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”
My work has always centered Black and Brown women and girls. And it always will – but at the heart of it all it supports ALL survivors of sexual violence. And I committed to that work a long time ago so watching people open up with what felt like no covering online was hard. +
Tarana (@TaranaBurke) October 15, 2018
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