versation became tense when the man began to insist that she explain how she got“credentialed to be on MSNBC”and began to advance into her personal space. Thehost writes that the man was also audibly muttering“Nazi Germany”and“rise topower”(“Of Teachers and Students”). To Harris-Perry’s relief, one of her studentsobserved the man advancing on her and intervened. According to the host, herstudent’s intervention quite possibly saved her life.The combination of Harris-Perry’s economic, educational, and even aestheticprivilege has kept open doors of opportunity denied to other black women andallowed the host to leave her MSNBC series with a measure of financial securityintact.9Still, the hotel encounter reveals the real-time and lived threats thatmobility and intellectualism can pose for members of this group. Aside from theRomney incident, Harris-Perry had navigated a tightrope of public perfectionsuccessfully enough during the tenure of her show, but in a moment when hostileindividuals and audiences feel empowered to question her credibility and presence,her life was endangered. We may not ever determine the exact rationale behindMSNBC’s scheduling and the staffing changes in the month leading into the finalepisodes of“Nerdland,”but the hotel incident shows us that the silencing HillCollins describes as the outcome of apolitics of containmenthappens largely on arhetorical level where black women’s successes, forms of outspokenness, and overallpresence beget threat for them. After the #Istandwithmhp hashtag campaign andthis encounter, returning to the show may have been too great a risk for Harris-Perry.Since much of the rhetorical scholarship regarding black women seeks to createavenues of opportunity or develop frameworks for understanding them, my apolo-gist-informed analysis shows us that we must do more to understand what theclosing off of these avenues suggests about the convergence of race, gender, andcommunicative risk on a larger scale. For instance, even as black women haveparticipated in social media dragging, or what I call an intense and rapid form ofmocking, the archival memory of their transgressions as users of social mediagenerally make the stakes higher for them. Within the last four years, a growingnumber of black female professors at major colleges and universities have had theirjob security and lives threatened by perceptions of their political affiliations,ideological investments, or choices to retweet controversial dialogues. Boston9I reference aesthetic privilege to acknowledge colorism and how fair and light-skinned black womenexperience social privileges frequently denied to their darker-skinned sisters.156Carey
University professor Saida Grundy, the feminist sociologist who had not yetformally begun her appointment in the fall of 2014 when outraged studentsfound her old Twitter comments where she called white men a“problem popula-tion”and called for her to be fired, has continued to experience character inves-tigation and probes into her history despite retaining her faculty position.