By: Loretta Johnson
The recent toppling of Hollywood honcho, Harvey Weinstein and the subsequent domino effect it’s had on at least this nation, lit a fire under me to share some history that has been a thorn in my side for a few decades now.
My observations and experiences predate the Anita Hill case with now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas but I’m going to start there. Sitting around a card table so many years ago, I recall a heated debate among some acquaintances as to why Hill would be “coming out” at that time with her accusations against Thomas. Why not when the alleged incidents happened? Paradoxically, the only participant in this conversation that I remember is a woman…a woman who doggedly insisted that Ms. Hill’s accusations could not be valid or at least lacked the smell of truth because she only divulged her experiences during Thomas’ vetting for that position.
I could not get this woman to understand that women sexually harassed on the job as she claimed, rarely speak of it. I KNOW THIS having had such experiences on more occasions than I care to remember.
I’m so absolutely floored by the lack of understanding and sympathy for the fact that most women will not mention these all-too-often practices until and unless they are specifically asked – sometimes pressured – about them. Not only is there usually no reason to, but as we are now witnessing, all too often we are not believed.
That conversation took place in the 1990’s. It was during that same period that a known prostitute remarked to me that a scantily-clad woman who passed by us was an example of why women get raped. Yeah. Can you believe that ?!
I liken this type of thinking to something I observed during my 15-year stint with Zogby International doing telephone polls with people around the world on a plethora of topics. I was saddened and appalled at the number of Black people who believed they had never experienced any form of racial intolerance. Imagine that? I liken this kind of social blindness to the same conditioning that doesn’t allow some of us to recognize misogynistic disrespect.
I’ll share a couple of anecdotal, albeit much too common examples of what I mean. While working in the newsroom of the ultra-conservativeWIBX radio station, back in the 1980’s where I co-anchored a two-hour news program, a cohort from another department walked into the newsroom when I was alone announcing how he “liked his women and his coffee black.” (He did this more than once.)
I don’t know if he realized how lame and cliche’` that statement was, considering that he was married and I’d never expressed any interest in him, I considered that all kinds of inappropriate. AND, I’m quite sure he wouldn’t have been so flirtatious if any of our co-workers had been around.
That incident was just one of many at that station spanning the gamut of racial, sexual and age discrimination from the newsroom up to the General Manager’s office. Flirtatious overtures were rife, but for some reason, the one that stands out the most to me occurred during a trip to an Albany courtroom where the station was being sued by a former employee (who, incidentally did win).
Several of us were put up at the Albany Hilton where I was given a room next door to the general manager. As we entered our rooms he said to me “Remember, if you get lonely, I’m right next door,” an invitation, I’m sure, would not have been extended had his wife been present.
Here’s another. While working at Marine Midland Bank which existed in downtown Utica in the 1970’s there was a married man who pursued me when he thought no one was in a position to know. Being the age I was, naive and totally unaware, it never occurred to me that this behavior needed reporting. But actually, even if I’d thought it, I’d probably have been much too embarrassed, even ashamed, to do so at that time.
I believe predators count on this frame of mind, and the mindset of people like the woman at the card table or the prostitute, that I was either lying or somehow invited this kind of attention.
It was heartening to me that a reported 97% of registered Black women in Alabama got out and voted in Douglas Jones to win that Senate seat. And, yes, this is a direct correlation to the point I’m making here.
It makes its way back to our President, a man who a recent editorial in a national newspaper called, “unfit to clean toilets in Obama’s Presidential Library or to shine George W. Bush’s shoes,” after he implied that New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand would have given sexual favors in lieu of campaign cash.
In case you missed it, USA Today printed those scathing remarks which were offered by CNN’s Chris Cizilla.
The connection is that President Trump and Roy Moore seem to be cut from the same misogynistic, racist cloth. Another oh so important point is that if it had not been for the Black voters helping Jones to an approximate 51 – 49 percent win over Moore, Moore would probably be sitting in that Senate seat in 2018.
I hope that Black women, and anyone under the delusion that their vote doesn’t matter, remembers this off-year election phenomenon. I actually prayed for a Jones win. To me, it was like providence illustrating what we Blacks, as a race, are capable of when we join together for the right. And as a Black woman who may tend to view these incidents through a slightly unique lens, I headed this piece as “ME THREE”.