jamilah-lemieux

Last week, Ebony.com editor Jamilah Lemieux came under attack on Twitter after criticizing plans for a conservative publication aimed at African-Americans and identifying RNC deputy press secretary Raffi Williams as white.  Although Lemieux apologized for mistaking Williams for a White man, the right-wing attacks were unrelenting.  Many called for Lemieux’s firing and other people threw various racial and sexist slurs at her.

In response to the RNC and its supports, Ebony publicly cowered and apologized for what transpired:

Ebony wrote on their website:

EBONY founder John H. Johnson once said that he created EBONY magazine with the intention to affirm a certain sense of “somebodiness” for African Americans. Nearly 70 years ago the magazine began on the principle that, as Black people, we are all somebody—we all count.

Yesterday, the spirit of this mission was disregarded by EBONY.com Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux in a personal Twitter exchange between herself and RNC Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams.

The magazine continued:

EBONY acknowledges Senior Editor Jamilah Lemieux’s lack of judgment on her personal Twitter account and apologizes to Raffi Williams and the Black Republican community.

Earlier this week, Lemieux released her own statement and expressed her appreciation for all the people who took her side in the debate:

I love my work. I love having the opportunity to tell diverse Black stories—and stories that impact Black people. I also love the democracy of digital media, an ever-changing space that allows people of all creeds, colors and backgrounds to serve as storytellers, content creators and influencers. As an active Twitter user since 2008, I have been able to share stories with and from people all across the world. I have debated, I have ranted, I have listened—and I have learned. I have also not only developed a loyal and remarkably kind group of e-friends, readers and supporters, but I have connected with people with whom I might not typically befriend or engage, many of whom who have fiercely different perspectives than my own.

There have been nearly 20,000 tweets with the #StandwithJamilah hashtag following the events of last week. I do not have words to express the gratitude I have for the individuals who have raised their voices publicly and privately to ‘stand’ with me after I was attacked, or in Internet parlance, trolled following my exchange with RNC Deputy Press Secretary Raffi Williams—an exchange that was largely reported with gross factual inaccuracies by news outlets both large and small. After thousands of negative Tweets, emails and phone calls to and about both my employer and I—in which I was repeatedly called names ranging from the strange (“socialist,” “Marxist,” “plantation mistress,”) to the downright sexist and racist (“c-nt,” “b-tch,” “n-gger”) and even calls for me to be raped, robbed and beaten—I am sustained by the kind, supportive words I have received from so many people, women and men of all races.

I want to affirm, for any who may doubt, that I have very strong feelings about how my words were twisted to fit the agenda of others. (This is not new territory—ask Shirley Sherrod, Melissa Harris Perry, Anthea Butler…I suppose I should take some pride in now being counted among this principled group.) But, right now, this isn’t about my feelings. Even though so much of this seems like it is about me, Jamilah Lemieux, it most certainly isn’t. This debacle is largely a commentary on the evolving concept of being an employed individual on social media—and the ever-shifting line between public and private. It highlights the importance of employees being mindful of such at all times, whether that feels “fair” or not. This is not about the First Amendment, this is about corporate ethics and the challenges that face those of us who represent major media brands.

In theory, I should be able to say whatever I want on my personal social media accounts and everyone should understand and respect that my words are not the words of Johnson Publishing Company, nor EBONY. That is not the world we live in. That is not reality. And while a quip about a TV show or anecdote about a date may go by without much controversy, “snarking” those who don’t share my political views left me open to attack. And in an era during which there are people who live for nothing more than the opportunity to tear down a brand or an individual who is, perhaps, more confident or more accomplished than themselves, we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and our careers from a useless war.

Click here to read the rest of Jamilah’s statement.

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  • ALM

    “And in an era during which there are people who live for nothing more than the opportunity to tear down a brand or an individual who is, perhaps, more confident or more accomplished than themselves,….”

    Jamilah you threw a palm tree amount of shade in that sentence. LOL

    The bottom line is it is critical for African Americans to not only own certain spaces within media, but to also maintain ownership of those spaces. Who knows what the response would have been (if any) if John Johnson was still living and he maintained full ownership of “Ebony”?
    If you own your magazine completely, then other people can’t bully you into this sort of apology.

    The worst that could happen is that a couple of advertisers may pull their funding, but based on the spending power of African Americans, those advertisers would be misguided in pulling their funding.