Variety asked in April if Megyn Kelly was the next Barbara Walters. The Fox News host is the biggest star on the conservative news network and her feud with President-Elect Donald Trump catapulted her as the main news story after she moderated the Republican primary debate in March.
Kelly’s success led the way for newly crowned right-wing darling Tomi Lahren to follow in her footsteps. To Kelly’s credit, Lahren is young, dumb and will seemingly say anything to get viral views on Facebook while Kelly is a lawyer with over a decade media experience under her belt.
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Despite their vast differences, what they have in common and what matters the most about them is that they’re both repugnant and unapologetic racists. The definition of racism is often viewed through a narrow lens and doesn’t take into account the implicit biases of people. Most people assume that if a person doesn’t openly use the N-word, regularly converses with Black folks and even enjoys rap music that they couldn’t possibly be racist.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As Charlamagne Tha God and Trevor Noah have spent the last few days defending their budding friendship with Lahren, you have to wonder why these Black men are so invested in defending her. Lahren is the only party who stands to gain anything from her associations with these men. To her audience it will appear as though she has won. She has taken on the mainstream liberal audience and walked away with a win.
In the last 24 hours, Charlamagne has downplayed the work of people of color, both attacking and erasing the work of Black women. He tweeted that it would be great if people built a platform like Lahren to be heard. Yes, that would be great if outlets like This Week In Blackness didn’t exist. It would be great if more media companies pushed young people of color to the forefront. But it’s the problematic people, like Kelly and Lahren, that the media elevates.
Lahren hosts a nightly show called Tomi which airs on The Blaze, a TV station and subscription service created by conservative-turned-apologist Glenn Beck. From criticizing Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance to attacking Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the National Anthem, if there is an opportunity to attack Black folks, she is present and accounted for.
Although she claims to be anti alt-right and condemns hate groups, she’s not that far from a hatemonger herself. Even as she confessed her love of Kendrick Lamar and Pusha T in her New York Times profile, we know — from watching her show — that if they were gunned down in the street or assaulted by police officers her loyalty would lie elsewhere.
Despite the fact that she’s a bigot, consistently inaccurate and wrong, she was just featured in The New York Times. That’s how hate spreads. It comes in a cute little package. It hangs out with popular personalities like Charlamagne Tha God and before you know, it’s everywhere.
I first discovered Tomi Lahren when she went on a rant against Beyoncé and tried insulting Jay Z by saying he was a drug dealer for 14 years. If you’ve ever seen the viral clips of her show, you’ll notice she follows the Bill O’Reilly formula: find a controversial topic involving Black folks, list inaccuracies and then yell at the camera to prove a point.
Megyn Kelly is an OG at this game. She’s been spewing ignorance since she started at FOX in 2004. She has garnered the respect of media because of her public experiences with Donald Trump and Roger Ailes but let’s be clear: she is not worthy of any sympathy or praise from Black people.
Remember when she said the 14-year-old Black girl assaulted by a police officer in Texas was ‘No Saint either?’ Or when she had to make it known in case we thought otherwise that Jesus and Santa Claus are white?
Kelly and Lahren are only two examples of the widespread normalization of racism and hatred that has been permeating the landscape since the election of President Barack Obama. It hasn’t gone anywhere. And unlike Oprah believes, we know that it won’t simply disappear once all of the old racists die.
Racism is a cancer. It can lay dormant and resurface when things appear to be going well. It’s how Donald Trump was elected. It’s why hate crimes are up across the country.
This is the kind of rhetoric that plants the seeds of doubt in even the ‘good’ white people’s mind about the humanity of Black people. It’s why a jury couldn’t convict Michael Slager for the murder of Walter Scott. It’s why whites believe bias against white people is more of a problem than bias against Black people.
These women are dangerous. They don’t need to be coddled by the media and especially not by Black men like Charlamagne Tha God and Trevor Noah. The privilege Kelly and Lahren have been granted with the platforms they have isn’t coincidental. Kelly, Lahren and the Miss Ann’s of the world have always been the chances and opportunities to build a career on the backs of Black women.
As Charlamagne Tha God and Trevor Noah have spent the last several days defending their friendship with Lahren, Black women have been working. We’ve been working to resist the incoming president. Black women are working to uplift our communities and working to get our voices heard in a media landscape that doesn’t respect or support us.
Instead of providing these racists a platform, the media must challenge and criticize them. They must hold them accountable for the actions and even the reactions of their audience. The media must elevate voices of color.
As we’ve been reminded since the election, the Holocaust didn’t start with gas chambers, it began with words. It began with normalizing hate speech. The fight against white supremacy is ongoing and unless we work to make sure that certain rhetoric isn’t allowed in the media, we’re doomed.