Dear Fox News, Stop Misidentifying Black Women
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I’ll probably never forget the time I stood waiting in line for deli meat at my local Pathmark, when a white man entered the line behind me and was asked what he was ordering before I even had the chance to open my mouth. My mother did this divide and conquer thing at the grocery store. While she was going in and out of every aisle (something my dad still can’t stand after 35 years of marriage), my sister picked up the items on one end of the store, and I waited at the meat counter, ticket from the red number dispenser in tow, to get the half pound of smoked turkey breast and quarter pound of provolone cheese we ordered every week. I was probably in my very early teens at the time, but had little consciousness around the “all Black people look the same” rhetoric. When I asked the man tending the deli counter why he skipped me (because even if my Antiguan mother wasn’t there to witness it, I could not risk her finding out that it happened and I didn’t say anything), he looked to the woman he had just served and said, “Oh I thought you two were together.” Huh? I did not enter the line with the woman. I did not speak to her while he filled her order, and nothing about our interaction should have caused him to believe we were together. Well, except for the fact that we were both Black. It was my entry lesson into this idea that Black people are all related, and that despite our multitude of hues, facial features, hair texture, etc., to some others, we all “look alike.” Over the years I’ve experienced it many times. As a Black editor at a practically all-white magazine, I, on a few occasions, was mistaken for “the other” Black woman who worked in research. As beautiful as she is, we look nothing alike, nor did we have the same function at the organization. Every time it happened I was irritated and perplexed before quickly reminding myself that as a Black person, despite my unique traits, and own set of accomplishments, I will always be just another indistinct Black woman to some. I imagine that my reaction is not that far off from the way Gayle King and Robin Roberts feel right now. Yesterday Fox News anchor Jesse Watters congratulated King for her interview with embattled R&B artist R. Kelly. But what started out as a compliment, quickly took a turn south when Watters went on to say that the interview, which aired on CBS Wednesday morning, was redemption from the sit-down she had with Jussie Smollett last month. The problem with that is King didn’t sit down with Smollett. Roberts did. And though Watters apologized, the dismissal of these women’s accomplishments still linger. King and Roberts are on a very short list of Black women journalists on the morning news. Each of them has an extensive resume going back years in the business and both are talented, successful, and hard-working individuals in their own right. To conflate their identities for what seemed to be a punchline, was both problematic and offensive. To make it plain, it is not okay to not know who these women are. When you look at the media business and news in general, representation is still an overarching issue. Whether it be the imbalance in what is reported or the lack of diversity in the people who report it, we have a long way to go before we reach parity. So when you have Fox News anchors — who by the way were also responsible for mixing up Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin last year—  accidentally lumping two prominent anchors together, it serves as a sad reminder of how the rest of the world often sees us. What each of us brings to the table is important, and unique, and beautiful. It should be respected as such. TOPICS: