Politics Aside, Sexual Harassment is Unacceptable

Like many, I have been troubled by the eruption of the political scandal in Virginia, made public by revelations of racist behavior by the state’s governor and attorney general, and of sexist behavior by the lieutenant governor.

While it appears that the revelations were politically driven, the fact remains that what we learned was troubling. To be honest, I leaned toward wanting the public to give Gov. Ralph Northam a pass. White folks have put on blackface ever since I can recall and have kept live their association with the Ku Klux Klan, though they’ve wanted to keep it a secret. The picture in the yearbook was taken over 30 years ago and to be honest, as this government has given so many accusations of egregious behavior a pass, I shrugged it off. From all reports, Gov. Northam has been an exemplary person and has worked for racial justice.

I was glad that he at first admitted that it was him in the picture we all saw. He apologized and I was done with it. But then he changed his story and I also paid more attention to the “when” of the story. I had originally chalked his actions up to youthful foolishness – something of which we are all guilty – but this picture appeared in the governor’s medical school yearbook. Presumably, the governor and his friends were in their mid-20s, too old for such pranks. And I took issue with the fact that a medical school would even publish such offensive images. And so I changed my mind about chalking it up. And while I believe in the Christian mandate to forgive, I wonder what forgiveness looks like in this instance.

I am still wrestling with what I believe should happen. Something should happen, but I am not sure if I believe it is resignation.

That situation was enough to have to absorb, but then we were hit with the accusation of sexual impropriety toward a young woman by Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. In this era of the #MeToo movement, this type of behavior perpetrated by powerful men has been revealed as being all too common. In spite of how some men have gotten a pass in light of accusations, as was the case with United States Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, many of the men who have been exposed as having been involved in this kind of behavior have lost their jobs, their reputations, and in some cases, their freedom.

I was clear, though sad to feel this way, that Fairfax should resign.

Why am I wrestling with the fate of a white man and resolute on my belief that the black man should resolve? It is partly because with the blackface accusation, I am convinced that many to most white men have a history of racist behavior. It is part of our culture, and I am convinced that many who engaged in such behavior did as they did because of peer pressure. To not join the crowd would set them up to be ostracized from their friends and kids do not handle separation from their friends easily. Even though Northam was older when he allegedly engaged in the prank that was caught on film, it is quite possible he was just trying to “fit in,” and if the Christian mandate to forgive is genuine, we must forgive, not hard to do in light of Northam’s public record of service. Where I shudder is the idea that a medical school, preparing people to take care of all kinds of people, blacks included, would sanction and publish the picture. I would not want to be treated by any doctors from that institution.

But in the case of Fairfax, as much as I want to defend him, I cannot, because sexual aggression toward women has for too long been sanctioned and accepted. Powerful men have for decades abused their power by using sex to intimidate and manipulate women. Their sexist behavior has caused far too many women too much pain, a pain which has been exacerbated by a general tendency in society to disregard the women’s claims of sexual assault. Men have had no reason to curb their impetuous sexual behavior and have taken advantage of the same.

If Fairfax did what he has been accused of, who is to say he would not do it again? In all honesty, there are women who are willing to compromise their bodies and their values for the opportunity to connect with a powerful man, and the men know it. The only way to get men to understand that having male genitals does not give them a pass to do whatever they want is for enough of them to have to face the music and lose something that is important to them. The sex drive is powerful, but it has to be controlled.

I am still offended that Brett Kavanaugh got off and was put onto the US Supreme Court in spite of Christine Blasey Ford’s compelling testimony. Worse, I am still offended that Clarence Thomas was likewise elevated to the nation’s high court in spite of Anita Hill’s accusations against him. Men have for too long gotten away with being sexually arrogant, reckless and impulsive. They have not had to pay the price for damaging so many women (and children as well, both male and female). We have to deal with racism and have always had to; it is systemic and cannot disappear because we want it to. We have to stay on the battlefield and fight against all the ways in which it impacts people of color.

But sexual recklessness, carried out by men, some powerful, some not, needs to be stopped. Men are too willing to give themselves a pass on what they do with their bodies, while they have a little too much to say and opine about what women can and should do with theirs.

