Story at a glance
- Women, especially Black women, are bracing against attacks on a presumed female vice presidential candidate on the Biden ticket.
- In open letters, many prominent women are warning against racist or sexist attacks from politics and media.
- There has already been one racist comment made by a local official in Luray, Va.
There is still more than one week until Joe Biden is expected to announce his pick for vice president at the Democratic National Convention, but battle lines are already being drawn. With rumors that the candidate could be a woman of color, there have already been racist and sexist attacks on potential picks.
“Regardless of your political affiliation, whether it's the media, members of the vice presidential vetting committee, a former Governor, a top political donor, or a small town mayor: We are not your Aunt Jemimas. The use of the racist myth of a happy, Black servant portrayed as a happy domestic worker loyal to her White employer is not lost on us. While some of the relentless attacks on Black women and our leadership abilities have been more suggestive than others, make no mistake--we are qualified and ambitious without remorse,” said a coalition of Black women leaders in an open letter denouncing racist and sexist attacks against Black female vice presidential candidates.
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One small town mayor in particular is rejecting calls for his resignation after he said, “Joe Biden just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick,” in a since-deleted post on Facebook. A town council member shared an email asking Luray Mayor Barry Presgraves to step down, to which he responded, “Hell no, I’m not resigning,” according to a local news outlet. “The people elected me and I have a few months more to serve.”
The Aunt Jemima caricature was most famously used by Quaker Oats to sell its pancake mix and syrup, but the company recently committed to changing the name and removing the image of a Black woman from its packaging. In a statement on Facebook, the town of Luray said they reject racism ahead of a meeting on Aug. 10.
The letter collected more than 1,200 signatures as of Aug. 7, out of a goal of 1,600, including Maya R. Cummings, the former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party; Angela Rye, an attorney and political commentator; and Amanda Seales, an actress and singer. Another letter from a new watchdog group We Have Her Back specifically addressed top news executives, warning against "stereotypes and tropes" in coverage.
"We believe it is your job to, not just pay attention to these stereotypes, but to actively work to be anti-racist and anti-sexist in your coverage (ie: equal) as this political season progresses and this Presidential ticket is introduced. As much as you have the public’s trust, you also have great power. We urge you to use it wisely," said the letter signed by women from several major political organizations, including Emily's List, Planned Parenthood and Times Up.
The letter lists specific examples of ways media coverage has been racist or sexist, including reporting on physical appearance or presentation as well as political buzzwords such as “likeability” or “electability” that perpetuate stereotypes about women’s (especially Black women’s) ability to lead.
"As we enter another historic moment, we will be watching you. We expect change. We expect a new way of thinking about your role in how she is treated and the equality she deserves relative to the three men running for President and Vice President. Your great institutions, the ideals you serve, and our country, deserve no less," said the signees, who include: Alexis McGill Johnson and Melanie Newman of Planned Parenthood; Debra Ness, Cecile Richards, Jess Morales Rocketto, Hilary Rosen, Stephanie Shriock, Christina Reynolds of Emily's List; and Tina Tchen of TimesUp.
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