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#MeToo: Tarana Burke Notes Progress, Wants More for Black Women

"We can't wait for white folks to decide our trauma is worth focusing on," Burke said.

Tarana Burke is reflecting on the movement she created more than 12 years ago, but it's only been one year since its historic rise worldwide. It has led to women speaking out very publicly against assault. And now that it's been endorsed by the upper echelons of white women, we can celebrate its existence.

On Monday, Burke wrote on Twitter that her work supports all sexual assault survivors, but it "has always centered on Black and Brown women and girls. And it always will…"

So when she heard about Lee Daniels making a Me Too comedy, she expressed objections, saying, "We have to get in front of that."

"To put Me Too and comedy in the same sentence is so deeply offensive… that you think in this moment when we're still unpacking the issue that you can write a comedy about it."

Burke doesn't think the media really cares about the stories of Black women and other women of color.

"We can't wait for white folks to decide that our trauma is worth centering on when we know that it's happening," she told the New York Times.

"We know that there are people, whether they're in entertainment or not, who are ravaging our community. We have to be proactive, unfortunately without the benefit of massive exposure. That's our reality, but it always has been."

The majority of Black women in Hollywood have kept their experiences with sexual assault a secret. But there are a few exceptions.

Gabrielle Union has been, according to Burke, the only woman who not only speaks about her story but also advocates. Few others — Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Fantasia Barrino, and Lupita Nyong'o — have talked about it publicly.

"There is knowing that even if you're not trying to bring down a Black man, a large segment of the population will say 'We don't believe her' because of all these things that we normalize," Burke said.

She recalled when a reporter wanted to do a story on R. Kelly and no one would go on record.

"A lot of folks have slid under the radar," she commented.

While she believes the Black community has doubled down on that thinking, she does note progress.

"You could not have had this kind of public discourse with this many people saying that they believe us — we literally have an example in Anita Hill," she told Paper Magazine. "We don't even have to guess what it would've been like or could've been like or what people would've said 20 years ago, we saw it."

In collaboration with the New York Women's Foundation, Burke's Me Too is helping to fund groups serving communities of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ people.

The "Fund for the MeToo Movement and Allies," awarded $840,000 to the DC Rape Crisis center in Washington, the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective in Los Angeles, the Firecracker Foundation in Lansing, Michigan, Black Women's Blueprint and the Violence Intervention Program, both in New York; Equality Labs, a national group; and the Los Angeles-based FreeFrom, which works with survivors of domestic violence.

The partnership's goal is to raise $5 million per year.

"This is about supporting the people who support the people," Burke said.

Reader Question: Why do you think Black women's stories of sexual assault have been largely unheard or drowned out?

Christine Blasey Ford Stood on the Shoulders of Anita Hill as She Testified

Black women keep watch and push forward as Ford's day in court proves to be a far cry from 1991.

For every woman of color who watched the hearing today, or has followed any of the drama up to this point, our backs are heavy.

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Old White Republican Bullies Attack Kavanaugh's Accuser and Anita Hill

"You're talking about history … I'd hate to have someone ask me what I did 35 years ago," said Senator Charles Grassley. Maybe somebody should.

REUTERS

Senators Orrin Hatch and Charles Grassley, both now in their mid 80s, were there for the Clarence Thomas hearings, and they bullied Anita Hill. Forty-one Republicans and 11 Democrats voted to give Clarence Thomas a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. Now, they're bullying Christine Blasey Ford.

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​​Kavanaugh Supporter Compares Attempted Rape Claims to 'Rough Horseplay'

The former law clerk for Clarence Thomas joins in the belittling and discrediting of Christine Blasey Ford as she tries to tell her story of sexual assault.

Carrie Severino, spokesperson for the Judicial Crisis Network, questioned Christine Blasey Ford's accusations of Brett Kavanaugh's behavior in high school saying 35-year-old memories could be of just "rough horseplay" instead of attempted rape.

When a CNN anchor challenged Severino's description of Ford's account as a range of behaviors from boorish rough horseplay to attempted rape, Severino backtracked saying it was attempted rape that Ford had alleged.

Severino additionally said that Ford's "perception is one story," seemingly that can be refuted, while the "[Kavanaugh] says it didn't happen at all, so under any interpretation… he says he was not at a party and it didn't happen period."

Judicial Crisis Network has spent at least $4.5 million in ad buys to confirm Kavanaugh, with plans to spend more, and Severino is the former law clerk for Clarence Thomas. Other Kavanaugh allies publicized letters from two former girlfriends to attest to his character.

The discrediting of Ford's story started with Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley's statement about the allegations being part of "Democrats' tactics" concerning Kavanaugh's confirmation process.

President Trump recently called Kavanaugh a "great gentleman," and said: "I feel so badly for him that he's going through this," Trump said. "This is not a man that deserves this."

He also called the process of investigating the allegation of sexual assault a "little delay," and said it was "ridiculous" to think that Kavanaugh might withdraw his nomination.

Some Republican senators such as Orrin Hatch of Utah and John Cornyn of Texas questioned the credibility of the woman who claims to have undergone sexual assault and subsequent trauma, proven by therapist notes.

Cornyn said he was concerned by "gaps" in the account: "The problem is, Dr. Ford can't remember when it was, where it was or how it came to be."

Hatch said he saw "lots of reasons" not to believe Ford's accusation.

"He is a person of immense integrity," the senator said of Kavanaugh. "I have known him for a long time. He has always been straightforward, honest, truthful and a very, very decent man."

"They just don't get it" became a popular way to describe senators' reaction to sexual violence, wrote Anita Hill, in a recent op-ed in the New York Times.

Hill, who famously was publicly discredited when coming forward about Clarence Thomas, said, "With years of hindsight, mounds of evidence of the prevalence and harm that sexual violence causes individuals and our institutions, as well as a Senate with more women than ever, 'not getting it' isn't an option for our elected representatives. In 2018, our senators must get it right."

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