“We are not post-racial—at all,” White House correspondent April Ryan told an Essence Festival audience during a panel last Saturday. “But when you dig into the weeds ... it’s beyond race; it’s now going down to the black woman. It’s a deliberate attack on the black woman.”
Ryan is no stranger to attacks. In April, she received death threats after simply asking White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders if Trump had ever considered resignation. Undeterred, the veteran reporter continues to ask the hard questions in the White House press briefing room, often to Sanders’ chagrin.
But speaking to Essence’s audience alongside fellow panelists and authors Dr. Brittney Cooper and Michael Eric Dyson (Ryan’s next book is due for release this September), Ryan made it clear that misogyny is affecting all women—including Sanders—and especially black women. She believes black women are victims of a deliberate campaign to diminish and denigrate their growing influence in society, pointing out the attacks on Michelle Obama, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Roseanne Barr’s recent insults about former presidential senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.
And Ryan is not alone in her assessment; multiple outlets (including Forbes, The Daily Beast, and of course, The Root) have pointed out the myriad ways black women are insulted, intimidated, ignored, placed in jeopardy and outright abused—including the fact that in a 2017 CDC report, black women were found to be the highest percentage of homicide victims of any race in America.
But as black women everywhere know, most of the attacks are nonlife-threatening. Instead, they come in the form of comments, exclusions and policies built upon the traditional mammy/whore, “welfare queen” and “angry black woman” stereotypes to continue to disenfranchise and undermine the perceptions others have of us, regardless of what we achieve.
For instance, just last October, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) was called a “cheap sleazy Democrat whore” by Los Angeles radio host Bill Handel. Earlier in 2017, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was silenced during Senate intelligence committee hearings. As of June of this year, tennis phenom and still-breastfeeding mom Serena Williams has been tested for performance-enhancing drugs five times—which is more than double for other top American women’s tennis players.
That list could go on and on, because it’s not new; and unfortunately, isn’t dissipating either, especially in Trump’s America. And sadly, the attacks come as frequently from within our own communities than without, a fact that makes the revelations expressed by Ryan—an acclaimed journalist—all the more tragic, because it’s not news. She was simply speaking a truth we live every day.