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Why Didn’t She Talk to Us Before She Testified that Day

Why Didn’t She Talk to Us Before She Testified that Day
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In whispered phone calls, across private group chats and on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, Black people have been dumbfounded. No, not for what some might think. We all know Claudine Gay did not lose her job as president of Harvard because of plagiarism.

But, the question so many Black folk are asking is: Did you forget who you are or where you were? Of course, they are talking about when Gay testified before the House of Representatives and neglected to immediately and unequivocally condemn Harvard students who had called for the killing of Jews. It seems like she was hedging with that fated word “context” to accommodate counsel rather than her own gut when she was responding to heated questions.

The earful I got included classic Mommy-Auntie-uncle-Granny-Daddy wisdom: Remember, you have to be three times as smart as they are, because you start out with three strikes against you. You are Black. You are female. We are given THE SPEECH from the time we are little about being in these spaces. There’s a certain way you have to carry yourself and there’s a list of things you cannot say. Sis, when did you lose that?

And there it is. Without intending to kick a sister when she’s down, my friends and many others are asking a glaring question out loud (as well as loudly on loop inside their heads): How could Claudine Gay be THAT smart yet not know what NOT to say at such a pivotal moment?

Could she have handled her testimony more deftly? Enter a thunderous yes. To her credit, she has said as much over and over again. Why didn’t she fix it in the moment? People do fumbIe when they talk, particularly when they are in the hot seat. But her faux pas turned out to be unforgivable. And her apology was NOT accepted.

Makes me think she doesn’t have the absolutely essential soul sister/soul brother board of directors in her pocket. Who does she go to when she needs a sounding board? Especially when entering the lion’s den of the U.S. government, who should she have talked to to vet her thoughts before presenting them to the public? Where in the world was her personal crisis strategist? Who neglected to remind her that there are some things that SHE can NEVER say?

Who should be on every Black professional’s crisis management team? Let’s see. You need everybody from your own family’s version of Tyler Perry’s Madea to your Black sorority sister or brother, the deacon of your church, your treasured friend from the hood, your academic wiz bestie, and your civil rights activist brethren to all weigh in on your actual words BEFORE YOU SAY THEM. Because as we have witnessed, words matter. Especially when talking about geopolitics.

Okay, now put yourself in Gay’s situation. Who is at the ready to help you navigate the land mines that are just laying for you in whatever contentious situation you find yourself? Like my friend said before, every Black kid is taught from day one that to be Black means you have to be better than the best in order to be considered worth the very oxygen you breathe. (Oh yeah, and you better never forget that you are Black no matter how high up you climb.) Breathing in the hallowed halls of the Ivies can sometimes feel like gasping for air with no oxygen within arm’s reach. So I ask you: Do you know where your tank is?

In the case of Claudine Gay, I wonder who filled her oxygen tank. Whose voices did she consult before heading to Capitol Hill? A tough lesson here: As lonely as it can get at the top, if you don’t have your own Black brain trust to hold your feet to the fire and give you perspective, you may end up stranded in those sometimes unfriendly halls without any type of lifeline and no oxygen in sight.





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Written by Ebonicles

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