As my son would say to his sister when they were little and she was trying to boss him around, “You’re not the boss of me!” so too, we as women, have to be consistent and say to men who disrespect us, “you are not the boss of us!”

A candid observation …

The Continuing Saga of the Angry White Man

The debacle this nation and the world saw last week in the special-called session of confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh was troubling on many levels, not least of which was the once-again uncovering of the deep anger of white men.

 

Those we saw last week were privileged – meaning, men of some financial worth – but the ever-reappearance of white male anger is puzzling to me. White men rule the world. What, then, are they so angry about?

They are members of the White Supremacy Club – a moniker I’ve given them – which includes not only racism but deeply virulent sexism as well. The Founding Fathers of this nation were all privileged white men who intended this country to be created by white people – or more specifically, by white men – for white people, with white men in control. They have taught their brand of sexism to men of all races in this country, but their racism is uniquely their own.

When these men do not get their way, they lose perspective and the ability to contain their anger. I imagine that they grow up being taught that they are better than anyone else and that they are entitled to more than anyone else. I would assume that they are taught that others do not have what they have because others are inferior to them. That being said, I am assuming that they are taught to not be concerned or to feel bad about how they may be perceived. This world is theirs and they are charged to keep it that way.

I make those stark assumptions because all parents teach their children that they have worth. African American parents teach their children that in spite of what the world – defined by white supremacist ideology – that they are just as worthy and intelligent and beautiful and capable as anyone else – meaning the white society which will tell them differently. It’s not surprising that privileged white parents would teach their children to live into that privilege and to realize their unique value as white people – and specifically as white men.

Whenever we think we are “somebody,” and someone else does not treat us in the manner to which we have grown accustomed, we tend to become a bit surly. We are insulted that the person in front of us “does not know who we are.” People who are “somebody,” and/or who believe they are “somebody” become used to being treated differently than the commoners, for lack of a better term. They expect others to know who they are and to treat them accordingly.

So…privileged white men have been having their way for a long time and they are worried, say some, that with all of the undesirables coming into the country, effectively “browning” America, their status as “privileged” is threatened. They are fighting back with everything they’ve got – from passing laws that make life miserable for black, brown and poor people, to working the suppress the vote for black, brown and poor people, to gerrymandering voting districts so that they can remain in power, to separating immigrant parents from their children and throwing those children in what only be called detention camps.

The administration is working to get federal judges on benches all over the country who will preserve the “white way of life,” which is what “Make America Great Again” is really all about. As laws and policies have passed which have made the lives of black, brown and poor people easier, the privileged have become petulant and pissed off.

The white supremacist way of thinking has cooked their brains and foiled their capacity to feel compassion for anyone other than themselves and their interests. They are acting like spoiled children, pouting and having temper tantrums when the world dares to challenge them on things they want to do and which they think they are entitled to do.

When Judge Brett Kavanaugh lost his cool during the hearing on Thursday where he had to answer to charges of sexual impropriety brought by Dr. Christine Ford, I was disappointed but not surprised. It seemed that he had been well-coached by the pouter-in-chief, but his outburst to me seemed to be one of indignation, not that he was being asked certain questions, but that certain people felt they had the right to challenge and question him. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) seemed to fit that description as well. These were grown men, spoiled by a society which supports and practices white supremacy – and they were insulted that anyone had the gall to challenge them on how they chose to live their lives.

The South has been the bane of everything “socially just” concerning race since it lost the Civil War.; its position on the place of the woman hasn’t been much better. Someone said that after the war ended, it would go on without a weapon being fired and we have seen that reality played out for years. The South has resented black people making gains – at, they believe, their expense. They have worked and are still working to make things “right” again. Their “good ol’ boy” mentality has never been so challenged and they are fit to be tied. But they are determined to hold onto their power and their privilege. They will continue to pout …but also to plot how they can keep what they believe is their divine right to have – superior treatment and opportunity based on their race and their gender. They are determined to correct what they believe was a travesty of justice when the South lost the war. They are determined to retrieve the “Lost Cause” and put this country on what they believe is its intended course again.

A candid observation …