Can the MeToo movement free black men of the sexual predator stereotype? Lauer recently was fired for alleged sexual misconduct, and some senators are calling on Trump to resign amid similar accusations. EPA From the time black men were first brought to America in chains, they were viewed as sexual predators whose primary desire was to violate white women.
Is it possible that the MeToo movement will destroy that myth? For months, women have been coming forward with their personal stories of sexual abuse, assault and unwanted advances, laying out a pattern of pervasive misconduct in the workplace, the entertainment industry and the political sphere.
Overwhelmingly, the alleged perpetrators have been powerful white men. White men largely created the myth that black men should be feared, as a means of dehumanizing them and keeping them enslaved. The stereotype has persisted through generations, though the implications today often are more subtle, and in many cases, subconscious. In a polite gesture, he asked what floor she was going to and she froze in silence.
All he wanted to do was push the elevator button for her, but she acted as though his intentions were more sinister. Longtime Congressman Elijah Cummings once said he crosses the street at night in Washington when white women are walking toward him to avoid making them feel uncomfortable. Meanwhile, powerful white men have been shielded even in cases where they are dangerous predators. As women needlessly cowered in fear whenever a black man got on the elevator, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein may have been in a hotel room demanding that a young woman give him a naked massage and forcing her to have oral sex.
As black men were deemed a threat simply because they are black men, Charlie Rose, the trusted CBS and PBS news veteran who made us all feel so comfortable, may have been making lewd phone calls and walking around naked in front of co-workers. A handful of powerful African-American men also have gotten caught in the MeToo purge. Rap music mogul Russell Simmons was forced to step down from his business empire after he was accused of once assaulting a year-old model.
Veteran Congressman John Conyers was pressured to retire amid reports that he paid a settlement to a staff member who had accused him of sexual harassment. What do all of these men — black and white — have in common?
Power — which can corrupt, no matter who holds it. Indeed, the white perpetrators represent a small percentage of white males in powerful positions. Of course, there is an obvious absence of black men in the top tiers of corporate America. Instead of rising in the ranks, black men historically have been saddled with the burden of trying to defend themselves against a myth that was created out of fear and reinforced by lies.
In 19th- and early 20th-century publications, writers routinely portrayed black men as brutes. The caricature depicted black men as menacing predators, void of morality, who targeted helpless women, especially white women. The film, which was widely viewed in its day, catapulted the myth of the black predator further into the mainstream and gave white men cause to take action to protect the honor of white women.
In the early s, the case of the Scottsboro boys in Alabama gave America a firsthand look at how racial prejudice could wrongly condemn black men for sexual assault. One of the women, Ruby Bates, later said that she had lied under pressure from police.
In , when five African-American and Latino teenagers from Harlem were falsely accused of brutally beating and raping a white woman in Central Park, Donald Trump took out full-page ads in four daily newspapers in New York calling for the return of the death penalty. This was the action of a man who has since been publicly accused of sexually assaulting or sexually harassing at least 16 women.
He surely would not have been elected president.