Being a Black man in America is in a word: hard. It is not lost on this Black woman, who has a Black father, a Black brother, and many Black uncles, that every time one of them goes out in their car to go to work or walks a few blocks to get a cup of coffee, they are in peril.
From what you ask? Being racially profiled and pulled over by law enforcement, taken into custody, or worse, being shot at and killed just for being Black and male in America.
So, it brings me no pleasure, whatsoever, to see a gifted, young, Black man, like Virginia’s Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, who I know through mutual friends, and our respective Greek lettered affiliations and a man who I crossed political affiliations over to vote for in 2017, be asked to resign his office amidst scandal and allegations of rape and sexual assault from some 15 years ago.
My colleague from Virginia, attorney Phil Thompson, will argue the other side of this coin. While, I respect his point of view, I do not think Justin Fairfax is a victim of any high-tech “lynching” or “racism” constructed by a 400-year-old white male patriarchy in the Virginia Commonwealth. He is a victim of karma, and of his dark past catching up to him. There is no doubt that his only recourse at this point is to resign from his Lt. Governor position and save Virginians the spectacle of a public impeachment trial. It would only make matters much worse for Fairfax, his future, his wife, and his very young children.
No ax to grind
I do not believe Justin Fairfax’s denials of consensual sex in 2000 and 2004 with two separate women in two separate cities. These women are credible with no political ax to grind. They, like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (who testified that she was allegedly assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when they were younger) and many others stay silent for years and as a result, are reluctant to come forward with these allegations. Fairfax would have to have the worse luck in the world, to have two women who do not know each other, live on opposite coasts, describe similar acts of sexual assault and violence, come after him 15 years after the fact.
No right to reign
No public official is entitled to keep his or her office. Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam should also resign. Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring should resign. They should ALL resign because they have violated a sacred trust with their political parties and with the people of Virginia.
Instead, they have all just dug in their heels with this “I will ride this out” approach to these very serious breaches of trust. For Fairfax, he has handled this all poorly at best. He attacked his first accuser, saying in an open meeting “F**k that bitch” and then misstating facts around why the Washington Post chose not to run with the story about the allegation in 2017, which was during his campaign.
— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) February 6, 2019
He has been angry (understandably) which Virginia Congressman Don McEachin (who is also Black) pointed out: “One of the curses of being an African-American man in the United States is you don’t get to play the angry Black man.”
No further explanation needed
A recent Washington Post poll reveals that despite appearing in “black face” both Virginia’s Governor and Attorney General still have the support of a clear majority of Black voters. Whereas white voters are more evenly split. The voters were largely undecided on Fairfax, as they said they needed more information on the accusation, which at the time of the poll, was only the first allegation brought by Dr. Vanessa Tyson.
She claims that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex and some on social media and certain social circles have questioned whether or not that’s possible. To get into the minutia of whether or not oral sex can be forced is just plain offensive. Of course it can be.
Forced oral sex is just the same as any other type of sexual assault or rape: There is a power imbalance. Regardless of whether or not you think biting your abuser is something that could free you from such a horrific experience, in the moment, most victims of abuse are terrified or in shock. They simply do their best to survive the horror; sometimes that means by fighting back, at other times it means being lifelessly compliant just to stay alive. There is no “right way” to respond to someone who is sexually assaulting you.
Lt. Governor Fairfax most certainly deserves “due process,” but he can do that through the legal system as a private citizen who has the right to seek redress for the irreparable harm caused to him, his professional reputation and his personal reputation. This is, however, only if any of these allegations by either of the two brave women who have come forward to tell their stories, is indeed false as he says.
Sophia A. Nelson is an award winning journalist and author of E Pluribus One: Reclaiming Our Founders’ Vision for a United America. (Centerstreet 2017)