Well this Black History Month is off to an auspicious start...
Thank you Ralph Northam and Mark Herring for your youthful blackface shenanigans.
Thank you Liam Neeson for sharing your latent racist impulses to kill random Black men.
Thank you Kevin Hart for ruining the Oscars.
Thank you Rachel Dolezal for starring in a YouTube braiding tutorial.
And thank you Justin Fairfax for dashing our hopes and dreams for your political future.
I am referring to the sexual assault allegation made against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D-VA) by Dr. Vanessa Tyson. Here is her account of what happened between them. Here is his statement about their encounter.
These allegations are unfortunate and disturbing. When I first heard the story my heart sank. And then I breathed a sigh of relief when the next sentence assured me that the allegations were uncorroborated (which registered in my brain as unfounded). Because then, he could go on to become the second Black governor of Virginia...
But then I felt uneasy, and then ashamed.
Not less than six months ago, I heard the news of an anonymous allegation made against a certain Supreme Court nominee. I didn't experience any heartbreak then. Last month when a six-part documentary aired that outlined the exploits of a certain R&B artist, my heart didn't skip a beat. When the verdict was announced against a certain philanthropic comedian, I shrugged. As name after name of powerful men were suddenly linked with #MeToo, including some that I admired, my reactions varied, but I never second-guessed the accounts the women offered. Until this one.
Now I am disillusioned. Why the cautious and careful statements of support for both parties? I thought the lesson of the past year was to believe women, so what gives? Do we only believe the women who speak up against monsters or weirdos or lotharios or men whose politics we dislike?
Rarely is there evidence to corroborate these types of accusations because intimate sexual encounters are always between two people. Memories are not synchronized to recall the same set of details or to highlight the same specific events. The choice to believe one person's version over the other is the choice to recognize what one person has to gain or lose by lying.
In the interest of full disclosure, I made a campaign contribution to Fairfax's campaign but I don't know him or Vanessa Tyson. I don't live in Virginia nor am I familiar with Tyson's scholarship. Yes, the timing and the source are reasons to be skeptical. My opinion on this matter is based entirely on my belief that there is very little for Vanessa Tyson to gain by lying. Who wants their private life exposed to this type of scrutiny? Why become yet another face in the #MeToo lineup now that people are more inclined to criticize her for taking down a promising young Black politician than to celebrate her courage?
I don't have the wisdom of Solomon to split this baby. And I don't know what type of investigation is supposed to take place to determine who is telling the truth. Realistically should every past sexual partner of the Lt. Governor be questioned to determine if there is a pattern and who conducts those interviews? Could this be the conversation about the nuances of consent that we've been reluctant to have (because we'd rather argue what she should have expected by her presence alone with him)? And what does he tell his young children? What do we tell our children? Yes, I am sympathetic to his plight as well because he won't emerge from this unscathed. There remains the possibility that this is a misunderstanding...
Let's not throw it all away just yet.