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WHEN Gustavo Petro won the Colombian presidency, most of the international media focused on his running mate, Francia Márquez. It was remarkable: for the world, the star was not the president, but rather, his VP. What captivated the press? The obvious and all too superficial: her skin color and gender.
For example, the BBC published an article titled Who is Francia Marquez and why she is a milestone in Colombia’s history, writing that “for the first time an Afro-Colombian woman will hold the position of vice president of Colombia.”
“The arrival of Marquez, a feminist and environmental activist, embodies the collective struggle for ethnic and gender equality in a country that has historically been ruled by elite, urban, white men,” reads the BBC.
The New York Times had this to say of Marquez: “For the first time in Colombia’s history, a Black woman is close to the top of the executive branch.”
“The rise of Ms. Márquez is significant not only because she is Black in a nation where Afro-Colombians are regularly subject to racism and must contend with structural barriers, but because she comes from poverty in a country where economic class so often defines a person’s place in society. Most recent former presidents were educated abroad and are connected to the country’s powerful families and kingmakers,” wrote Julie Turkewitz of the NYT.
“Francia Marquez: From maid to become Colombia’s first black vice president,” headlined France24. “Colombia’s first black vice president brings a green approach,” said Bloomberg. NBC also highlighted her skin color in the headline and the Washington Post did a feature on the designer who dressed “Colombia’s first black female vice president.” So did Axios.
One outlet after another, media insisted on talking about the tremendous merit of a black woman becoming vice-president of a Latin American country. That is what the reports were reduced to: talking about a black activist, who was poor and once worked as a maid, who “triumphed”.
Paradoxically, this recognition of Francia Márquez hides a racism innate to the social justice warriors that roam these media. It is the same contempt for women that those who say they deserve a position, a privilege, or a quota solely because of their gender expose.
Marquez is praised for her skin color and for what she has between her legs, as if that were merit enough to take office. Because of their insistence on being activists, the media forgets that those who triumph on merit should be celebrated. If they had done their job, perhaps they would highlight some of Marquez’s achievements or, on the other hand, that she lacks the necessary qualifications to be the vice president of one of the most important countries in the hemisphere.
Márquez’s political life is limited to her environmental activism and her academic preparation is not outstanding —although some degrees stand out, unlike other heads of state in the region—. Her public slips, such as confusing astrology with astronomy, and her explicit affinity for radical leftist ideas do stand out.
The fact that some media consider that because she is black, Francia Márquez should be celebrated is the recognition that because of her skin color she is different and deserves support. There is no greater racism than the idea of considering someone an invalid or an orphan because of biological issues over which they have no control. There is no merit in skin color, because one must start from the idea that it doesn’t define a person’s talent or capabilities, as a member of the Ku Klux Klan would think.
The euphoria of the international press with the election of Francia Márquez, simply for being black, has exposed their veiled racism. If they cared about what was important, they would attend to the merits. And if they cared about the merits of Mrs. Marquez, they would not be as euphoric, celebrating her, as they are today.
Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.