Opinion MSNBC’s cancellation of Tiffany Cross sends a chilling signal
About a month ago, I was having a chat with a Black editor. We got around to talking about our experiences. As the conversation went on, we agreed that we definitely shared one thing as Black people doing public discourse work: precariousness.
To be a Black public figure who chooses to be honest about white supremacy in this country is dangerous business. And there is no starker example of that than Tiffany Cross — whose show, “The Cross Connection,” was canceled last month by MSNBC, and whose contract with the network wasn’t renewed.
Cross, a former D.C. bureau chief for BET Networks and an associate producer for CNN, was named host of “The Cross Connection” in late 2020. The show aired Saturday mornings and was one of the higher-rated weekend political shows for the network. It was also one of the few shows left on a major news network that centered the voices of Black people and others of color. Cross focused on matters domestic and international, doing shows, for instance, on global diaspora movements.
She was unapologetic about discussing white supremacy and did not hold back on matters of race. This, of course, drew the ire of the right-wing chattering class, who increasingly singled her out. In October, after Cross (rightly) noted how White men dominate the NFL’s coaching and ownership ranks, Megyn Kelly called her a “dumbass” and “the most racist person on television.” Later that month, Fox News’s Tucker Carlson went on a 10-minute tirade against Cross and MSNBC, accusing Cross of stoking hatred against White people, and comparing her show to the radio broadcasts that led to the Rwandan genocide.
Shortly after that, on Nov. 4, news broke that MSNBC was parting ways with Cross, just days before the midterm elections. It was a stunning announcement — and, particularly for Black journalists, a reminder that the rug could be pulled out from under us at any time. She was not even given the dignity of a final, sign-off show.
It’s all a bad look, sending the message that we can be abruptly de-platformed for stirring up the right-wing media pot. Two years after the supposed “global reckoning” on race, we are still disposable.
The symbolism of Cross’s de-platforming is all the more concerning considering the political times we live in, when attacks against Black educators, authors and journalists are increasing across the country. In a letter to MSNBC, more than 40 Black leaders protested: “This season is too grave a moment in American history to silence the voices of Black Women who, time and again, save America from itself.” (So far, the National Association of Black Journalists has been quiet.)
NBC has lost a number of prominent Black voices over the years, especially Black women. Melissa Harris-Perry’s popular MSNBC weekend show was canceled in 2016. In 2017, Tamron Hall was pushed out. MSNBC’s Peacock hub canceled Zerlina Maxwell’s and Joshua Johnson’s shows, and both left the network.
The situation is all the more disheartening considering that MSNBC’s current president is a Black woman, Rashida Jones. We are made to hope and believe that representation at the upper ranks will understand and support our voices. Sadly, this is not always the case.
I am surprised, but not shocked, that this isn’t a bigger story for U.S. media journalists. Cross has retained a lawyer, and is reportedly looking to challenge her firing. Her case is an important one to watch. We should be glad she’s fighting for her voice, and the voices of so many of the other communities she featured — but it’s awful that a star such as her even has to. If this can happen to Cross, all Black journalists are on shaky ground.
Global Radar: More British Royal Racism
How long can the British royal family go without beclowning themselves with their racism?
This week, the royals made news again after Lady Susan Hussey, a former lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth II, repeatedly asked Ngozi Fulani, the Black head of a domestic violence charity, at a palace reception: “Where are you really from?”
Fulani said that the questions, while not physical violence, were a form of abuse. Hussey, who is also Prince William’s godmother, resigned after the incident.
Even wilder to me was learning that Hussey was the one tasked with helping Meghan, Duchess of Sussex integrate into the royal family. According to reports, Queen Elizabeth wanted Hussey to offer Meghan advice and help her learn protocol. She supposedly said that Meghan’s marriage to Prince Harry would “end in tears.” Geez. Are we still wondering why Meghan and Harry fled the family?
After the couple’s blockbuster interview with Oprah Winfrey last year, I wrote that Black women were taking down whatever fantasies we’d held about the royal family’s progressiveness on race. Fulani is continuing that tradition by speaking out about her treatment. Royal supporters can’t blame Meghan for this scandal. Maybe it’s time to face the fact that the royals are stuck in a primitive past when it comes to race.
Frankly, without the queen, and without Meghan and Harry, the King Charles era is shaping up to be … quite uninteresting. Can we stop our obsession with this colonial family already?
Home front: Staying on the Twitter Ship until it sinks
For this week’s column, I wrote about why I’m staying on Elon Musk’s Twitter, and the importance of public platforms where Black people and other marginalized groups can be open about their experiences. As I wrote above about MSNBC and Tiffany Cross, it’s true that our voices are lately under even more pressure than usual, but it’s important for us to fight for our rights to take up space in the public domain.
As a Black woman, I’m (sadly) used to the pressure and attacks. But that hasn’t stopped me from finding community and friends on Twitter. Anyway, give it a read, and let’s chat about it!
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