Senator Kamala Harris made history when she accepted the nomination of Vice-President, one of America’s most powerful seats. It is a powerful moment that calls for the celebration of women of color breaking thru the glass ceiling. However, we must fiercely protect Kamala Harris with the same energy. A couple of days before the historic moment, misogynist right-wing radio host and Trump’s Medal of Freedom nominee Rush Limbaugh insinuated that Harris’s accomplishments were only attained because she slept her way to the top. I am wondering why the universe is still allowing him to steal oxygen.
He referenced a disgusting meme posted by NBA freelance photographer Bill Baptist, who was terminated for posting it. Limbaugh also read aloud an op-ed piece published on a conservative website where the first line reads, “ It is no secret but public knowledge that Kamala Harris slept her way up into California political life by being a very public escort and mattress…” Although the repulsive radio host did not call Kamala a “h**,” he promoted the disgusting and sexist propaganda, by referring to the word “h**” and “mattress” several times. He should be held accountable for gendertrolling Senator Kamala Harris, but, unfortunately, people rarely face retribution for attacks verbal or physical against Black women and women of color. The hate that Limbaugh is spewing is slander against a Black female U.S. Senator.
Limbaugh has a long history of attacks on prominent women. This is not his first sexist remark about Senator Kamala Harris. On one of the previous editions of his shows, he referenced the size of her “backside.” This latest attack on Harris feels personal because Black women are always fighting against two types of prejudices against our identity, being Black and being a woman. This makes us twice as likely to face discrimination, sexism, and microaggressions. We have always been positioned at the bottom of the hierarchy in terms of race and gender. When one of us rises, there always seems to be a coordinated attack to denigrate us and tear us down. This does not change even when a Black woman or any woman of color holds a powerful position. It is more vicious for Black women in politics, and the gendertrolling is proliferated by social media. We cannot stand for it!
Right-wing racists and sexists dialogs and perspectives are always shallow and profane. Limbaugh promoting the derogatory terms “h**” or “mattress” about a Black woman is a stereotype that continues to be reinforced since the era of Black women enslaved. There has always been a type of fetishization with the Black female body. The oppressive system of white patriarchy still allows for the exploitation and verbal and physical assaults against Black women. This system loves to attack Black women and women of color in a coordinated and sustained way. Senator Kamala Harris has been attacked on her appearance, her racial identity, and challenged on her “birtherism.” Perhaps that is why the GOP and the White House are complicit about Limbaugh’s disparaging remarks. They would rather maintain and contribute to this toxic culture instead of denouncing it. They would rather act like petulant children and resort to their shallow dialogues, perspectives, and name-calling.
We should never tolerate these attacks as normal or “politics as usual” tropes. As we step up to call out sexism, racism, and discrimination, these harsh attacks lobbied against Black women and women of color will lose momentum. In the eloquent words of Michelle Obama, “…let’s be clear: going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty…going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth.” The cold hard truth is, Limbaugh and Trumpers do not have any rationale nor evidence for anything that they say. The cold hard truth is they cannot accept decency or truth if it comes from any other than their brotherhood of hate, ignorance, and whiteness. The real truth is, these coordinated racist and sexist attacks against Kamala Harris or any woman of color are vile and disgusting, and we have to call it out when we see it!
Kelly Washington is a freelance writer living on the southside of Chicago. You can follow her on social media @Sunrise and Sugar (Facebook) and @BlackBFly7 (Twitter).