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Black women reveal indignities via #BlackWomenAtWork

March 31, 2017

A few hours apart on Tuesday, two Black women were confronted by white, male public figures in exchanges that many viewed as demeaning and disparaging. In those few moments, Black Twitter coalesced and fired back with memes and a viral #hashtag that declared both incidents as unacceptable, but also unfortunately familiar.

The Associated Press reported that the viral sensation began Tuesday morning with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly ridiculing veteran congresswoman Maxine Waters, referring to her hair as “a James Brown wig,” after watching a video of the California Democrat criticizing Republican President Donald Trump’s policies. Later that day, during a White House press briefing, American Urban Radio Network host April Ryan was scolded by press secretary Sean Spicer, who told her to “stop shaking your head” as he responded to her question.

Activist Brittany Packnett created the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork on Tuesday afternoon to respond that Black women are fed up with the way they are treated in the workplace and encouraged them to share their experiences on Twitter. “I wanted the hashtag to make the invisible visible, to challenge non-black people to stand with Black women not just when this happens on television, but in the cube right next to them,” Packnett told The Huffington Post. “I’m surrounded every day by brilliant, confident, incredible Black professional women who get demeaned despite their prowess. Today, I was over it … I have deep and abiding respect for Congresswoman Waters and Ms. Ryan who are both trailblazers in their fields. They are to be respected, just like every other Black woman who rises each day to contribute to this society in ways that are all-too-often taken for granted.”

Not only did #BlackWomenAtWork trend on social media, it made headlines on cable news shows. In a speech Tuesday afternoon, Hilary Clinton spoke of persistent presence of everyday sexism and racism. “Too many women, especially women of color, have had a lifetime of practice taking precisely these kinds of indignities in stride,” Clinton said. “But why should we have to. And any woman who thinks this couldn’t be directed at her is living in a dream world.”

And the clap back continued with some high-profile Black women tweeting the hashtag, including former “Today” host Tamron Hall who noted, “Extraordinary times.”

Waters herself posted: “I am a strong Black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere. #BlackWomenAtWork.”

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