'Blatant disrespect of Black women': Women leaders criticize treatment of Black women being considered as Biden VP pick

WASHINGTON – Over 100 Black women leaders and activists slammed comments made of Black women being considered to be Joe Biden's running mate as racist and sexist in an open letter published Wednesday.

Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Karen Bass, former US Ambassador Susan Rice, Rep. Val Demings and former Georgia Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams have all been floated as possible vice presidential contenders for Biden.

The letter comes as Biden is nearing an announcement on his vice presidential pick. It also comes just days after a Virginia mayor made a Facebook post that read, “Joe Biden has just announced Aunt Jemima as his VP pick.”

Barry Presgraves, mayor of Luray, Va., is now facing calls to resign following the post, which has since been deleted, according to a report from WTOP.

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"Regardless of your political affiliation, whether it's the media, members of the vice-presidential vetting committee, a former Governor, a top political donor, or a small town mayor: We are not your Aunt Jemimas," the letter said. "The use of the racist myth of a happy, Black servant portrayed as a happy domestic worker loyal to her White employer is not lost on us.  

"While some of the relentless attacks on Black women and our leadership abilities have been more suggestive than others, make no mistake--we are qualified and ambitious without remorse," the letter continued.

Influential leaders such as Aimee Allison, founder and president of She The People, key members of the NAACP like vice-chair Karen Boykin-Towns and Roslyn M. Brock, chairman emeritus of the National Board of Directors, and LaTosha Brown, founder of Black Voters Matters, were among those who signed the letter.

Jotaka Eaddy, founder and CEO of Full Circle Strategies, a social impact and political consulting firm, helped spearhead the letter. She said that the Black women over the past several months have faced narratives of being "too ambitious" or comments of these women not being apologetic.

Eaddy also criticized Presgraves comments, saying that is the type of comments that Black women running for office have to face.

"What we are seeing is that these women are being subjected to treatment that others in the process, and men before that has been in the same process, haven't been subjected to," Eaddy said.

Biden, who committed to choosing a woman as his running mate in March, said last month that at least four Black women were being vetted. Black women voters have called on Biden to choose a Black woman as his running mate.

Many of the leading contenders, such as Harris, have been scrutinized.

POLITICO reported last month that former Sen. Chris Dodd, who is a member of Biden’s vice presidential search committee, criticized Harris for her clash with the former vice president at the first Democratic debate over his civil rights record. Dodd reportedly said: “She laughed and said, ‘that’s politics.’ She had no remorse."

Dodd's comments have drawn criticism, particularly from Democratic women, who say Harris is being held to a standard that wouldn’t apply to a man.

Over the past couple of weeks, Biden's outreach to women of color has also been criticized.

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In July, She The People, which advocates for women of color, outlined concerns about Biden's outreach to women of color, particularly in battleground states. One way to help gain support among the crucial voting bloc was for Biden to pick a woman of color as his running mate, the She the People memo stated.

In the Wednesday open letter, the women wrote that "Black women have been and remain vital across sectors," naming women like civil rights activist Ella Baker, Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, and journalist Ida B. Wells.

"We are servant leaders -- motivated by a desire to uplift and advance our communities and nation," the letter said. "And we will not tolerate racist or sexist tropes consistently utilized in an effort to undermine our power.

"No matter who you are supporting for Vice President, you should be equally outraged by the blatant disrespect of Black women."

Contributing: Bart Jansen, Deborah Barfield Berry and Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY