Democratic strategist and CNN correspondent, Hilary Rosen, is not having a great time right now.
The situation began with a heated discord on Chris Cuomo’s Prime Time between Rosen and Nina Turner, the co-chair of Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign, which quickly went viral. In the segment, Rosen challenged Nina on her interpretation of a quote from Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Turner stated that Biden was one of the “white moderates that MLK warned us about” while Rosen insisted that Turner had misrepresented King’s words and that what King said is that what we should worry about is the “silence of white moderates.” Rosen would go on to say that Nina did not have “the standing” to use MLK against Joe Biden. Ms. Turner then fired back stating “Don’t tell me what kind of standing I have in America!”
Rosen faced immediate social media blacklash for her behavior on the segment. She was accused of attempting to silence Turner by talking over her, dismissing her status, and white-splaining MLK’s words. Cuomo also came under fire for allowing Rosen to repeatedly talk over Turner and subsequently interrupting her when she continued to attempt to make her point despite Rosen’s interjections. For her part, Rosen took to twitter to apologize for her behavior in the segment…but her apologies quickly went awry.
In her first attempt, Rosen apologized for talking over Turner, but doubled down on her argument that Turner didn’t understand MLK’s words or intentions.
In her second attempt at an apology, Rosen apologized for stating Turner did not have the “standing” to use MLK’s words. She then called for those defending her to not attack “angry black women,” a hurtful racist trope that is repeatedly used to dismiss the concerns of black women when they attempt to speak out on issues.
In her third attempt, Rosen cleaned up the wording of her second apology and asked for people to stop tweeting at her about angry black women. Again using the hurtful trope.
Rosen would go on to attempt to clarify her previous tweets stating that she would “never call Nina Turner an Angry Black Woman” and that she was responding to ugly messages where other people were using the phrase.
With the continued backlash, Rosen responded with additional apologies stating that she called Nina directly to apologize and that she unequivocally disrespected Turner. She further insisted that she was attempting to stop white people who were calling Turner an Angry Black Woman in messages.
For many Twitter Users, including myself, the apologies and attempts at clarification came too little too late.
Turner responded to Rosen’s initial tweet stating that Rosen needed to go back and re-watch the segment and “wrap her [Rosen’s] mind around” the statement that Turner did not have the standing [to speak on MLK]. In a response to a tweet by Tiffany Hill, founder of Black Girls Unscripted, Turner later stated, that the issue was so much bigger than Hillary or Herself. And…well… she’s not wrong.
The exchange between Turner and Rosen is painfully reflective of the struggles most (if not all) black women face in their daily lives. Working their way into a position where they are supposed to have a valid voice, only to find their opinions dismissed and their status in their perspective fields questioned as if they had only risen to said rank through affirmative action. There is also the issue black women face of having someone talk over them and be generally rude and disrespectful, while still having to maintain a level of decorum as to not come off as the aggressor only to still end up painted as such and written off as the stereotypical Angry Black Woman.
For anyone confused as to why a possibly mis-worded tweet could cause such an uproar, it is because the Angry Black Woman is an extremely hurtful trope used to against black women from all walks of life. It’s a simple phrase used to villainize black women when attempting to speak up for themselves when faced with injustice or maltreatment. It dismisses even our most valid concerns and silences our voices while perpetuating the stereotype that black women are by nature loud and aggressive. Consider for a moment, the phenomena of women in general being called B*tches when being assertive or in a position of power and not apologizing before every power move she makes. It’s a frustrating reality that brings ire to any woman and is the go-to example of double standards of expected social decorum for women vs men. Now take that phenomena and multiply that by 1000. That’s the damaging effect of “Angry Black Woman.” For many black women, the term is as hurtful and psychologically damaging (if not more so) as the N-word. Whether or not Rosen intentionally meant to call Turner an Angry Black woman or was indeed attempting to silence other white people who were calling her that, the fact that it was even brought up is a painful reminder to black women of exactly how black women are seen in society.
For the record, King’s actual words were:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.