The last month has been a world wind of news and accusations of sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men resulting in men like Louie CK, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, Russell Simmons, Senator Al Franken and Senator John Conyers losing jobs, opportunity and their titles. On the other side of this coin, we have women who have been holding and re-living these atrocities for years, finally having their voices heard; finally getting validation for their pain and suffering. Each day, I wake up wondering who will be next to fall.
It is heartbreaking to hear the stories and see the pain on the faces of the women as they talk about those they accuse. I do not think there is one woman in America that can say she has not at the least experienced inappropriate or undesired sexual advances. And some too many unfortunate women have experienced far worse and have been made to carry guilt, shame, and pain along with it. Maybe, just maybe this is changing. Perhaps America is shifting.
There is this reality. How women and men engage with each other, how men of power at times treat women is culturally ingrained in the psyche of America. Our laws, our words, and actions have said for centuries that America sees women as unequal to men. It is as systemic and genetically infused in what America is as racism, and just like racism, we need to have some open and honest conversations and make extreme changes to fix these messes.
In 1991/92 I recall seeing the trials of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. I remember how Ms. Hill was made a villain, ridiculed and became the butt of jokes. Many people believed she encouraged Thomas' lude acts upon herself, that her feelings and experience was not valid or worthy of getting in the way of history as Clarence Thomas was under consideration for the supreme court. I am sure that case scared many victims from speaking up about their own experiences with sexual abuse and harassment.
Today, the punishments seem swift. There are men scared right now that they are next to lose the comfort of their lives because of actions that they didn't think twice about. How do we, women and men of America, react and take action as we as we progress?
First of all, let's say this real clear. If a person says no, I am not interested, I do not want, or any other statement similar to no, move on. I know that can be an ego buster but better your ego than your lifestyle. No one is your object to do what you want with, sexually or otherwise.
Secondly, we must openly declare how women have been treated unfairly and unequally in this country; define our equality and live it.
Lastly, we must continue to treat all fairly in our day to day lives and by law, regardless of gender, race, culture, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
As a black woman, I would like America to consider expanding this conversation. My truth is my ancestors, my grandparents, parents and myself are the result of racism and a rape-based society. Centuries and generations of pain and shame are part of my African American history and a considerable part of the original sin that is glossed over when we talk about racism, women inequality and redemption. These heinous acts need to be added to the conversation as we see more women speak up about their abuse.
We are at a crossroads in America. We are lead by people who hold dear the things that are breaking us such as racism, inequality, religious freedoms, sexual freedoms and economic disparity. The American conscious must choose what our next 200 years will be. We make that decision today by how we treat and relate to women moving forward.