Cari Champion, Artie Lange, and the price of being a black woman in public

While the country was voting, or trying to convince people to vote, or wondering if Lil’ Jon would make it to Georgia in order to vote, or debating Lena Dunham, comedian Artie Lange was being a racist, sexist asshole. Lange himself is irrelevant. He’s a comedian you may have seen in some bit parts here and there, or maybe a Comedy Central roast. But his decision to tweet incredibly disgusting, racist, and sexist messages about ESPN host Cari Champion illuminates the price black women pay for being visible.

While watching the popular ESPN morning show First Take, Lange saw Champion and, instead of simply thinking to himself “I find her attractive” and moving on, took to Twitter to report to his nearly 150,000 followers that he would like to participate in a slave master fantasy with the anchor. More specifically, he’d like to be Thomas Jefferson, with Champion as one of his slaves, whom he would attempt to whip before she turned the tables and whipped him. They would go on, in Lange’s fantasy, to have eight “illegitimate kids.”

It’s the type of thing you might expect to read in a Klan member’s diary, but Lange, in the name of shock comedy, turned it into a public spectacle. Thus far, Champion has not responded. And it’s not likely because she hasn’t seen these tweets, as Lange took the care of putting her Twitter handle in a number of them and Champion’s friend and fellow ESPN host Jemele Hill made a public comment about them. But by now, she’s probably so accustomed to the type of harassment that comes with being a black women in the public sphere, it din’t really register as worth engaging. What Lange said is routine.

That’s the part that’s enraging. These aren’t extreme comments in the sense that it happens so rarely as to be news. They are the everyday invective that accompanies black women’s public presence, to the point that it isn’t of note until someone with a sliver of public recognition voices this type of bile.

Moreover, there’s a silence that accompanies the harassment of black women that only allows it to continue. How does a comedian say these types of things about a host on the “worldwide leader in sports,” a subsidiary of Disney, and barely a peep is made? And what then does that mean for black women who don’t enjoy that type of platform?

More of the same, essentially. The routine will not be broken. Lange will not be made to apologize or pay any real consequences, and Champion will go back to letting these things roll off her back. She shouldn’t have to, but that’s the measure of where we are. If you, as a black woman, choose not to shrink into invisibility, there will be racist, sexist price to pay.

MychalMychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute.

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for and Salon. As a freelance writer, social commentator, and mental health advocate his work has been seen online in outlets such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, Al Jazeera English, Gawker, The Guardian,, Huffington Post, The Root, and The Grio.

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for and Salon.

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