As a black father, what do I teach my kids about the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault controversy?
September 20, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh seemed on his way to a speedy confirmation to become a justice on the nation’s highest court, but then Christine Blasey Ford publicized a decades-old account of Kavanaugh and another male classmate forcing himself on her and stifling her screams with his hand at a high school party the three attended.

He was a 17-year-old prep school student in Washington, D.C. She was two years younger.

So here we are, a confused public witnessing a messy political appointing process with incredibly high stakes.

Everyone reading the reports of the Kavanaugh case will have to decide for themselves how to make sense of it. You will likely pull the facts and opinions shared widely through partisan and nearly partisan media outlets. Your take on the case will be the result of the context you give the story, your life’s experiences, what you are predisposed to believe based upon your demography and your ability to reason.

Our “leaders” aren’t making it easy for us to be responsible, serious citizens. On one side, there is a partisan theater of Republican political actors who want to pave over Blasey Ford’s accusations and get to the part where Kavanaugh wears the black robe.

Some have dismissed the entire story as an old claim. They say the evidence is scant.

On the other side, Democrats who want to prolong the nomination process so the assault claims can be properly investigated – and if we’re honest, so that the black robe waits for another candidate.

My first instinct is to succumb to cynicism knowing I’ve seen this before and will see it again. Knowing first hand that politics is a brutal pursuit and often what we see is not real. But, as a father – a black father – with a daughter and sons who inspire me to constantly consider what the world’s news is teaching my children, I can’t be lazy.

So, I must admit that I have a problem. I know I’m supposed to say “I believe women” as if it is the final period of all sentences that can be said about the matter.

I can’t do it. I can’t pretend that charges of sexual assault haven’t been an instigator of racial violence against black men in the past, present and God forbid the future. Claims of sexual assault have been central to White hegemonic power for all times, and it’s a troublesome feature of my thinking in the case with Kavanaugh and Ford, even though there’s seems more like another family’s business.

It might seem out-of-place, but I consider the fact that Carolyn Bryant Donham went to her grave knowing that she – a white woman – told a lie that spurred the infamous murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955.

She said Till had grabbed her and said he’d “been with white women before.” It was more than her husband could take. He and a friend bludgeoned the boy until he was inanimate and unrecognizable even by his mother.

That is a problem that has not ended. Search the news and you’ll find contemporary examples of the same thing.

In February 2017 Nikki Yovino, a college student, “loudly proclaimed” she was going to have sex with two Sacred Heart University football players at an off-campus party. Witnesses say she “coerced” the young men into a bathroom to complete the act, but later she filed charges accusing them of rape.

She later pled guilty to making it all up and was sentenced to a year in jail.

The victims of her lie were devastated. One said: “I just hope that she knows what she’s done. The fact that my life will never be the same. I have anxiety. I have like PTSD from this.”

The second player made a statement through his attorney saying he “suffered from depression, anxiety, and embarrassment after losing his scholarship.” He’s in $30,000 worth of debt as a result.

In truth, the number of false reports is minor (about 7 percent of reports of rape are false). Yet, it happens.

What does this have to do with Kavanaugh?

He’s not a wrongly accused black male, in fact, he is white, male, private-school-educated, and assumed to be privileged. That profile makes it easy to entertain the possibility he is guilty of the sexual battery he’s accused of committing.

I mean, a recent video shows the guy snarkily saying “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.”

It drips with the frat boy hint-hint wink-wink. As the father of a daughter, the husband of a wife, brother of multiple sisters, and the son of a mother, something about his delivery gives me the chills.

I know enough about men to know all of the woman in my life and yours are in danger daily. It’s not all in their head. They aren’t making it up. It is far too common for men to suck at being human.

The prevalence of sexual assault on women is conclusively proven. Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, and that is by and large
a woman.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the majority of rape cases are never reported to authorities, and one in five women
will suffer a rape in their lifetime, and in eight out of ten of those cases, they will know their attacker. (click)

And there are no safe spaces. Not in Olympic sports, public schools, entertainment, the military and the place most assumed to be safe, the family.

We have to teach our children about civics and the mechanics of how their government works. We have to teach them about the politics and ruthless gamesmanship that prevent government from working best for the people. And when the nation is stuck on a story like Kavanaugh’s and Ford’s we must do the tough work of teaching them to reason, think critically, and to realize some controversies will defy easy answers.

2 Comments

  1. This is such a great piece, Chris. Thank you for writing it.

    A wise person once told me heresy is powerful truth pushed to the extreme…. to the point where it becomes toxic and harmful.

    Which is how I feel about “”I believe women.” I mostly do. But do I believe all women all the time? No, I do not because hey, how did that work out for Emmett Til? Or the Jonesboro Boys?

    Love the new look!

    Reply
  2. Carolyn Bryant is still alive.

    This piece made me think.

    Reply

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