Debbie Allen is a legendary powerhouse. I’ve loved her since the days of Fame and then later on when she was lending her brilliance behind-the-scenes to A Different World. Allen lent her talents to multiple initiatives over the years. Just recently, she teamed up with Shonda Rhimes for the Dove Self-Esteem Project.
In a BET interview, Allen shares her personal thoughts on the #MeToo movement and revealed her own sexual harassment experiences too.
This is interesting considering that Allen has largely remained silent on the sexual assault case against her old friend and former boss Bill Cosby. And it wasn’t until 2015 that her sister, venerable actress Phylicia Rashad, finally decided to speak up in support of Cosby.
So why has Allen remained mum until now?
Not Your Superwoman
Actually, for those who think she should have come out swinging with a neck-rolling tirade tearing Cosby a new one, just know Debbie Allen owes us nothing.
Allen is not your superwoman.
Think about what we are inflicting on another woman of color. While some people think she and her sister should have come out in support of the women who spoke out during the Cosby trial since he was accused of drugging and raping women, it is not our right to require her to jump into the fray to feed our expectations of who we want her to be.
Don’t Black women deal with that already everyday? Allen has the right to remain silent and we have no idea if Allen sat down and set Cosby’s ass straight behind closed doors. Do we know? No. That conversation could have already been had and we ain’t obligated to know about that either.
Let’s be clear: Bill Cosby was a thousand percent wrong for the things he was convicted of doing to those women and he’s going to pay for it for the rest of his life. But I’m not looking for his kids, or cousins, the neighbor with the nice grass or his closest friends to come out of the woodworks with axes to grind.
Allen has her own battles to combat. She told BET that she herself has been the victim of sexual harassment.
“I always dealt with it right then and there… I’ve always been the kind of person who would stand up for myself and, you know, one time a cab driver said something bad to me and I punched him right in the face.”
Her Own Timeline
The resurgence of #MeToo movement last year was a pivotal moment for many women, but it doesn’t mean that Allen had to run in and wave her white flag of surrender to share her #MeToo tale with us too.
If we expect Black women to not be subjected to biases at the beck and call of other people who make us feel like we owe them something, then we’ve got to respect this sista’s decision to take a backseat too.
It’s an indignant expectation that she owes the culture a comment in the matter. It doesn’t matter what we want. We’ve got to extend that same courtesy across the board.
How could she not speak out against Cosby you say? It has nothing to do with him.
Unless you’ve experienced this level of trauma, you have no idea what it takes to muster up the courage to say anything at all.
There is a lot of pain, distress, and emotions that are tethered to talking about rape and molestation and sexual harassment and it’s even more painful to find out a friend or relative is responsible for ravaging people’s lives. That takes time to unpack and we don’t own that right to rush it.
She told BET: “So when I look at this (#MeToo) right now, I know we’ve come a long way and that the #MeToo movement is yet another step forward because we’ve had women that have cried out, but there’s been no movement to support them.”
Allen’s been victimized and her experiences are unique to her and I’m glad Allen is coming out of her own cowry shell of shame to offer up inspiration to others.
Let her live.