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‘I cannot fail’: Jean-Pierre addresses facing stereotypes as WH press secretary

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a Thursday interview that she is hyperaware of the stereotypes that follow her as a Black woman speaking for the highest office in the nation. 

Speaking with theGrio’s April Ryan at the fourth annual Black Women Lead summit, Jean-Pierre discussed how she navigates a space that remains heavily dominated by white heterosexual men as the first Black LGBTQ press secretary in history. 

A year into the job, she said her identity leaves little wiggle room for mistakes. 

“You are fighting every day,” Ryan said to Jean-Pierre. “How do you fight and still remain composed and fight in the midst of people trying to erase you and people trying to make you feel like you should not be there?”

“Because I have to,” Jean-Pierre replied. “I have to. We are so stereotyped. And I cannot fail. It’s not an option.”

Failing, she added, would let down the other Black women in the room.

“It is important for us to do the best that we can to succeed and not fail and then bring people with us,” said Jean-Pierre. “I hope when my tenure is over, which is not anytime soon, that the next people, person, women behind me have it a little bit easier and they feel that, ‘OK, Karine was able to do it, now I’m just going to take it to the next level and do this.’ And so that’s what matters.”

“It is so important for Black women to lead,” she added. “It is so important for us to be in those positions. It’s so important for people, other people, to see us in those positions.”

Jean-Pierre is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, where she has also lectured.

Before her time as press secretary, Jean-Pierre worked on the Obama and Biden campaigns and served as a spokesperson for the progressive group MoveOn and as an MSNBC commentator. 

Being White House press secretary — and making history in the position — hasn’t been easy, Jean-Pierre said. 

She’s already faced what some have deemed racist remarks from GOP pundits, such as former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who in 2022 implied Jean-Pierre received her position only because of her identity. 

“She’s in the right group, and to the Biden administration, which thinks exclusively in terms of groups and never in terms of individuals, because individuals are messy and inconvenient, the group is all that matters,” Carlson wrote in an op-ed. “It’s really simple. Show us your picture, and we’ll tell you if you’re qualified for the job.”

Jean-Pierre, for her part, has called Fox News “racist.”

But on Thursday, she recounted how her identities have come front and center since her first press conference in the wake of the targeted mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., that left 10 Black people dead. 

“That was how I kicked off my tenure in this role, and then not 11 days later, it was Uvalde,” Jean-Pierre said.

“There’s a lot of things happening in this country, a lot of things. It is unprecedented. It is scary,” she continued. “We are in Pride month where the LGBTQ+ community is under attack, literally. We just mentioned all the communities that I represent: Black, queer, immigrant, and it is tough. It is tough being at the podium and having to talk about these issues that affect everything that I am.”

But she said she knows the power of her role and what it means to many around the nation. 

“When I go out into the world and get out of this bubble — because this is the D.C. bubble — I have the most amazing experience with people,” said Jean-Pierre. “Some people come up to me crying. Some people come up to me and just say thank you. I don’t even — some people even say I don’t even know what you say at the podium but just seeing you it’s just amazing. It’s the pride. It’s the pride. It’s the pride and never thinking we would get here.”

Source: The Hill

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