Last week, MadameNoire’s brainy and beautiful associate editor, Veronica Wells, hipped us (and me, too) to a mildly controversial opinion expressed by Today show co-anchor Tamron Hall. In an interview with The Huffington Post Live, Hall said she routinely sidesteps questions about “how hard it is to be a black woman.”
Actually, “sidesteps” is probably not the right word. It’s probably more accurate to say she reroutes those kinds of race talk prompts.
“Every time a young girl comes in and asks me for advice, if you start your conversation with, ‘How hard is it as a black woman or how hard is it as a woman,’ I turn you around. Because I cannot, we cannot look at the roadblocks and see the road at the same time…We all have these challenges and stereotypes that exist but you can’t let that hold you down.…If that’s the first thing you think about as a black woman — the challenge that lies ahead — you are thinking in the wrong direction, in my opinion…I will never answer that question of what are the challenges I face.”
Your response to Hall’s position?
Many of you left comments that essentially scoffed at her stance, including “Just because you ignore racism doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!” Some of you even went so far as to suggest what the Today show host should’ve said. A simple “I don’t let the challenges of being a Black woman rule my life” would’ve sufficed, in your opinion.
First of all, it seems to me that the word “ignore” is what ignited everyone’s ire. Surely, it is imprudent if not impossible (or delusional) to “ignore” the challenges of one’s race or gender. To be fair, the word “ignore” came from us (as in we MadameNoire writers and editor folk), not Hall. For the sake of space and summary, an editor is often tasked with expertly crafting a snappy headline out of a long, complicated and nuanced situation. But if you ask me, the word “ignore” is like “sidestep.” As in, it’s not quite right.
Look, I promise that I’m not about to start in on some New Black evangelism. What I have to say about Tamron Hall is neither new nor New Black. The color I want to talk about right now is red. Stay with me.
I love the color red, but it has to be the right red. My perfect shade of red is a crimson and coral melange. A mix of M.A.C. Ruby Woo lipstick, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” jacket and the one-shoulder Lanvin gown that showed off Beyoncé’s baby bump at the 2011 VMAs. Combine those three things and you’ll get my red.
And, in my book, Tamron Hall is the famous Black woman version of my perfect shade of red. Gawker called her a “human party”–and she is.
Hall is just plain dope. She embodies what I shall henceforth call The Seven S’s of Dopeness: Sophisticated, Successful, Smart, Stylish, Sunny, Sharp (as in sharp-eyed) and Speaks well. (To be clear, by “speak well” I do not mean to say some version of Tamron Hall is articulate for a Black woman. What I’m saying is that she has a sparkling tone and delightful cadence to her voice.) Think about that combination. To be any or all of those things is tough, but to juggle all of those characteristics simultaneously? To be sophisticated and sunny? To be sophisticated, sunny and sharp?
Let’s talk about the adjective “sharp-eyed” for a minute. To be sharp-eyed is to be watchful, to be observant, to know what the hell is going on around you. A sharp-eyed driver is the one who manages to keep track of what’s happening all around them, but keeps their eyes mostly focused on the damn road.
Consider Hall’s explanation about not addressing the hard-to-be-a-Black-woman thing: “I cannot, we cannot look at the roadblocks and see the road at the same time,” she said.
When you’re in the driver’s seat, seeing the road is the primary goal. You’re looking at the pavement ahead, but you’re also checking out the truck speeding up behind you that might try to pass you any minute. You’re watching out for the humongous tree branch on the shoulder of the highway that’s in your lane thanks to last night’s storm. As a motorist, you’re negotiating these challenges and checking them out, but you’re not staring them down.
I don’t know what activism endeavors Hall has taken on, but I gather that activism is not her life’s work. For a Black woman who’s an activist and whose life’s work is racial justice, then maybe the hard-to-be-a-Black-woman thing has to be the primary focus. But for other Black women, racial challenges might be one of many roadside distractions that come in and out of focus.
Although Hall prefers not to discuss such challenges, she still gamely acknowledges the time she was given an assignment because the news director assumed that she had an “in with the gang world.” During that Huffington Post Live interview, she even reenacted her response when she got the call by making a WTF?! look to the imaginary phone in her hand. But beyond that quick gesture, she didn’t say much else about how she felt about the experience.
If you ask me, however, her WTF?! reenactment said enough. It was, like, “C’mon now. I knew that was on some ‘Well, you are black, so you must know some gang members’ stereotypical sh*t.” In her own way, Hall was letting us know that she’s all too familiar with the difficulties of being a Black woman in her profession. She just prefers not to verbally harp on those “roadblocks,” as she calls them.
As she said, “we cannot look at the roadblocks and see the road at the same time.” And, I mean, think about it. If you were driving a car on the highway and you had to pick one–the roadblocks or the road–to be your primary focus, what would it be? Cliche as it may sound, life really is one long road trip. In my opinion, it makes sense that the journey of Black women, in particular, requires a lot of pay-attention-to-everything-around-you-but-keep-your-eyes-on-the-road driving.