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Black Women Know Exactly Why Kamala Harris Had To Hold Back In the Debate Last Night

Photo: via Getty Images

Kamala Harris’s debate performance on Wednesday night was admirable on so many fronts. She had done her research and was prepared with talking points and answers. She was calm and measured, a constant smile on her face. She never raised her voice.

In essence, her demeanor was the exact opposite of President Donald Trump’s at the presidential debate the week before. Trump had been veritably unhinged–yelling, ranting, insulting, and constantly interrupting former Vice President Joe Biden.

But Kamala Harris did make headlines for a statement she made, possibly her most assertive statement of the night: “Mr. Vice President,” she said after being talked over by Vice President Pence yet again. “I’m speaking.”

“I’m speaking” swiftly went viral on social media, quickly being meme-ified and retweeted by her supporters.

But not everyone loved that Harris had the dignity to assert herself. When speaking with Fox News about what he thought of the Vice Presidential debate, President Donald Trump called Harris a “monster” and pronounced her as “totally unlikable.” For Black women around the world, the insults Trump lobbed at Harris were seen for the dog whistles that they were.

Harris and every other Black woman in America is deeply familiar with the pervasive racial stereotype of the “Angry Black Woman”. The “Angry Black Woman” is a bitter and emotional woman who has let the circumstances of her life carve out a chip on her shoulder. And the media is quick to peddle this narrative.

Look no farther than the public flaying of Michelle Obama during the early days of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. The negative headlines about Michelle ranged from “Michelle Obama Hates America” to “Just Say No to Mrs. Obama“. And the vitriol aimed at her on social media was especially vile.

The former First Lady spoke candidly about the media’s unfair treatment of her while promoting her memoir “Becoming” at the 2019 Essence Festival.

“People from all sides, Democrats and Republicans, tried to take me out by the knees,” Obama told host, Gayle King. “And the best way they could do it was to focus on the strength of the Black woman, so they turned that into a caricature. For a minute there, I was an angry Black woman who was emasculating her husband.”

But the effects of misogynoir–which is defined as the specific hatred, dislike, distrust, and prejudice directed toward Black women–are not limited to public figures. They are ubiquitous.

Even I, a Black woman who is not at all in the public eye, experience misogynoir constantly.

Recently, I was lamenting to my brother over the fact that I am perpetually single. During our conversation, I was brainstorming possible reasons as to why no man wanted to commit to me. “From my perspective,” my brother (who is also Black) told me, “you’re too loud.” He continued: “It’s intimidating. If I were a guy, that would scare me right off.”

His comments stung.

I called a girlfriend later, my heart hurting, my feelings of undesirability and unfemininity coupled with that all-too-familiar feeling of shame that comes with simply existing as a Black woman on the planet–and especially as a Black woman in white spaces. But I was unable to articulate the uneasiness I felt at his comments. “I can’t help who I am,” I said to her.

“It’s a double standard,” she responded. “Our friend Jocelyn is just as loud as you are–ask anyone. But no one would ever tell her that her loudness is a negative trait, or something that she should change about herself in order to land a man. But Jocelyn is white.”

I felt the burden of my identity like a bag of bricks in that moment. I knew that whatever I used to shield myself from misogynoir–a good job, a college education, fancy clothes and makeup–none of it would ever fully shield me from the racism and sexism I would face for the rest of my life.

Kamala Harris’s debate performance was measured and grounded because she knew she had to package herself to be palatable to white America.

After all, Harris already recently faced some media backlash over what critics called her unfair treatment of (now running mate, then-rival) Joe Biden at the Democratic Primary Debate. Now, it seems, Harris has changed tactics.

Kamala Harris doesn’t have the luxury of being loud or combative or angry–all feelings that would otherwise be completely justified in today’s political climate. Instead, in order to be taken seriously as a Vice Presidential candidate, she must devote a significant amount of her time and energy to being likeable. Trustworthy. Ladylike.

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A Latina Firefighter in Boston Says the Department Retaliated Against Her When She Reported That She Was Sexually Assaulted by a Colleague

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A Latina Firefighter in Boston Says the Department Retaliated Against Her When She Reported That She Was Sexually Assaulted by a Colleague

Credit: Screenshot via CBS/WBZ

A former female firefighter was just given a settlement of $3.2 million by the city of Boston for what she characterized as a culture of sexual harassment, shaming, and silencing. Nathalie Fontanez says she was retaliated against by the Boston Fire Department for reporting a sexual assault she experienced at the hands of a colleague.

In 2018, Fontanez says she was sexually assaulted by fellow firefighter David Sanchez.

It all began when Fontanez joined the Boston Fire Department in 2011. The department was looking to hire fluent Spanish speakers, and Fontanez considered the opportunity a “golden ticket”. It was an opportunity for her, a single mom, to provide for her daughter without the assistance of welfare. And, she could prove to her daughter that women can do anything.

But Fontanez’s dream soon turned into a nightmare. After joining the department, she faced an inordinate amount of hazing and harassment because she was a woman and a Latina.

