The Reverend Jesse Jackson accused of groping
The Reverend Jesse Jackson, that vaunted icon of the left and grand old man of civil rights activism, and famed community organizer in Chicago, has been accused of dirty old man-style groping.
The accusation was made by a young journalist, Danielle Young, who writes for The Root, a leading African-American-oriented website.
I used to work for a very popular media company, and we had a meeting that ended with a keynote speech by the living legend, the Rev. Jesse Jackson. So, of course, the conference room was packed wall-to-wall.
After Jackson's riveting and inspiring speech about the responsibility of black journalists, we all lined up to take a photo with him. One by one, we stepped up, shared a few words and thank-yous with Jackson, snapped photos and went back to our desks. Simple enough, right?
I walked toward Jackson, smiling, and he smiled back at me. His eyes scanned my entire body. All of a sudden, I felt naked in my sweater and jeans. As I walked within arm's reach of him, Jackson reached out a hand and grabbed my thigh, saying, "I like all of that right there!" and gave my thigh a tight squeeze.
She explained that she was smiling through her discomfort, and worse still, people seemed to be cheering the reverend, not slapping down his dirty mitts and telling him to behave himself in public. She said she did nothing about it at the time because she didn't think she'd be believed, given that she was a black woman.
Coupled with the embarrassment and humiliation many women feel after being sexually assaulted, black women have to worry about their story lacking credibility. And this is why we either hesitate to speak out or don't speak out at all.
And she might add that Jackson is a powerful man, someone who's played the race card to virtuosity and used it to shield himself the same way Harvey Weinstein used donations to Planned Parenthood to excuse himself from being Hollywood's biggest casting-couch sex-harasser. Politically correct politics and pandering seem to have been the weapon of choice to enable the beastly behavior in its most prominent male players. Being a gentleman was no longer on the radar when one could whip out the race card or moneybags donations as leverage against accusations.
Young's piece is credible because it describes her mixed feelings and inability to stop the grabby groping right on the spot when it was happening. Apparently, the Weinstein revelations gave her an opening, given that many prominent actresses came forward and told the same story. Young points out that Lupe N'yongo's piece in the New York Times revealed the same kind of ambivalence she herself felt, and she thought it was noteworthy that it was the only one Weinstein openly disputed. Young felt it was due to N'yongo being a black woman, but I think it was because it was the most honest, detailed, and multidimensional in emotional reactions, very hard to refute for credibility, much as her own account is.
Bad people don't like it when too much truth comes out.
And that gets us back to Jackson, the much vaunted emblem and icon of the civil rights movement, who used that fame to score chicks and get a grope in here and there. Young points out that when she brought up the episode with a coworker, the coworker said he did it to a lot of women.
This, if true, says a lot about him. He thinks rules don't apply to him. His time as special counselor to Bill Clinton, who was smarting after his Monica Lewinsky scandal, was a complete sham – what did they do, go groping together? And that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assessment of Jackson as a naked opportunist unfit for leadership in his movement was spot on.
Jackson is trying to worm his way out of his responsibility by saying, Hillary-style, that he doesn't recall the encounter, but he apologizes for any discomfort in what's now become a pretty standard template. If it's true he groped many more women, as Young's coworker alleged, then we can expect to hear more about this dirty-old-man behavior. Maybe those left who still respected him can adjust their views accordingly.