[Commentary] Race and Privilege: Kelly Ripa Does Not Own Michael Strahan

(Photos from left: Rob Kim/Getty Images, Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

[Commentary] Race and Privilege: Kelly Ripa Does Not Own Michael Strahan

There are serious undertones in their feud.

Published May 13, 2016

Kelly Ripa’s reaction to the departure of her co-star Michael Strahan feels uncomfortably like racial micro-aggressions — those instances where people don’t necessarily throw the n-word out but use coded language and actions to show belief in their superiority.

Do you feel the need to tell your coworkers when you’re looking for a new job? Would you be insulted if you found out a co-worker was taking a new job — and they didn’t tell you first? Exactly.

Clearly, Kelly Ripa didn’t get the memo.

Today was Michael Strahan’s last day on Live With Kelly and Michael. He was originally scheduled to leave in the fall but mysteriously his last day was moved up to today. Strahan’s hiring four years ago signaled a huge move towards inclusion on morning television. A Black man — a former football player with a large build — was chosen to co-host a morning daytime television show on a major network. It was rumored that Ripa handpicked him, advocating for Strahan to be her co-host.

It looks like four years later, she believes he owes her. 

While today’s show was filled with flashback moments, Kelly Ripa’s reaction to the news of his departure will hang over any festiveness. In this week’s issue of People, Kelly Ripa explained why she took an unannounced ‘vacation’ immediately following the news of her co-star’s exit from the show. Here quotes are troubling. It sounds like Ripa believes she’s Strahan’s boss (or owner) instead of simply his coworker. “There's a part of me that can say, 'Okay, I understand. This may have been an oversight.”

Strahan was undoubtedly in negotiations with ABC about the new position for a while and it’s common to be asked to keep it completely under wraps. Since both shows are on the same network (and he began hosting GMA twice a week years ago), it’s certain that Ripa’s bosses knew. Why isn’t Ripa targeting her anger at the ABC executives? Think for a moment what this would look like if it were Strahan who walked off the show. If you don’t think he would be vilified — and that there wouldn’t be subtle racism inferred — you are wrong.

Kelly also said, “I want to honestly and sincerely thank you for welcoming me back to the show, the show of support to this bizarre time has been overwhelming.” A bizarre time? What’s bizarre about your co-worker moving on? If you feel blindsided, cool. Share that at home and in private meetings with your bosses (and with Strahan in private if needed as well).

She also added, “I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts.” You are on a live daily show. And you bounced, leaving the show in the lurch and scrambling for a replacement because you needed to gather your thoughts? About what? Your co-worker is moving on. Since when does that mean you can walk off the job and publicly sulk? If it’s true that Ripa didn’t know about Strahan’s exit until 30 minutes before it was announced, that could be uncomfortable. But that’s life. You don’t get to walk off the job because you weren’t kept in the know about your coworker’s life. Do you sign his paychecks?

Then there is this doozy, “I always speak from the heart so I didn't want to come out here and say something I’d regret.” Say something like what? Is she seriously saying that after two decades in front of the camera, she wasn’t sure she could keep herself from saying something she would regret? Can’t you speak from the heart in an off-screen staff meeting and be professional on camera? And she would have said something right in front of Strahan? Again, imagine Michael Strahan coming back to the show and hinting that he had to leave because he would have had something he would regret. The backlash would be swift and intense.

Let’s be clear: Michael Strahan owes Kelly Ripa absolutely nothing. If he felt like he wanted to share news of his new gig with her — great. If he needed to keep it under wraps, that’s his right as well.

And of course, Strahan had nothing but supportive things to say about Ripa, even when she made side comments about his divorces or contract negotiation on live television. In truth, Strahan didn’t have the privilege to throw shade to Ripa. Black men are notoriously not allowed to show aggression of any kind. Middle America wouldn't like that one bit.

Kelly also explained, “Since we're being honest, I don't consider this just a workplace – this is my second home.” Yeah, Kelly. That’s part of the problem. It’s not your second home. It’s solely your workplace. Owned by one of the largest media companies in the world. It’s a job. And it was a job for Michael Strahan. He’s moving on. And he owes you nothing. It’s business — never personal. If you were clear on that, you wouldn’t act like Michael Strahan was a player on a team you own — or the hired help.

Written by Aliya S. King

(Photos from left: Rob Kim/Getty Images, Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)


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