In this age of social media, it’s refreshing to say, there are still a lot of good old-fashioned letters being written. Of course, they’re not being delivered via USPS – thank goodness, since they’re having their own issues – but these letters are doing a lot to convey the thoughts, feelings and intentions of the people in advance of the 2020 presidential election.
Since Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden’s pick for VP this week, and it’s a “first black woman to be” situation, the media machine has begun to churn. But our esteemed letter writers are way ahead of this thing. First, there was the letter from 100 Black men urging Joe Biden to choose a Black woman as his running mate. I doubt a single letter was responsible for him doing exactly that, but hey. It certainly didn’t hurt matters any.
Then there was “We Have Her Back,” a memo from a diverse group of high-profile female leaders addressed to “News Division Heads, Editors in Chief, Bureau Chiefs, Political Directors, Editors, Producers, Reporters and Anchors.”
It’s a comprehensive letter that I encourage you to read, but this part is poignant with regard to Harris in advance of election day and the deluge of potentially lopsided coverage that is undoubtedly coming: “Women have been subject to stereotypes and tropes about qualifications, leadership, looks, relationships and experience. Those stereotypes are often amplified and weaponized for Black and Brown women.”
The missive addresses most of the issues that have plagued media coverage when it comes to high powered women not only in the political arena, but any and everywhere we’re mentioned in connection with a high office: blatant sexism, and a litany of boring and logically irrelevant stereotypes and tropes about qualifications, leadership ability, relationships, etc.
The letter is particularly important because – duh, it’s the presidential election – and black people, woke people, people who believe in diversity, inclusion and a fair and equitable US of A, are tired of foolishness being thrown to the masses to distract from the critical issues at hand. We want the focus to be on the issues. You know: healthcare, the ‘rona, the economy, and our desire to not have tax-payer funded police around the country killing Black taxpayers at their whim. That, of course, was just a small list, but issues! Things that have absolutely nothing to do with Harris’ hairstyle, outfits, or antiquated notions of what is and is not acceptable for her to do and say in a public forum.
You know what I mean, things like calling Harris “unloyal and too ambitious” because she dared to question Joe Biden in the Democratic primary? Hello, ridiculous. The surprise because she spoke up in that entirely appropriate forum was ludicrous. I mean, why can’t she question him? Especially since he later apologized for his own position on the bussing issue that raised the flag/fuss in the first place.
Forbes interviewed a number of women who sent the “We Have Her Back,” memo, and these ladies made it clear, this was a collective decision to get ahead of the nonsense that likely will ensue around Harris this election season:
“We’ve all seen the coverage about the vice presidential candidates… Media outlets are already taking traits we often think of as positive in men [and making them negative for the female candidates],” said Melanie Newman, senior vice president of communications and culture at Planned Parenthood Action Fund in the article.
“What started as a conversation around supporting the vice presidential nominee led to a mandate to act now,” said Valerie Jarett, in the same piece. “It is unfortunate that it’s necessary, but it is, and we plan to follow through. We purposefully did this as a group to make our voices louder.”
So, media, you are officially on notice. If you cross the line, you will do so willfully and in full knowledge that you are behaving in a manner that is unacceptable to a good chunk of the female population of this country for whom these women are representatives.
This memo sets a firm precedent. It states clearly, we will not tolerate any foolishness from you, members of the media, because Harris is protected, and – actually, I’ll let the letter speak for itself:
“As we enter another historic moment, we will be watching you. We expect change. We expect a new way of thinking about your role in how she is treated and the equality she deserves relative to the three men running for President and Vice President. Your great institutions, the ideals you serve, and our country, deserve no less.”
“We intend to collectively and individually monitor coverage and we will call out those we believe take our country backwards with sexist and/or racist coverage.” And y’all know you can count on me to do the very same from my little Friday pulpit/blog “A Life Not Grey.”