Black, female ex-Charlie Rose staffer suggests racism because he didn't harass her
"It's always something," as the late Gilda Radner's comedy character Roseanne Roseannadanna would conclude – usually about trivial or completely misguided complaints she voiced (a classic example here). Those words echoed in my mind as I read the litany of complaints one of Charlie Rose's former staffers lodged in the pages of Esquire earlier this month. Ms. Rebecca Carroll wrote:
His language around race felt consistently coded. Charlie demanded I book the black guests he wanted but previously had been unable to get – black guests of a perceived level of respectability and intelligence (Sidney Poitier) – while dismissing the black guests I pitched, (Vivica Fox, for example). He accused me of pushing my own agenda several times, memorably when I pitched a panel on hip-hop. (I did not hear my white colleagues receive criticism that they were pushing any sort of agenda when they pitched potential guests and segments.)
It is unclear if being asked to book black guests he wanted was in itself offensive to her. One could argue that this was racist – segregating the booking process. But one could also argue that not asking her to book black guests was racist, as in "keeping it within the community" or "cultural appropriation" claims of turf.
But she was just warming up. A similar ambivalence attends her words about sexual harassment:
[W]hile many of us on staff were subject to Charlie's unsolicited shoulder massages and physical intimidation, as he towered above us at a height over six feet tall, the women Charlie preferred and preyed upon – at least that I witnessed – were white. It was an environment that all but erased me, while simultaneously exploiting me as a black woman.
I felt like an exotic anomaly he could move around the chessboard at his whim – and I was supposed be grateful for it.
So, being left alone was offensive? With perfect knowledge of Rose's mind and soul, she seems convinced that it was a racial affront. She expanded on that theme:
For white men, that means not just being the richest, most powerful person in the room – but also preying upon and ultimately capturing the most desirable woman in the room, too.
In America, the most desirable woman in the room – the most sacred, coveted, enshrined woman – has always been the white woman. As a survivor of sexual assault myself, I know that we women of color are victims as much, if not more, than white women; we are also less likely to come forward with our stories of abuse because there's so much more at stake.
How does being "a survivor of sexual assault" impart knowledge of the rates of sexual assault for black and white women? I do not understand this. And why do all black women have more at stake than all white women? Does Oprah really have less at stake than a 23-year-old intern who is white?
But best of all is this paragraph, in which she denies doing what she is doing and then resorts to academic jargon to obscure the trick:
To be clear, I'm not suggesting it would have been preferable for Charlie to have preyed upon me, too – but rather, his sexualization of white women was a manifestation of gendered power dynamics in the same way that his not sexualizing me was an expression of racialized power dynamics.
So I guess she is a victim of "racialized power dynamics," and that's a bad thing. She is not complaining, mind you – only noting it. But why note it if it is not a bad thing – i.e., something one should complain about?
Hat tips: Chris Menahan and Clarice Feldman