Dr. Ford’s Testimony: The Result of Over 500 Years of Colonization Broadcasted Live on National Television
Image via Instyle Magazine
“This country is rooted in rape, slavery, and genocide. Those who wrote the constitution were rapists, slave owners, and genocidal terrorists. The US continues to protect rapists in the name of white supremacist patriarchy. Brett Kavanaugh is just another Thomas Jefferson,” tweeted Blake Simons, co-host of Hella Black podcast on September 28th.
The driving force of ongoing colonization can be seen in the optics and performance of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. At this point in our nation’s history “women’s rights” is a performance piece with no substance, and White men like Brett Kavanaugh foam at the mouth, chomp at the bit, and cry to seal, bind, and reassert their power. The display of anger and tears that Kavanaugh gave his national audience in juxtaposition with Christine Blasey Ford’s quiet, measured, accommodating, and humble responses proves how our system is rigged to bolster White male power, status, speech, sex, and sympathy. The fact that Christine Blasey Ford was required to recount the most traumatic event in her life on national television, thereby reliving it, to prove that her allegations are indeed true (because a woman’s lived experience is not fact enough), only to be discredited, lambasted, and denied is a horrifying confirmation that our justice system was created to protect White men. Kavanaugh’s righteous indignation and raging denial of taking responsibility for his actions is frightening for one main reason: because the response he has received is a timeless tale of the manipulative power of White male tears.
If anyone was wondering, this is how violent and dangerous men stay in power. This is how patriarchal supremacy functions. Those in support of Kavanaugh rushed to his side with comfort and acknowledgement of his pain as he played the victim because this country conditions us to respond with sympathy to male tears, and Brett Kavanaugh knows this. Blasey Ford was authentically and genuinely compliant, often apologetic, and soft-spoken. If she acted as belligerent as Kavanaugh she would have been completely dismissed. Kavanaugh strategically shuffled between outrage about the “circus” of these proceedings, and the agony of having to explain all of this to his daughters. His tears are a weapon he knows how to use. This is the flipping of the script that powerful men are so seasoned at, and it’s the same way my abusive ex cried to me after he punched me to the ground. Entitled to outrage at a moment’s notice because they can be, and waterworks when it serves them because they know that their emotional (read: melodramatic) antics will be interpreted as sensitive and exceptional.
This paints a very serious picture for the state of our justice system. If a White woman is being treated like garbage in front of national television, performatively listened to, but in truth gaslighted and silenced by male tears, how does that bode for others who hold more marginalized identities? After watching Kavanaugh deliver this callous and calculated performance, it is clear that he belongs on no bench, and that he’s not even a safe candidate to coach his daughter’s basketball team.
When taking this hearing into account, it must be acknowledged that in 1991, Anita Hill, a Black woman who was a law professor, was in an eerily similar position. The burden of proof for Hill, and all Black women to this day, weighs significantly more heavy. The history of sexual harassment came from African American women as Kimberle Crenshaw, professor of law at UCLA and Columbia University and founder of the African American Policy Forum, reminds us in her interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. Anita Hill’s case was placed at odds between feminists and anti-racists because Clarence Thomas had claimed that allegations against him were an orchestrated “high-tech lynching,” strategically pandering to White people’s fears of being interpreted as racist. The colossal failure for intersectional feminism in the past can be rectified, however, especially on the part of White women like myself, if we stand up against the power of White maleness, and cease our historical collusion. It is no wonder why the majority of White women voted for Trump because we benefit from the proximity to White maleness and we fear losing that false sense of security. But none of us are safe from the violence that White men are capable of. White women need to stand in defiance of our conditioned commitment to the construct of Whiteness because we are Kavanaugh’s “tools of redemption,” as Nicole Froio so accurately writes. We see this clearly as he frequently references his daughters, wife, mother, former classmates, and law clerks, as if having women in your life is somehow substantial proof that you are not a sexual predator.
Though Senator Feinstein ensured that this event was nothing more than a hearing to see if Kavanaugh was the best fit for the highest, most powerful position in our justice system, we knew from the beginning that inherently in this patriarchal/supremacist structure that this was going to be interpreted as a “he said/she said” debate. This was a horrifying and dull-edged reminder that sexual violence is so permeating and pervasive that a woman’s claims are not enough to hold a perpetrator accountable. Too easily, Kavanaugh was able to respond in a howl of rage and pathetic outbursts of toxic emotion because in our country if you are an elite White man born into wealth, who teaches law at Harvard, who goes to baseball games with your Dad, and keeps a calendar, then you cannot be questioned.
As Rashad Robinson, president of Color for Change, explains, “Brett Kavanaugh gets the benefit of the doubt because he is a White man from society’s elite.” He points out how Kavanaugh is getting the same pass that Trump did when he was faced with sexual assault allegations. “Boys will be boys” is being repeated as a submission to “tradition” and the unwritten rules of our society. Robinson continues, “Yet, when I think about 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 17-year old Trayvon Martin, and 18-year-old Mike Brown, three Black boys killed for being Black boys, it is clear that they were not one of the boys’ written in that unwritten rule.”
The intersections of race, class, and gender are ever-present. Brett Kavanaugh can behave however he wants. And while Dr. Ford without a doubt should be heard and believed, it must also be acknowledged that absent her Whiteness and elite upbringing she would not have been seen as credible. Kimberle Crenshaw wrote a piece for the New York Times titled, “We Still Haven’t Learned From Anita Hill’s Testimony,” in response to the failure of our nation to believe Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations. We deserve to live in a world where all women have bodily autonomy and are safe, but particularly for Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, and Middle Eastern womxn, this is not the case.
We need to be thanking Anita Hill who’s bravery and conviction paved the way for the #metoo movement, and who made it possible for Dr. Ford to be embraced by our country. Hill was the first to break the silence that normalizes sexual violence. This hearing was a national broadcast of how our country was created by White men’s unchecked and unquestioned exploitative actions. Racism and sexism are not separate issues and when we address one, we cannot fail to address the other. These are interconnected tragedies and we need to utilize what privileges we have to build a world where all women, trans, and femmes are believed, and all Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, and Middle Eastern people are protected. It is necessary for White women to account for how we can better and more truly support women of color. And it is beyond time for White men who say they support women to start showing up, speaking up, and stop colluding with these dehumanizing and violent systems that benefit them in the short term, but ultimately lead to our collective destruction.