Comments like conservative TV talk show host Bill O’Reilly’s public denigration of U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters with a “joke” left Black women fuming and responding.
Advocates and activists weren’t laughing when Mr. O’Reilly referred to Rep. Waters’ hair as a “James Brown wig,” during a March 28 interview on the show Fox & Friends. That same day April Ryan, White House reporter for the American Urban Radio Network was disrespected by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who told her to stop shaking her head during a Q&A.
Black women fired back immediately, some through the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork, which was created by Brittany Packnett. Black women used Twitter to post stories about micro-aggressions in the work place and Black female empowerment.
“When the white woman who gets your job gets less grief for pornographic photos than you got for baring your arms,” read one post on Twitter.
“Appeared in suburban court in suit looking for my client. Judge says ‘Have a seat. Your lawyer will be here shortly,’” read another.
“My boss: your hair is making too much statement. Me: Susan’s has 4 different colors. My boss: yes but it’s not an afro,” said another Tweet.
Mr. O’Reilly backtracked afterward, saying he respected Rep. Waters for being sincere in her beliefs and saying making a joke about her hair was dumb. Mr. Spicer had not issued a public apology at press time.
“I am a strong Black woman, and I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere,” Rep. Waters said. Ms. Ryan, who tweeted “Lawd!” for her initial response, has since been hired as a political analyst for CNN.
The mistreatment of Rep. Waters and Ms. Ryan shocked some, but these instances are just part of relentless, historical, and unapologetic disrespect on Black women and girls in American society, said educators and advocates.
Last year, comedienne Leslie Jones of the Ghostbusters movie remake and Saturday Night Live star, was attacked online and called an ape, among other vile and racist insults. The hateful attacks sparked the hashtag #LoveforLeslieJ by the movie’s director Paul Frieg, and BlackMenSupportLeslie, by activist Blake Simmons.
These ugly attacks were preceded by verbal assaults on former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and her two young daughters before President Barack Obama even took office.