I guess being thoughtful is bad now.
Time to Log Off is a weekly series documenting the many ways our political figures show their whole asses online.
This past Tuesday marked just 32 years since the Americans With Disabilities Act became law in the United States — a shameful reminder that some of the most basic considerations this country makes for some communities aren’t even old enough to run for president. And despite enshrining a suite of protections for those living with visual, auditory, and other physical impairments into federal law, there’s still much more to do. With that in mind, on Tuesday the White House commemorated the ADA’s anniversary with a roundtable hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss how overturning federal reproductive health care access has exacerbated the disparities already present in the American health care system for those communities with additional health concerns.
Given that the meeting was both intended for, and specifically attended by, disability rights activists, it’s perfectly understandable that Harris would begin her remarks by offering a brief verbal description of her physical appearance for those attendees (and those watching online) who may be visually impaired.
“I am Kamala Harris,” she said in the event’s opening moments. “My pronouns are ‘she’ and ‘her.’ I am a woman sitting at the table wearing a blue suit.”
That’s it. That’s the whole thing. A totally benign, extremely reasonable, 18-word visual encapsulation for anyone who may not be able to fully see her during an event specifically geared toward people who might not be able to fully see her. And yet, almost immediately after footage of Harris’s opening statement made its way onto Twitter, the worst, most bad-faith ghouls of the conservative fever swamp leaped upon her remarks as evidence of deranged wokeness, or mental incapacity, or any number of extremely mean-spirited variations thereof.
The Republican National Committee used the remarks in a hastily cut attack spot:
And even Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Republican Democrats Love to Love™, got in on the action:
He later doubled- and then tripled-down on his criticism of Harris’s accessible introduction with a “hey, don’t kill the messenger” shtick:
All this of course comes as the latest manifestation of the ongoing effort by the conservative right to not only gleefully malign transgender people simply for existing, but to mock and humiliate anyone who makes even the slightest gesture of accommodation for anyone else. It’s part of the same “be offended” offensive from Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, and the GOP’s crusade against anything it deems “woke.”
But this instance of mocking Harris for two sentences of description directly aimed at the attendees of her event is such an egregious instance of being an asshole for asshole’s sake that you’d be forgiven for thinking it might be a tipping point where conservatives have overplayed their hand. It won’t be, of course, because we’re talking about people who have no shame, but still, that’s how dumb and mean-spirited it is.
Which is all to say that, no, this one example won’t stem the tide in the conservative culture wars that seek to demonize everyone who isn’t them. But hopefully at least, in the future, those who want to leap down the throat of a public official for what seems like an easy dunk, only to learn that they’re actually dunking on people with disabilities, will take enough of a pause to shut up instead. And if they’re smart, they won’t just shut up, but will do us all a favor and log directly off.