This week the only word that could possibly come to me is power.
Scott Synder of the Council on Foreign Relations and I spoke about the prospects for nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula. The good news is that Scott believes that there is a real chance for peace in Northeast Asia, and that the international community could seize upon this moment. But when I asked whether President Kim Jong Un of North Korea was playing for time in a bid to hold on to his nuclear arsenal, and prevent a US-led strike, he said “we really don’t know yet.” We can only hope that President Kim is serious about peace because nothing concentrates the mind like the prospect of the power of nuclear weapons being unleashed with their unmatched ability to devastate. Such a use by either the US or North Korea would be the first by a foreign power since 1945, ironically of course also in Asia.
Dr. Treva B. Lindsey of The Ohio State University talked to me about how the power of black women helped to bring about the conviction of Bill Cosby. She put forth this idea on Thursday in Vox and it came to our show’s attention. We picked up the phone right away to get her on, because the fact that the work of women for decades brought Bill Cosby to justice is often lost in the broader dialogue. The fact that black women have come together through networks to heal and tell their stories established the framework on which the #MeToo movement hangs.The fact that black women live at the intersections of race, gender, and class means that Black women are aware of the way in which these issues are working together to block change. And are therefore extremely capable leaders in dismantling misogyny and patriarchy.
Women living at various intersections was also a message delivered compellingly by Dr. Carolyn West of the University of Washington-Tacoma. She argued that the lack of power that Black women have had over their own bodies for most of American history still reverberates to this day. Until the late 19th century, rape of Black women by both Black and White men was totally legal. This reality of ultimate de facto powerlessness provides a context for coercive sex, higher incidences of unwanted pregnancies, the failure to take black women seriously in sexual assault claims, even lower levels of testing of black women’s kits, continues to this day. And this “web of trauma and violence” extends to Black transwomen even more so she argues. That’s why understanding the backstory of power is essential to understanding the pattern of sexual violence in the United States.
However, Aishah Shahidah Simmons told me that there is power in recovery from sexual violence. The road to recovery begins with women using their voices to tell their stories about what happened with someone that they trust. That is followed she says by radical love for themselves and those around them including possibly the perpetrator, even as they hold those who committed the crime and those who facilitated it accountable, for their actions. Only with both love and accountability Simmons declares is healing possible from sexual assault. That’s why she started the online recovery forum for victims Love with Accountability. The important news here is that healing from sexual assault is a reality by doing the work. In her message is the power of the human spirit to thrive even after extreme violence and trauma.
Lastly, in my Hot Tea segment I take on Bill Cosby’s conviction. Cosby used his power to the detriment of over 60 women over five decades. His attraction to mass audiences was grounded in the image of the ideal dad when in reality he was the father that nobody wants. The good news is that there is a way forward for all of those women who survived Cosby’s sadism and this week’s program showed how.