We’re sure that when Washington Post National Reporter Chelsea Janes went to cover an event for Sen. Kamala Harris, she didn’t expect her day would end with Black Twitter dragging her to hell and back.
See, what happened was the journalist, who is white, was live-tweeting a book tour stop Harris had at D.C.’s Politics and Prose Book Store to talk about her newest work “The Truths We Hold.” Given that Harris went to HBCU Howard University, that is also in D.C., it’s no surprise that Black women from her alma mater were there.
That, and Harris is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, so you know her soror sisters showed some serious love after the California senator mentioned her affiliation with the historic organization.
How do AKA’s show their love? With their “skee-wee” call.
But Janes, who clearly isn’t well-versed in Black culture and is oblivious of the concept of content clues, was shocked by it all, tweeting that people were “screeching” in the audience.
In a now-deleted tweet, Janes wrote, “Member of her Howard sorority are in the room, and screeched when she mentioned her time there. Did not expect to hear screeches here.”
Now, is this faux pas the biggest deal of the day? Nope. Does the skee-wee sound a little pitchy? Absolutely.
But given how much Black women have felt under attack the past week and how often mainstream media fails us, it should come as no surprise that folks had words for Ms. Janes, pointing out how ridiculous and tone deaf her Tweet was, the importance of cultural competency and why newsrooms needs more journalists to color to cover politics.
After being royally read for filth, Janes eventually apologized, stressing she was only trying to convey the “excitement” in the room.
And then she got a little condescending….
While, her initial tweet may not have been done with malice, the damage was already done…and Black Twitter was not going to let her forget it.
A reminder that white culture is dominant culture so the next time someone asks me why there isn’t a white history month I’ll remind you we know all your Sig Eps and your Alpha Phis but y’all know none of ours & the fact that we had to create them bc we were restricted from yours pic.twitter.com/a0XxSYK64l— brittany packnett cunningham. (@MsPackyetti) January 10, 2019
It's called a skee-wee @chelsea_janes. Now STOP being disrespectful! Alpha Kappa Alpha was created because white women like you didn't want them in their sorority. #BeBest #Kamala2020 https://t.co/XqaKer72xA— A Girl Has No Name 💬 (@girlstayswoke) January 10, 2019
I fully expect that the @chelsea_janes misinterpretation of the AKA "Skee-Wee" call at @KamalaHarris's book roll out last night to be leveraged as a way to get all black writers to serve on the #Harris2020 campaign beat.— WB, the third derivative of sensational (@WestleyBayas) January 10, 2019
I’m glad she wasn’t at the earlier reception for new CBC women bc who knows how she might have covered the Skee-Wee vs Oo-oop situation. 😂— Christina Henderson (@chenderson) January 10, 2019
Pro-tip: Kamala Harris is not the only AKA in Congress. Learn the rest before Jan 15, so there aren’t any stories about “matching outfits.”
Is it petty that I laughed at this tweet of K’s skee-wee being classified as a screech? https://t.co/jGtonoEFyE— Regina Fuller (@reginafuller) January 10, 2019
Those "screeches" were "Skee-Wee"s. The official call of Alpha women trademarked on Jan 10, 2017. I'd advised you to do some research and do it soon.— Killa❤B.M.J.❤Kam (@Exclusively_Kam) January 10, 2019
Reason No. 432503624840 why diversity in the newsroom is important.— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) January 10, 2019
This reporter covering @KamalaHarris at Howard University didn't do her research and know that she is an AKA. She probably don't even know that the "Howard sorority" she speaks of is the first one of its kind. https://t.co/og8dwKdq5K
That woman really described the AKA "Skee-wee" as a screech...fam..... God bless her mentions and the dragging she's about to get 😂😂😂— Panda (@Rimzzzeee) January 10, 2019
It’s NOT a screech! *flips hair*— Steph B. Jones says buy Wings of Ebony (@SJwritesLit) January 10, 2019
It’s called SKEE-WEE! And it’s not a Howard Sorority. It’s THE FIRST Black Greek female sorority founded at Howard University Jan. 15, 1908 pic.twitter.com/cSKZCy6JqJ
There is nothing positive conveyed by calling something a "Screech". She doesn't have to know anything about AKAS or the Divine 9 to know she was using an insulting word to describe the sound.— Serious Black (@NicT10) January 10, 2019
this is ALL I am saying.— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) January 10, 2019
I'm frustrated that I have to be fluent in white people but white people don't have to know anything about us but I work through that in yoga. https://t.co/h2PZTAfYCb
Seriously? 🙄 Why am I not surprised that you have no idea about historically Black sorority’s vocal signal? Do not repeat this error in your story. pic.twitter.com/Rwamm4yFsb— Queen of Fables (@DPMCanty) January 10, 2019
I see this is going to be a looooong presidential campaign season. As long as Kamala Harris is in the race, we’re going to have to explain everything about black women, HBCUs, Black sororities...and on and on like were aliens from another planet. I’m exhausted already.— RC (@petionville85) January 10, 2019
Oh my. This tweet was... unwise 😒 pic.twitter.com/fKTOZPYhJQ— It don’t MATTER what my name is! (@lbrass3) January 10, 2019
Lol the AKAs are about to be posted up in your mentions like this: pic.twitter.com/urzpAvy6Nl— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) January 10, 2019
How uninformed do you have to be, as a reporter in DC, to be unaware of an international Sorority that has existed for over 100 years? I urge you to do research on my Sorors before speaking negatively about a tradition you know nothing of. Cheers.— Stimmy Neutron (@Kylov3) January 10, 2019
Whoooo girl🙊. Let me tell the Sorors to chill in the grout chat cuz the Neos be super hype bout stuff like this pic.twitter.com/P67pX8ZyO4— Boo’d Up Betty (@MichelleDeRossi) January 10, 2019
Today in “white people are completely oblivious to cultures other than their own...”— Vigo, The Sorrow of Moldavia (@TheRareKind) January 10, 2019
Diverse newsrooms matter. White people just don't have to know about things related to POC and it leads to statements like this. They aren't "screeching" smh. It would be great if WP and others would hire more POC.— Kai Siobhan (@kaisiobhan) January 10, 2019
Um it’s called skee wee and don’t ever mention the words Howard or sorority in the same breath again pic.twitter.com/swXDwfMlC9— GORMAN 2036 (@dcjanfan) January 10, 2019
This is just an ignorant, very ignorant tweet. As a reporter, you should investigate and try to know something about people. Her sorority is an international sorority founded at Howard University. Our call is Skee-Wee.— Dr. Elizabeth Craigg (@Peeps1908) January 10, 2019
It is NOT a screech
“Guys.” “anyway.” Your tone is wildly dismissive and it’s not just a slight to AKAs, it’s an indication that you didn’t care to convey the tone in the room properly or ask someone for more context about something you didn’t understand. You didn’t think we were worth the trouble.— Vigo, The Sorrow of Moldavia (@TheRareKind) January 10, 2019
We SKEE WEE, we do not “screech”.— Lori Harvey’s Apprentice (@PrettyYoungTT) January 10, 2019
You should learn the history of The illustrious Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, founded on Howard’s campus almost 111 years ago. Do your research, reporter. pic.twitter.com/Gc1pBXfG1w