The #MeToo Movement Had to Happen, The Oppression of Others Is Never Ok
I have been sexually harassed my entire life, including throughout my childhood and my entire career.
I was sexually harassed so much that I began to think it was normal and would inevitably become a way of life for me in the workplace.
Watching Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace is both shocking and a relief to me. For days, I have stayed quietly in the background as I read the headlines of Weinstein’s sexual harassment claims unfold. I watched victim after victim come forward. But, up until now, I thought I would only remain a spectator.
The #MeToo movement feels eerily like a White Women’s Feminist Movement. A movement that I never feel is right for me to join because although we are all women, my struggle isn’t the struggle of a non-Black woman.
I find that Black voices are either drowned out or silenced altogether when Black people partner with other races. Our goals are never met and the original purpose for our movement becomes a distant memory as the agenda of other races takes center stage.
As a Black Woman, fighting for Black Liberation, I am often overwhelmed with the struggle of fighting with the identity of my Blackness versus fighting for my identity as a woman.
Instead, I choose to sit back and watch the smoke screens go up. But, I always remain focused.
I don’t see myself as a “Woman” first. I see myself as “Black” first; then, everything else follows.
As I live longer through my Awakening period, I am learning how to fluidly move through my Consciousness without losing focus of what is imperative to my overall survival.
Yes. I was sexually harassed. More times than I can fully remember or count. There were so many incidents that I suppressed many of them just to allow myself to be strong enough to not shrink into the shadows. I didn’t want my offenders to have that power over me. I know I am destined for great things and like a train at full speed, I refuse to allow anything (or anyone) to get in the way of my goals.
I was sexually harassed and molested by my uncle. A deep, dark family secret that hasn’t seen the light of day…until now.
The Black community and the World have many hidden, untold secrets that families, employers and so many others sweep under the carpet.
But, the truth will always come to light. Women and girls are sexually harassed and assaulted at alarming rates all across America and the World. Women are still seen as second-class citizens in many countries. Women are oppressed.
I was sexually harassed as a teen aged girl. One unpleasant memory that always stays with me is me walking to the store with my cousin and grown men making lewd remarks as we walked past.
I was sexually harassed in the workplace and often punished for speaking up against the perpetrators. I had one of my Army supervisors slide his fingers across my neck and whisper that he would write me up with an Article 15 for almost any reason he could think of because I dared to defy him. I dared to not obey him and sleep with him.
He constantly held punishments over my head so I would live in fear of him. Punishments, that I later learned, weren’t possible. He made me feel like I was a “bad” soldier and that I couldn’t do anything right. I experienced high anxiety attacks and severe depression. I suffered from PTSD, as I began to fear coming to work and encountering the offenders.
I told my First Sergeant, a Black woman at the time, and she did nothing. I felt helpless and scared.
I, later, learned from my former First Sergeant that my supervisor's description of my work performance was not true. Many knew and believed I was an excellent soldier while I served, yet, I couldn’t see past the consistent intimidation dealt to me by many of my male supervisors.
Almost 13 years later, I can almost feel the burning, disgusting, slithering feeling of his thick, rough fingers gliding across my neck. The victimization of the sexual violations that have occurred over my lifetime still comes and goes to this day.
I had another military supervisor who yelled out a private matter (intimate and sensitive in nature) that I told him in confidence. He yelled out the private information in front of soldiers that I would, eventually, have to supervise.
I felt I lost their respect that day. He was being unprofessional. Functioning off his own selfish feelings. And I was humiliated.
I filed an informal EO complaint because I feared retaliation if I filed a formal complaint, even as I knew I was simply defending myself and he was in the wrong. I was forced to report him to his supervisor, who was friends with him and my unit’s Equal Opportunity (EO) representative for the unit.
Nothing happened to him.
I was the one who was moved. I felt like I had been punished while he was allowed to go on and enjoy his life.
He was allowed to go on paid leave (which was basically paid vacation for him) until he PCS’d from the base to continue his military career.
Then, his peers and friends wrote me up on something else right before they all PCS’d (which means they moved on to another duty station) attempting to ruin my career in retaliation for “ratting out” their comrade.
My direct supervisor in collusion with the male who sexually harassed me and friends with the men who worked together to oppress me was a Black woman. I think that fact hurt the most.
I was one of their soldiers. I should have been the one they were banding together to protect. But, the real world doesn’t work that way.
They attempted to block my promotion. All of them were Black and it was a devastating situation that only healed by time and the freedom I gave myself never to be in that position of powerlessness again.
It is painful to finally open up about all the sexual harassment situations I endured. But, it’s freeing to know that sexual harassment isn’t OK and, maybe, just maybe, the #MeToo campaign, as well as, Weinstein’s fall, will start to make some changes…at least…in the workplace.
I hope those changes will extend to ending sexual harassment in every day life for women (and men) who deal with sexual harassment in various settings and various ways.
Yes, I am afraid to get my hopes up. But, yes, I will always dare to hope for and dream of a better future for our World.
I am the Queen of Fairness. I am in the fight for Black Liberation because oppressing others is never OK. I chose to speak out on sexual harassment because oppressing others just because you are in a position of power and just because you can is never OK.
Here’s to a better future for everyone to live in free agency of their bodies, their environments and their lives.
Samantha El is an activist, business owner, Web Designer, Graphics Designer, Freelance Writer, CEO of LocStar Revolution, NoVA 24/7 Notary Services and Web Designers and Scribes. In her free time, you can find Samantha reading biographies, watching documentaries on Netflix or spending quality time with her family. Samantha lives in Fairfax, VA with her fiancé and 3 sons.