in and of itself is not a moral virtue.
It’s what happens after
the awareness that counts."
Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement
Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony and the subsequent
confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh has exposed a
turbulent underbelly of gendered, sexual, and discursive violence
against women in the U.S. In a déjŕ vu a full 27 years
in the making, the testimony of Anita Hill, J.D., which exposed
sexual harassment by subsequently confirmed Supreme Court Justice
Clarence Thomas, hangs like a spectre of American society. Reminding
many of us of all the progress we have not made.
the public response to Dr. Ford’s testimony simultaneously
reminds us of the differential context: in the era of #MeToo, it is
becoming increasingly difficult to successfully silence women. The
concept of #MeToo comes from Black activist Tarana Burke.
Moreover, the movement itself has made deliberate efforts to be
inclusive of various individuals’ experiences of sexual
violence across genders, socio-economic classes, professions, and
religions. For more info on #MeToo see the Time Magazine Person of the year 2017 "The Silence Breakers".
attempts at inclusion, however, cannot erase or immediately eradicate
another difference between Ford and Hill: that of race and ethnicity
of the women themselves and the men accused of sexual misconduct. As
a Black woman, Hill and many others before her and since,
face a double bind not faced by White women: experience sexual
violence by Black men, while being responsible to protect all Black
people from violent and systemic oppression.
Oftentimes, this call for protection translates to the demand for
Black women to remain silent when they are victimized by Black men.
This oft-needed cultural mandate can result in the relative lack of
freedom to say #MeToo without consequences from both the Black
community and society at large.
work on cultural betrayal trauma theory (CBTT)
contributes to the #MeToo movement by centralizing systemic
discrimination as a driving force in the harm of within-group
violence in Black and other minority communities. In CBTT, a cultural
betrayal occurs in within-group violence (e.g., Clarence Thomas,
Anita Hill) because it violates the minority group solidarity that
serves as a buffer against racism. The research shows that the harm
of cultural betrayal occurs above and beyond that related to the
trauma itself and having a close relationship with the perpetrator.
Thus, similar kinds of sexual violence can hit Black women harder
because of cultural betrayal.
reflecting upon both my research and the many similarities and
differences between Hill and Ford, I write this piece without the
intent of pushing Black women to say #MeToo or erasing Black women
who speak Black women’s truth to the power within and outside
the Black community (e.g., Boycott R. Kelly).
Rather, I hope this writing serves as a call to action for all of us
in the Black community to multidimensionally counter the subjugating
structure of White supremacy—which includes racism, sexism,
heteronormativity, transphobia, able-ism, and all forms of
a quarter of a century - from the testimonies of Anita Hill, J.D., to
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford - the U.S. is still struggling: with both
how not to violate women, as well as how not to silence them. More
difficult still is attuning to the crosshairs that Black women
additional face related to race, class, gender expression, sexual
orientation, religion, disability, nation of origin, and the
intersection of these and other identities. Through centralizing
various forms of oppression in addressing sexual violence against
Black women, I can only hope that in 2045 - 27 years from now, we are
not still haunted with these same ghosts of violence, silencing, and
denial of Black women’s experiences.