of other players to take a knee during the national anthem this season. Television ratings and stadium attendence were down even before Trump’s comments this weekend. Amidst continuing controversy over the League’s handling of CTE, it was revealed that disgraced former New England Patriot and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, had one of the most severe cases of the disease ever recorded.  The NFL is a business first and foremost. And as any business facing countervailing winds in rough seas, the first instinct is to stop taking on water and right the ship.

The NFL is an organization in which 70% of the players are black. From an owner’s perspective, it would have been untenable to remain silent after Trump’s comments when so many players were already taking a knee during the national anthem and concerned that the league was apathetic (or even hostile) to racial inequalities and the impact of CTE on the brain. It would have been conceivable that players who were already angry enough to kneel or raise a fist during the playing of the national anthem, would have become angry enough to refuse to play at all. And as we’ve seen with Kaepernick’s protest, these things tend to spread.

If I were an NFL owner in charge of a 53-man roster in which a majority of the players were black, I would be more inclined to placate my workforce with solidarity (or at least the appearance of it), than to risk their general malaise mushrooming into a strike. Is this a cynical view? Perhaps. But the deafening silence of team owners during Kaepernick’s free agency leads me to believe that their recent conversion to free speech advocates may not have the purest motivations now that the man with the bully pulpit of the White House has weighed in on their business. Make no mistake. NFL owners are not just suddenly seeing the value of protest. Nor are they even asserting the lofty idea that protest can be a form of patriotism. They don’t dislike the president either. In fact, several NFL owners are either Donald Trump’s friends or politial benefactors. What the owners responded to en masse was a potential interruption of their profits. And that’s something that even Donald Trump understands.

Posted on

Sunken Place Saturday: Omarosa

Sunken Place Saturday

This week’s nominee for Sunken Place Saturday is Omarosa. Sigh…just her name alone is enough to make us roll our eyes. Ever since she first stepped on the scene as a cast member on the first season of the Apprentice, she has been an attention-seeking opportunist. However, ever since she threw herself into Trump’s halo of conciliatory Negroes, she has firmly ensconced herself in the Sunken Place. Her support of this wretched administration and its orange overlord have been disgusting to watch. She parlayed said support into a White House staffer position in which she does what exactly? Is she in charge of teaching the Caucasian White House Staffers the electric slide? Does she provide the seasoning for White House potluck events? Perhaps she’s just there to convince Trump that one day, everyone will “bow down” to him as their massa/lord and savior/Supreme Leader?

 

During a disastrous appearance at the National Association of Black Journalists conference earlier this summer, she seemed unbothered by the administration’s support for police brutality. The NABJ was having NONE OF IT. There two things I swear fo God, you cannot do in a room full of black people. One of them is clapping on one and three.

 clapping GIF

The other one is look like you are defending police brutality. What was a dumpster fire of an appearance promptly had gasoline thrown on it after that.

Maybe if she retreated back to friendlier territory at the White House, things would go better for her? No go. She had worn out her welcome with Massa’s overseer, John Kelly. Her access to Trump has been severely restricted, and word on the street is, that she ain’t long for this job. While it seems to be true that the White Pride Piper himself still likes her, don’t get it twisted. She ain’t kin to him. Her name isn’t Ivanka or Jared, therefore her black ass is expendable. The funny thing is, that when she’s eventually fired, she will have no problem complaining about racism on the job then (as she’s done in the past when working for Donald Trump.) The racism and white supremacy of the Trump administration are okay so long as she can be on the payroll. For that, Omarosa needs to have an eternity of seats in the Sunken Place.