“I’m not a veteran. I’m not a man. I’m a Latin woman. If there was a totem pole, I was at the very bottom,” she explained. “I felt that I had to tolerate anything that came my way, because I was lucky to be there,” she said.

Per Fontanez, the incidents escalated until the day in question when she was assaulted at the firehouse by Sanchez.

After reporting the incident to her superiors, she says that her colleagues turned on her.

In a recent press conference, Fontanez explained the experience in more detail. “Incidents began to escalate and I was then shamed and labeled a trouble-maker,” she said. “The guys that I once relied on for my life’s safety now turned against me.”

While Sanchez was convicted of assault and battery and sentenced to two years of probation, Fontanez says that she was harassed and isolated by her station mates. According to her, the retaliation also included being denied a promotion and being ignored at social events.

“I was often reminded by some of my colleagues that I had taken a job from a man who could have been providing for his family, even though I was a single parent providing for mine,” she said.

Last month, the city settled with Fontanez for $3.2 million. But Fontanez says it’s not about the money–it’s about changing the toxic culture of firehouses. 

“I’m breaking my silence because I believe that women firefighters deserve equal treatment in the Boston Fire Department,” Fontanez said during the news conference. “However, at this point that is the dream, but not the reality, for many women firefighters. The department is overdue for change, and the time for change is now.”

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Anna Wintour Defends Kamala Harris’s Vogue Debut

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Anna Wintour Defends Kamala Harris’s Vogue Debut

Spencer Platt / Getty

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is officially “in vogue.”

The former California Senator is gracing the cover of the February issue of Vogue magazine. The cover marks the first time an elected official has appeared on the cover of the fashion magazine. Yes, in the past, Washington insiders like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama have made it on the cover but Harris’ cover is a reflection of our country’s progress. In her first-ever Vogue appearance, Harris spoke openly about the first 100 days of the Biden administration, the country’s protests against police brutality and racism as well as the people and childhood that shaped her into the leader she is today.

Speaking about hers and Biden’s victory night, Harris told Vogue that she wanted her words to be something that young Americans would remember.

The first African American woman elected vice president graced the pages of Vogue in a power suit, casual attire, and Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers ( a casual cover look whose controversy we’ll get to later). Her look is a reminder that she’s a woman ready to work and get to business. The down to earth look of authority is familiar to the one Harris brought to the stage late last year when she delivered her victory speech.

“It was very important for me to speak to the moment, and the moment includes understanding that there is a great responsibility that comes with being a first,” Harris explained to Vogue about the evening. “I always say this: I may be the first to do many things—make sure I’m not the last,” she tells me. “I was thinking of my baby nieces, who will only know one world where a woman is vice president of the United States, a woman of color, a Black woman, a woman with parents who were born outside of the United States.”

Harris went onto share that the night was emotional for her not just because it marked the end of a rigorous campaign and a new start for our country but because she was thinking of her mother. Harris’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan, an Indian immigrant, and breast cancer researcher passed away 12 years ago. During her speech, Harris told Vogue that she thought of her mother and “what her life meant” how it had propelled Harris to the position she holds now.

“I’m representing my mom,” Harris went onto explain “I’m representing my husband. This country is more than two centuries old, and our country needs to show diversity, and diversity means leadership comes in all races, all colors. It’s time for a change.”

When it comes to change, Harris explained that she has her mind on tackling racism in America.

According to Harris, this summer’s widespread protests against police brutality and racism in the country didn’t actually affect or change the way she thinks about how Black people are policed, charged, and prosecuted in the U.S. “What it did do was made it easier to point out that the fight for criminal-justice reform, the fight for racial justice should be everyone’s fight,” she explained. “I was out there with the folks who were protesting the murder of George Floyd, and it was the first time I saw so much diversity in who was marching arm in arm, shouting, speaking, crying that Black lives matter.”

Throughout the Vogue piece, it’s clear that Harris’s authenticity and approachability shine. In the next month, she is due to become the second most powerful person in the country. Here’s hoping that she will work hard to help heal the United States in a time when it faces various crises brought on by a lack of authority and trust in the last administration.Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, which caused controversy when it was prematurely leaked over the weekend.

In a statement to The New York Times, Anna Wintour defended the controversial Vogue cover of Harris saying it was not Vogue’s “intention to diminish the importance of the Vice President-elect’s incredible victory.”

Vice President-elect Harris’s Vogue cover caused controversy after it was leaked over the weekend. Critics took issue with the lighting and style of the color accusing the image of Harris as looking “washed out” and criticizing casual outfit for not being appropriate for a historic magazine cover.

“When the two images arrived at Vogue,” Wintour explained. “All of us felt very, very strongly that the less formal portrait of the Vice President-elect really reflected the moment that we were living in,” she said in the statement. “We are in the midst…of the most appalling pandemic that is taking lives by the minute, and we felt to reflect this tragic moment in global history, a much less formal picture, something that was very, very accessible, and approachable, and really reflected the hallmark of the Biden-Harris campaign…”

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