KEY POINTS

  • Two Southern Baptist pastors referred to Vice President Kamala Harris as a "Jezebel" last month
  • Both pastors have yet to apologize for using the term, which experts said has racist and sexist connotations
  • Pastor Tom Buck insisted that he wasn’t being racist despite being informed that the term was considered a racial slur

Two white pastors in Texas came under fire for referring to Vice President Kamala Harris as a Jezebel but have yet to apologize for the label that experts say had a racist and sexist undertone.

Southern Baptists have been calling on pastors Tom Buck and Steve Swofford, who sits on the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee, to apologize after comparing Harris to the Biblical queen, whose name has become shorthand for an "amoral, wantonly sexual woman" in popular culture. It has been used to disparage Black women in particular, according to scholars.

Swofford made the reference from his pulpit at the First Baptist Church of Rockwall, Texas, on Jan. 3 when he wondered aloud what would happen if President Joe Biden would step down and "Jezebel has to take over." He asked his congregation, "Jezebel Harris? Isn’t that her name?"

Then two days after Harris' inauguration, Buck, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lindale, Texas, tweeted, "I can’t imagine any truly God-fearing Israelite who would’ve wanted their daughters to view Jezebel as an inspirational role model because she was a woman in power."

Days later, he doubled down, stating that his issue with Harris was her "godless character" because she supports women's access to abortion and the LGBTQ+ community's right to marry.

Valerie Cooper, an associate professor of Black church studies at Duke Divinity School, described the term being used in reference to a woman of color like Harris, who made history as America's first Black, South Asian and woman vice president, as "horrendous."

"It has not only misogynistic layers of interpretation, but it’s also frankly racist in its application," Cooper told HuffPost.

Jessica Johnson, an assistant professor of religious studies at the College of William & Mary, called it "an incitement to violence," The Lily reported.

Tamura Lomax, author of "Jezebel Unhinged: Loosing the Black Female Body in Religion and Culture," said the name "Jezebel" was considered a "slur" because "she did not submit to patriarchy." In the Bible, Jezebel was a princess and a prophet who did not cower even after learning she was going to be killed.

According to Lomax, the Jezebel stereotype has been used as a justification for sexual and racial violence against Black women since the age of American slavery. 

"The jezebel trope is explicitly historically and culturally racialized, and it especially impacts Black single mothers, Black women in power, and powerfully sexually expressive Black women and girls," Lomax added.

Meanwhile, Buck admitted that a number of people reached out to him after he referred to Harris as a Jezebel and informed him that the term was deemed a "racial slur." However, he denied that he meant it that way.

"I was told that everyone knows it’s a racial slur against black women. Therefore, they attack me, to set that’s what I was doing. Of course, I wasn’t," he tweeted.

Swofford has not responded to HuffPost's request for comment.

Kamala Harris is sworn in as the 49th US vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Kamala Harris is sworn in as the 49th US vice president by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Photo: POOL / SAUL LOEB