Racism, #MeToo and My Story

Photo of my more recent arrest

It has been widely reported on social media, most recently by the right-wing agitator Joey Gibson, that I was arrested on charges of strangulation and kidnapping when I was a freshman student at Oregon State University. Until now, I have elected not to discuss this arrest publicly although I have spoken with many people privately, including news reporters. To date none of the news reporters I have spoken to have thought my arrest was worthy of a story as I was innocent. There is a distinction between an arrest and an indictment or charge. What is at issue in my case is an arrest only, not a charge by the District Attorney and most definitely not a conviction.

Immediately following my initial criticism of The Oregonian and their coverage of Chloe Eudaly, I became aware that The Oregonian intended to do a story on my arrest. They engaged in a two month long threatening campaign against me which has shaken me to the core. The campaign dialed back a bit until I again criticized the publication for their inclusion of Joey Gibson in their Oregon Person of The Year Poll. After this criticism, the intimidation persisted with increased intensity. This campaign included sending repeated messages to old friends of mine, acquaintances, activists in the area, attorneys and other members of our community. Many people have then forwarded these messages to me. I am frustrated because this story is attempting to cast me into the archetypal black male. One that is violent, preys on white women and cannot be trusted. I am better than that. I am saddened that this is the state of journalism in this city, however I have known this for a long time and have chosen to not speak out until recently. For that I am sorry. The fact that this is all happening in the shadow of Martin Luther King day is an embarrassment to me, the movements I am a part of, this city and journalism as a whole. I was hesitant to speak on this because I think that we should be listening to victims and I feared that any defense of myself could retract from the stories that are now bravely being told. I also had a strong desire to move on from this incident as I believed it had been resolved through the formal channels. However, because of the imminent one-sided story, I am providing this statement.

This is what happened: At the age of 18, and in my first month of college at Oregon State University, my former high school girlfriend came to my dorm on the weekend before her 18th birthday. Our relationship had been over for some time. She was very upset and had been drinking. She became physical with another woman at the dorm and I intervened to avoid further injury. The year prior, a high school teacher had told my class that if there was ever a physical altercation, to never strike someone but to restrain them. That is what was going through my mind at a time where it seemed my only options were to watch in horror or to flee. Because these events took place in a public space there were numerous witnesses. Of course, The Oregonian has not spoken to these witnesses.

The police were called, and they arrested my former girlfriend. I have always wanted to respect her privacy which is one of the reasons I have not discussed these events in the past. I will not disclose her name. It is not her fault that I am now a public figure and I do not wish to have these events of the past have any impact on her current life. She did reach out to me recently to let me know that a reporter from The Oregonian had contacted her, but she did not want to speak with him. Despite not wanting to talk with this reporter he has continued to contact her.

Two days after these events the police arrived at my dorm and arrested me based on their retrospective review of the earlier events and my brief restraint of the woman. There was never any allegation that I struck her. I never in my life have had a physical altercation with any woman. In this incident, I was not the target of any physical altercation but rather someone who intervened on behalf of someone else.

I am not certain if race played a role in my arrest. Unfortunately, many black and brown people are wrongfully arrested for all sorts of crimes. This is one of those unfortunate incidents. In many ways, my interaction with the police on this and other occasions has lead to my commitment to police reform.

There was a brief story about my arrest in the Corvallis Gazette Times. This was very embarrassing to me and was taken down after my request since there were no records of an arrest or any charges. In addition, my mugshot was published on the internet. Since then I have learned that online mugshot publishers make money extorting innocent people who have been arrested for crimes they didn’t commit — like me. As I understand it, that’s why Oregon passed a law in 2013 requiring publishers to take down mugshots when asked if charges were dropped or if the person arrested was found innocent.

What I will not do, is adjudicate this on Joey Gibson’s page, the comments section of The Oregonian or on social media. I believe in substantive accountability and would appreciate any thoughts on how that might be obtained given this story. The woman involved would like to move on from this and again it is not her fault that I am now a public figure.

I have great appreciation for what the “Me Too” movement has brought to the conversation about sexual and physical assault. I am a proponent of trusting victims. I support all women for sharing their #MeToo stories. I respect the fact that the movement honors the accounts told by the victims themselves, not by some third party or in my instance a newspaper for reasons which I perceive as retaliatory. The public airing of my arrest has adversely impacted the privacy of all parties involved and re-opened a closed wound. I understand that even the arrest is enough for some to call on my removal from many circles in Portland. I want to respect those peoples wishes and will be speaking with my family and loved ones on best ways for us to move forward in a way that respects all victims of sexual and physical assault.

As someone who was raised by a survivor and who will soon be raising a child with a survivor, this reporting has really shaken me and my family.

Those who have known me for a long period of time know that I am a very different person today than I was when I was 18 years old. Part of what transformed me into who I am today was the death of my best friend which occurred just months after this incident, numerous encounters with the police and my education. Specifically, this incident had an enormous impact on how I view the police, my responsibilities and much more. Despite this transformation which I believe all people go through, I was never a violent person. Any partner that I have ever had will certainly state they I have never exhibited even a hint of violence. However, I also want to state that just because I did not commit this act, does not absolve me from a responsibility to this movement. All men exhibit sexist behaviors. At some level, all men contribute to the culture of violence against women as well as rape culture. All men have a responsibility to listen, to change and to do better. For most incidents of domestic assault or sexual abuse there will never be an arrest. There will never be any sort of publicity. I hope that my case will further the conversation rather than set it back. I will not engage in victim blaming and refuse to talk down on any of the parties involved. Time is up.

I am sorry. I am sorry that I have not addressed this in more public terms in the past. I am sorry that my position in the community has forced the women involved to relive that night. I am sorry to victims of assault in our community who were left to wonder if I was a safe person. I am sorry for the survivors who support me that they have had to be triggered by this story. I am sorry for all my supporters who were left to defend me while I remained silent. I am sorry to the many organizations that I am affiliated with to have brought this issue to your group. I am sorry to the numerous people who have been harassed by The Oregonian or Joey Gibson regarding this incident. I am sorry, and I am dedicated to fulfilling my responsibility to all survivors, being accountable, and to answering any questions that I can.

Mugshot from recent arrest

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