For those few who haven’t heard, recently Congresswoman Maxine Waters spoke about Donald Trump’s troubled presidency in very real terms calling him “dangerous” and indicating he needs to “get ready for impeachment” if the Russian ties are revealed to trace back to him. When Fox’s Bill O’Reilly was asked for a response to her denigration of his boy he said, “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig,” and didn’t stop there but continued on with how she and James Brown had the “same hair”. (Note to O’Reilly: James B didn’t wear a wig). Thankfully, there was an immediate backlash including the spawning of a new hashtag, #blackwomenatwork and the Twitterati got lit because this is NOT okay. O’Reilly acted like a mean playground bully, hitting below the belt, but it’s more nefarious than that as the comment was deeply dipped in racism. Like Jordan Peele highlights in his astute, gripping movie, Get Out, some white people still have a slave auction mentality in which the black body is up for grabs, in this case via nasty, disrespectful comments about appearance.
Maxine’s response was exactly right. For most discerning people, O’Reilly has zero credibility but he’s also the playground bully who everyone gives a pass even though he’s an ill-mannered bigot. This is the same guy remember who told Marc Lamont Hill, “You kinda look like a crack dealer.” Would he have said that to one of the Trump kids? You know the answer.
Meanwhile, Sean Spicer’s similarly ignorant comment, also made last week, to April Ryan, simply because she was getting under his skin with her respectful yet biting questions which again featured Russia by the way, matters but then again it doesn’t. Both men perceive people of color as “less than”- less than them, less than white people. They are also doing exactly what their base wants them to do so they are heroes. They feel lifted up, apparently, when they put someone else down.
The above stories got black women thinking and writing about various and sundry racist stuff that has happened to them working while black. Most of us have experienced some kind of rude or disrespectful behavior by a white colleague. I have many stories but the one I’m thinking of took place at a retreat when I was standing in a buffet line waiting to get my dinner. A man behind me interrupted my thoughts and contemplation about being, yet again, the only person of color in the house. “Could you bring me the salt?” he said. There was a thirty second delay in messaging on my part so I didn’t respond right away because I was actually confused. Why was he asking me to get him the salt when he seemed quite capable of getting it himself? Well because – the answer finally ca-chinged in my brain – he thought I was a servant. I wasn’t. Actually no one was. It was a do-it-yourself kind of conference so there really was no excuse. Finally, I said, I’m in line waiting for food just like you. His face got redder than Mac Ruby Woo lipstick as he apologized profusely many times. He tried to engage me in conversations throughout the conference. Because I am NICE and a BIGGER PERSON I ultimately answered his questions which were mostly about my schooling, upbringing etc., as he apparently still tried to figure out how come I had a seat at the same table as him, literally and metaphorically.
But let us not get distracted (or, as my friend says, “teacupped”)
from the real threat at hand: Donald Trump’s corrupt and ludicrous presidency. What we doing bout that?
*If you don’t know what this means, run do not walk to Get Out!