This past weekend Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States–where he will sit for a very long time. This news was devastating and heartbreaking to hear, but in all honestly I wasn’t surprised. Women continue to be undermined in their actions to bring sexual assault cases to light, and this situation was no different.
But I’m not here to simply talk about how disappointing the Kavanaugh case was, I’m here to talk about something that most people aren’t talking about: Black women.
So I’ll say it, Dr. Blasey Ford was the perfect victim: a white woman, not too old, not too young, not oversexualized and received a PHD, which gave her a sense of “legitimacy.” Her genes and social standing in society afforded her the opportunity to gain nationwide attention and remorse from news outlets.
I want to make it clear that the case against Brett Kavanaugh was not the first time a supreme court justice has had a lawsuit charged against them for sexual misconduct. In 1991, Clarence Thomas also had sexual assault accusations brought against him by Anita Hill, a Black women who was his secretary before Thomas received a supreme court nomination. She accused Thomas of sexual harassment while she was working for him, but eventually he was acquitted and his nomination was confirmed. The situation was very similar, if not the same as Dr. Ford, but the response then was different. While there was some traction of inspiring women to band together, Hill was totally dismissed and ridiculed for her over-seriousness exterior. Recently a CNN commentator, Joan Biskupic said, “the vulnerability of Blasey Ford is coming through much more…”
This comment infuriated because the ignorance of a CNN commentator to refer to Hill’s exterior as too aggressive or as the “angry Black woman” as the reason her case was not an influential or significant as Dr. Fords is incorrect.
My point here is that darker skin women’s emotions have been dismissed constantly.
This can be seen throughout history in controversial decisions, here’s an example: Rosa Parks was not the first Black women to sit down in the front of the bus, but because of societal judgement, the civil rights movement viewed her as the perfect “image.” She was light-skinned, married, and did not have any baggage attached to her. Because of this she was the ideal image to gain enough sympathy from white Americans.
This cherry-picked treatment for certain women perpetuates that only lighter women can be vulnerable and believable, while darker women can’t.
This type of thinking is very backwards.
Hill’s emotional cry for help and justice was seen as “angry Black women.” When in reality she was simply poised and brave throughout her testimony. This is because Black women are told from a young age that they can’t be too emotional or too serious because they’ll perpetuate certain stereotypes or not be believable enough.
It’s a double edged sword, in which they’ll never escape criticism.
Let me make this clear, Dr. Blasey Ford’s actions will forever be indebted to many across the world. She spoke for many survivors of sexual assault, who who never had their voice heard. For that, I applaud her. The vast movements and solidarity amongst Americans across the nation kindly reassured me that there is still hope for America.
But until society can hold all women to the same standards and credibility, it’s not fair to label these movements as inclusive for all people.
In a locality study done by Brandeis university, researchers found that prosecutors filed charges in 75% of the cases in which a White woman was attacked, but when the victim was a Black woman, prosecutors filed charges just 34% of the time. So this disparity in treatment of is not a figment of my imagination.
When will there be able to be solidarity and unity across all women, so that the experiences of women of color are viewed with the same compassion as those of White women?
That’s all I ask.