When Kamala Harris was announced as the Democratic vice-presidential pick for Joe Biden, a quarter of the media coverage included racist or sexist stereotyping.
When it comes to being Black in America and worldwide, the media does a good job of showing its disdain for Blackness and Black people. That sentiment transcends the everyday Black person, as it also affects Black celebrities, Black politicians, and other elite or well-known Black people. The same way Barack Obama was treated in media is the same way Harris, the first Black woman and Asian person on a major party’s presidential ticket, is currently being treated.
According to USA Today, one-quarter of coverage on Harris included racist or sexist remarks and comments, describing Harris as too “uncooperative” or “ambitious,” according to the report from Time’s Up Now, the section of Time’s Up that fights to end harassment and discrimination in the workplace, the outlet reports.
TIME’S UP Now CEO Tina Tchen said the media coverage shows our country’s ignorance and its resistance to diversity. “It demonstrates with numbers how normal we think it is for white men to run for these offices and how unusual or subject to criticism we think it is for a woman of color to run for those offices,” said Tchen. “You are therefore not talking about her actual qualifications for the job or her position for the job, and that’s what handicaps women candidates. It’s what handicaps women leaders in multiple dimensions, not just in the political sphere.”
The report made headlines just one day before the vice presidential debate between Harris and Pence, which will take place in Utah tonight. The report also includes analytics from the two weeks of media coverage following Biden’s announcement that Harris would be his running mate. According to USA Today, the “angry Black woman” trope was used the most at 13 percent, which predominately came from Donald Trump, who referred to Harris as “nasty,” “mad,” and “mean.” Other media coverage questioned Harris’ racial identity and ancestry. Sixty-one percent of the coverage surrounding Harris mentioned her gender and race, compared with the 5 percent of the coverage that mentioned Tim Kaine or Mike Pence’s gender and race in 2016. Pence and Kain’s media coverage mostly focused on the two men’s career accomplishments.
Tchen said that coverage that includes coded words like “ambitious” and “phony” perpetuates negative images and narratives for voters. “When they’re used against a woman of color running for high office, that could plug into our existing preconceived prejudices and stereotypes about women,” Tchen said. “When attached to a man, the word ‘ambitious’ is actually a good quality. You’re seen as a leader and strong. And a woman is seen as out of her place.”