There has been quite a bit of social media buzz in the last few days about a long awaited announcement from Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) that she will be running for President.
Her supporters (I’m one of them) have established hashtags — #Kamala2020, #KHive, and #YesWeKam and her detractors are active online as well.
When that happens (I’m sure it will — just don’t know when) it behooves the mainstream media press corps members who are unfamiliar with aspects of black American culture to do their homework. No one expects coverage of her campaign, history, background and policy positions to be written exclusively by black folks.
Yes, there are black writers and pundits employed by major print and broadcast outlets, however they are still in the minority, and white writers by now should be accustomed to covering blackness after eight years of the Obama’s (though we have regressed since he left office)
In the not-black blogosphere, thankfully Daily Kos has black front page writers, and also has community series’ like Black Kos, (which comes back from vacation hiatus today) to educate and inform readers who are unfamiliar with cultural norms outside of their own experience.
We just had a perfect example recently of majority culture journalistic cluelessness, which from my perspective as a cultural anthropologist and blogger, was interesting.
Not major news, not about Trump, not about policy. It was about the “skee wee.”
Zerlina Maxwell, took a WaPo reporter to school.
FYI: AKA is the abbreviation for the greek letters Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first black female Greek Organization.
Confined to what she called “a small circumscribed life” in the segregated and male-dominated milieu that characterized the early 1900s, Howard University co-ed Ethel Hedgeman dreamed of creating a support network for women with like minds coming together for mutual uplift, and coalescing their talents and strengths for the benefit of others. In 1908, her vision crystallized as Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first Negro Greek-letter sorority. Five years later (1913), lead incorporator, Nellie Quander, ensured Alpha Kappa Alpha’s perpetuity through incorporation in the District of Columbia.
Together with eight other coeds at the mecca for Negro education, Hedgeman crafted a design that not only fostered interaction, stimulation, and ethical growth among members; but also provided hope for the masses. From the core group of nine at Howard, AKA has grown into a force of more than 290,000 collegiate members and alumnae, constituting 1,007 chapters in 42 states, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Germany, Liberia, South Korea, Japan, Canada, South Africa and the Middle East.
In response to Zerlina’s post, a tweetstorm from Black Twitter ensued.
Black bloggers responded:
I’m always astounded by what little White people know about us. Then again, I really shouldn’t be. We have to know about White folks and their ways for assimilation (sadly), advancement, for protection and survival. On the flip side, far too many White people have made a habit of learning about us with the intent to exploit our traditions and culture. With that in mind, one could argue that perhaps there are some things about us they shouldn’t know.
This discussion presented itself yesterday when a young, White reporter for the Washington Post, Chelsea Janes, was covering Senator Kamala Harris’ book event at George Washington University. Janes was live-tweeting the event and shared what can only be described as some ignorant observations about the crowd’s response to Harris, a Howard alum and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated (AKA).
“Kamala Harris listed Thurgood Marshall as one of those lawyers she admires, a fellow Howard alum. Someone shouted, “Me too!”
Someone corrected Janes letting her know that the person likely shouted, “HU” for Howard University.
The reporter apologized, and got more schooling in response.
There is a history readily available online.
This story got 265.8K facebook shares.
(The significance of the scarf is the pink and green colors.)
When Hillary was running — I wrote “If my mom was alive, she'd probably be voting for Hillary,” about Hillary’s support from Delta Sigma Theta, and also featured Howard University in another post.
(The majority of black female elected officials who are in black sororities are Deltas)
The NYTimes had a piece on Michelle Obama becoming an honorary AKA
Here’s another AKA profile:
So if you are at a black event and hear a “skee wee” (or a “wee oop” — which is the Delta call) you’ll know what it means.
Hope to see you in Black Kos.