— Melissa Harris-Perry (@MHarrisPerry) May 1, 2016
Melissa Harris-Perry penned an essay for Elle saying her decision to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was because she was invited as a guest of the Washington Blade and wanted to stand in support of LGBT media.
The Elle Editor-at-Large says she had skipped the event in the past because of its “interpersonal coziness between policy makers and the journalists who purportedly hold them accountable.” However, this year her desire to bring awareness to LGBT media struggles brought her to sit at the Blade’s table.
Harris-Perry writes in her essay she considers her support for the LGBT community to run deeper than just an ally.
“Just as the idea of a fancy White House Correspondents’s Association Dinner makes me uncomfortable, so too does the designation of ally. I am a cis, straight woman who lives and votes in North Carolina. I am not an ally; I am already fully invested,” Harris-Perry writes.
“I am a citizen, a neighbor, an aunt, a sister, a mother, a friend, a teacher, an employer. I have a fundamental responsibility to help dismantle inequality; if I don’t I am actively participating in perpetuating it. And as a black woman I am vulnerable to these interlocking systems of oppression, so the work is not altruistic,” Harris-Perry continued.
Harris-Perry is no stranger to media oppression. In February, she left her own MSNBC show “Melissa Harris-Perry” over a dispute with the network for covering issues of racism instead of presidential election coverage. WHCD Host Larry Wilmore commented on Harris-Perry’s departure in his monologue saying MSNBC “now stands for ‘Missing a Significant Number of Black Correspondents.”
Harris-Perry mentions the Blade’s struggle to achieve the same respect as other media outlets. Receiving its first press credentials during the Reagan Administration, the publication was never called on for questioning through George W. Bush’s first term. After Bush’s reelection, the Blade’s press credentials were withdrawn.
After a long delay, the Blade received press credentials after President Obama’s reelection in 2012 and joined the White House Press Pool in 2013.
“There is another point to be made by the five people representing The Washington Blade on Saturday night ― the sheer progress of LGBT media having five tickets to the dinner,” Harris-Perry writes.
Harris-Perry says Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff explained to her, “It’s been a long, slow haul. Believe it or not, having five tickets for the dinner is a pretty big deal for LGBT media.”
“In the end, the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is a slightly inappropriate, fancy meal in a big ballroom one night a year. It is not the engine of accountability for democracy. But it is one symbol of inclusion. It is a tent that is either big enough for everyone or not. It is the table to which people are invited or from which people are shoved away,” Harris-Perry continues.
“So I put on my good shoes, took Kevin’s arm, and stood proudly at all those complicated, messy intersections of identity and democracy because sometimes, you just have to go to the power party,” Harris-Perry writes.