After Wednesday’s vice-presidential debate, the press was full of defensive accusations against Vice President Mike Pence for his alleged “mansplaining” behavior against Joe Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris. The New York Times in particular has made that particular Harris-as-victim trope a central theme of its campaign coverage, desperately turning every conservative argument against Harris into proof of her opponents’ underlying racism and sexism.
Times reporter Maggie Astor turned to conservative reaction to the debate and plunged full force into the shameless smearing of conservatives in her pathetic defense of Harris in Saturday’s “Facing a ‘Double Bind’ of Racism and Sexism”: (click “expand”):
The morning after Senator Kamala Harris became the first woman of color to take a debate stage as a member of a major party’s ticket, President Trump disparaged her as “totally unlikable” and a “communist.” Then, twice, he called her “this monster.”
His dehumanizing language, extraordinary even by Mr. Trump’s own standards, was an unusually explicit example of the biased attitudes -- about how women should behave, how people of color should behave, and especially how women of color should behave -- that have pervaded commentary regarding Ms. Harris.
There was the “condescending” label, too, that undecided voters applied to Ms. Harris’s facial expressions as they assessed the debate in a focus group run by a Republican pollster, Frank Luntz. There was the member of the Trump campaign’s advisory board who called her an “insufferable lying bitch.”
And there was the Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson’s depiction of her as a power-hungry usurper of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s would-be presidency, which played to an old racist and sexist trope even as Mr. Carlson insisted his remark had nothing to do with her identity.
These sorts of personal attacks on Ms. Harris have been coming since the day Mr. Biden chose her as his running mate, when conservative commentators repeatedly mispronounced her name and suggested she wasn’t Black, and a top Google search around that time was whether she was born in the United States.
Astor was certainly adept at finding racist tropes in every discouraging word conservative dared use against Harris, who after all is running for the second most powerful position in American politics.
“Angry,” “mean,” “aggressive,” “disrespectful”: All of these words, which Mr. Trump has used to describe Ms. Harris, play to this stereotype, which was also used against Michelle Obama.
These caricatures and double standards have been accompanied by sexualization, common against women of all races but especially those who are Black. This is another racist trope, the promiscuous, hypersexual “Jezebel.”
Apparently it’s sexist to remind people about Harris's beneficial relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown: “After Mr. Biden chose Ms. Harris, the right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh suggested falsely, quoting from a conservative website, that she had 'slept her way up.' T-shirts with the slogan 'Joe and the Hoe' were briefly available on Amazon.”
Predictably, Astor found “experts” like an African-American professor from Purdue University to validate her narrative of framing criticism of Harris into sexist smears:
“These are distinctly misogynoir tactics,” Dr. [Nadia E.] Brown said, referring to the combination of racism and sexism that Black women face. “We would not see these stereotypes or these kind of threats used against her if she were not a Black woman.”
The lawyer and civil rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced the term “intersectionality” three decades ago to describe how various identities can overlap to produce discrimination more complex than just, for instance, racism plus sexism. Experts said Ms. Harris’s experience was a prime example.
Thank goodness for "experts." Astor went on to smear talk show host Mark Levin as guilty of something called “identity policing” (your guess is as good as mine for what her nonsense meant):
Within hours of Ms. Harris’s selection, the conservative talk-radio host Mark Levin went on a diatribe about descriptions of her as “the first African-American woman” on a major presidential ticket.
“Kamala Harris is not an African-American,” he said. “She is Indian and Jamaican. Jamaica’s part of the Caribbean. India is out there near China. I only point that out because if you dare raise that, you’re attacked, but the truth is she’s not, and so I just wanted to make that clear.”
There is nuanced debate within Black communities about what it means to be African-American versus Black. But it is common, including among Black people, to use the two interchangeably.
Comments like Mr. Levin’s are sometimes referred to as identity policing. Among other things, it suggests that Ms. Harris is not who she says she is or that she cannot have multiple identities, as millions of Americans do.
Literally anything critical of Kamala was considered racist by Astor: “But the same tendency can be seen in smaller forms, like the frequent mispronunciations of her name and descriptions of her as inauthentic, including calling her 'phony.'”