Of Rosa Parks and the #MeToo Movement
December 21, 1956 -- the day after The Supreme Court's orders of injunction prohibiting segregation on Montgomery, AL city buses were issued to city officials. One year and 20 days after her arrest for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white woman, Miss Rosa Parks, with characteristic dignity, took her rightful seat, marking a victorious end to the MIA boycott.
Ordinary human beings -- people doing the right things for the right reasons -- produce the extraordinary outcomes that move humanity forward. Miss Parks' simple act of courageous conviction sparked a seminal community social action and eventually (with the help of King, Jr., Abernathy, et al) a nation-wide civil rights movement.
As the father of two bright, beautiful, bi-racial girls, my gratitude to civil rights pioneers like Miss Parks goes without saying -- much of who my daughters are and what they can be is a function of their legacy. For the sake of my girls and their contemporaries, it is my profound hope that one day history will reflect on the #MeToo movement with a similar sense of import and gratitude.
While not officially codified like Jim Crow segregation, the practice and toleration of workplace sexual harassment, abuse and misconduct is no less institutional. To tolerate is to condone. And while our companies and institutions have long-ago banished the Lucky Strikes and Canadian Club, Mad Men-era objectification of women by far too many “powerful” males persists like black mold within the walls of government and commerce.
The empowering fellowship of #MeToo is directing some fungicidal sunlight into the dank cavities behind the ebony credenzas and antlered trophies (apologies to my many upright friends with a taste for hunting and/or ostentatious office furnishings). As more women come forward, more are encouraged to follow suit, and more light is shone. In the broad interest of rooting out and expunging these narcissistic, self-entitled, piggish (or as the term has been re-defined in 2017 America: presidential) behaviors -- that’s a good thing.
What’s not such a good thing is the juxtaposition of #MeToo’s intent and urgent necessity against today’s infotainment culture. The Fourth Estate is still out there, but true journalism is obscured by all the noise. Accusation is tantamount to guilt. Whether you’re a deviant serial predator or some schlub whose whisky did the talking at the holiday party, you’re readily devoured to the bone by the blood-crazed piranha. In today's news and social media environment, the rule is feed first, ask questions later (if at all). Collateral damage is inevitable. That's a shame for any damaged innocents, but unfortunately for them, rectifying the bigger shame must take precedence.
As we wrestle with the cloudy issues of indiscriminate news reportage, degree of offense and related accountability, the core issue remains. Whether it’s predation, intimidation, manipulation or insinuation, sexual entitlement isn’t part of anyone’s executive compensation package. To the men who want to point out that many women wield their sexuality or appeal to get ahead in life and career and that women can’t have it both ways, I understand. Too damn bad. Be a man, not a pig. Shut your mouth. Hands to yourself. Eyes front. If you don't get it, go ask your mama.
Women aren’t staying silent anymore -- they want and deserve their rightful seat on the bus. Impinge on or violate that right and you'll be called out and shamed.
Good for our sisters; daughters and granddaughters. You have the floor — the world is listening. Make history, girl.