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Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Rhetoric Society Quarterly ISSN: 0277-3945 (Print) 1930-322X (Online) Journal homepage: A Tightrope of Perfection: The Rhetoric and Risk of Black Women’s Intellectualism on Display in Television and Social Media Tamika L. Carey To cite this article: Tamika L. Carey (2018) A Tightrope of Perfection: The Rhetoric and Risk of Black Women’s Intellectualism on Display in Television and Social Media, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 48:2, 139-160, DOI: 10.1080/02773945.2017.1392037 To link to this article: Published online: 11 Dec 2017. Submit your article to this journal Article views: 779 View related articles View Crossmark data Citing articles: 3 View citing articles
A Tightrope of Perfection: The Rhetoric and Risk of Black Women s Intellectualism on Display in Television and Social Media Tamika L. Carey Although models for recovering and theorizing black women s discourse have focused on examples of communicative eloquence, competence, verbal prowess, and depictions of strategy, these frame- works do not completely account for the racialized threats of violence black women sometimes incur as consequences for their participation in public dialogues. To understand how risk and penalty are activated against black women intellectuals on television and social media, this essay analyzes the controversy and subsequent social media backlash Wake Forest University professor and former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry experienced in late 2013 after off-hand remarks about former presidential candidate Mitt Romney s African American grandchild. When read as the consequence of feminist literacy practices and signifying enacted within a hostile surveillance culture, Harris-Perry s experience reveals an adverse rhetorical condition that penalizes and silences contemporary black women speakers and intellectuals. Keywords: African American, apology, black women, media, surveillance #IStandWithMHP because the tightrope of perfection that women of color walk in this country everyday is outrageously unjust. Lemon Sorbette By the time Political Science professor and author Melissa Harris-Perry posted this March 1, 2016, tweet ( Figure 1 ), it was obvious that she would not be offering the MSNBC network a public apology for walking away from the weekend news and talk show bearing her name. 1 That February, Harris-Perry s viewers and journalists from rival networks started to question if Nerdland, the affectionate nickname the host had Tamika L. Carey is Assistant Professor of English and WGSS Faculty Affiliate, University at Albany SUNY, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222, USA. E-mail: [email protected] Color versions of one or more of the figures in this article can be found online at .

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