Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found atRhetoric Society QuarterlyISSN: 0277-3945 (Print) 1930-322X (Online) Journal homepage: A Tightrope of Perfection: The Rhetoric and Riskof Black Women’s Intellectualism on Display inTelevision and Social MediaTamika L. CareyTo cite this article:Tamika L. Carey (2018) A Tightrope of Perfection: The Rhetoric and Riskof Black Women’s Intellectualism on Display in Television and Social Media, Rhetoric SocietyQuarterly, 48:2, 139-160, DOI: 10.1080/02773945.2017.1392037To link to this article: Published online: 11 Dec 2017.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 779View related articles View Crossmark dataCiting articles: 3 View citing articles
A Tightrope of Perfection: The Rhetoricand Risk of Black Women’sIntellectualism on Display in Televisionand Social MediaTamika L. CareyAlthough models for recovering and theorizing black women’s discourse have focused on examplesof communicative eloquence, competence, verbal prowess, and depictions of strategy, these frame-works do not completely account for the racialized threats of violence black women sometimesincur as consequences for their participation in public dialogues. To understand how risk andpenalty are activated against black women intellectuals on television and social media, this essayanalyzes the controversy and subsequent social media backlash Wake Forest University professorand former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry experienced in late 2013 after off-hand remarksabout former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s African American grandchild. When read asthe consequence of feminist literacy practices and signifying enacted within a hostile surveillanceculture, Harris-Perry’s experience reveals an adverse rhetorical condition that penalizes andsilences contemporary black women speakers and intellectuals.Keywords:African American, apology, black women, media, surveillance#IStandWithMHP because the tightrope of perfection that women of color walkin this country everyday is outrageously unjust.—Lemon SorbetteBy the time Political Science professor and author Melissa Harris-Perry posted thisMarch 1, 2016, tweet (Figure 1), it was obvious that she would not be offering theMSNBC network a public apology for walking away from the weekend news and talkshow bearing her name.1That February, Harris-Perry’s viewers and journalists fromrival networks started to question if“Nerdland,”the affectionate nickname the host hadTamika 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.