An allegation has emerged of sexual harassment by Black activist and former Presidential candidate Jesse Jackson. The story broke on November 6 at The Root in the article “Don’t Let the Smile Fool You. I’m Cringing on the Inside”. Although overshadowed by the ongoing Hollywood mess, the allegations against Jesse Jackson have been picked up by Breitbart and the Daily Mail.
First, Danielle Young relates an incident three years ago concerning Jesse Jackson. As a guest speaker, he had delivered a rousing discourse to her company. Following that, the attendees got their pictures taken with him. And then:
I walked toward Jackson, smiling, and he smiled back at me. His eyes scanned my entire body. All of a sudden, I felt naked in my sweater and jeans. As I walked within arm’s reach of him, Jackson reached out a hand and grabbed my thigh, saying, “I like all of that right there!” and gave my thigh a tight squeeze.
I was shocked, to say the least. Even though Jackson had had his hand reached out, I had no idea that he would touch me in a sexual way.
I did what most women in an uncomfortable position do: I giggled. And I continued to giggle as he pulled me in closer, stared down at my body, smiled and told me he was only kidding. The entire time, my co-worker snapped photos.
In many of the photos, you can see that I am visibly uncomfortable but attempting to laugh it all off. In the last photo, I am pointing to the camera, asking him if we can just take the picture.
There are, in fact, two pictures with Jackson posted onto the article. Neither shows the thigh-grab, or seems to depict visible discomfort. It’s unclear what happened to those photos.
When I was finally able to pull myself away from the Rev. Jackson’s grip, I was deflated. I admired this man who marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who represented our ability to overcome, a man who is really … just a man.
Indeed, celebrities are people too, despite their larger-than-life stature (and egoes). Everyone has dirty laundry to some degree, though some individuals could keep a dry-cleaning shop in business. What’s rather refreshing about Jackson is that everybody understands that he’s a politician rather than a media-deified figure like MLK.
He’s the better of the two, actually. To compare MLK’s grotesque personal life to Jesse Jackson’s over-gazing and thigh-grabbing would be like comparing Bernie Madoff to a kid who shoplifts a candy bar. If you include Jackson’s baby-daddy drama, we could upgrade the comparison to a kid who steals a bike.
The rest concerns a similarly awkward meeting with John Singleton. That one’s a different narrative, so I won’t go into it. However, the first comment to the article does, and quite scathingly:
Wtf?! , in regards to only John, i was at ABFF. & I remember this instance as I was with the entire cast of Snowfall & John the entire day. And during this particular segment, i was in arms length of you both when the photo was taken. You’re exaggerating and piecing little lies together to gas your article.
The most salient part is this:
This day & age women are so off-put by a man simply complimenting them, they believe it must be a sexual innuendo or have a hidden agenda. As a woman, also against sexual harassment, I saw no sign of discomfort when you were begging for a picture and continuing your playful banter as we exited the main area.
Once again, as I did for Bush the Elder, I find myself in the odd position of sticking up for an elderly political figure for whom I lack enthusiasm. Although I don’t care for Jackson’s ideology or his Alinsky style tactics, this episode doesn’t make him a monster.
Was Jackson wrong to look admiringly? Although women do check out guys, a man being too visibly impressed risks trouble these days. However, it’s a natural right for people to use their visual perception as they wish within public spaces.
As for thigh-grabbing, although the leg is not a sexual organ, again I don’t recommend it. Thus far (as is usual for “he said / she said” cases), it’s a one-sided story. Given the article’s second picture, it seems doubtful that Jackson’s regular-sized hand (seen fully on her arm) would be capable of tightly gripping her very plus-sized thigh. Be that as it may:
A few of my co-workers saw Jackson’s hand grip my thigh as it was happening, and they laughed harder than I did. Their laughter didn’t feel like the same type of nervous laughter I had when my thigh was in his hand. Theirs was as if they had just heard the best joke ever. It was almost an encouragement of Jackson’s behavior. I’m not blaming them; I’m just curious as to why most of them thought what happened was more funny than alarming. That’s concerning.
So there was a jubilant atmosphere. Further, there was a plausible lack of signs by which he could’ve detected discomfort on her part (such as “Don’t do that” or trying to walk away). Again, I don’t recommend thigh-grabbing, but we can absolve Jackson of wrongful intent; he’s not a mind reader.
The recent Hollywood mess set off quite an avalanche. There was a lot behind that: hush money, a large number of accusers alleging genuine harassment and other illegal activities, supporting evidence (for example, a recorded conversation and a police report), among other strangeness. Following the aftermath, though, lately we have an outbreak of old stories, difficult to verify, sometimes relating no more than bad taste (if that), involving no bodily harm or career damage.
There’s a danger that this will cause a fatigue effect which will make it more difficult for those who’ve been grievously wronged to seek justice. The other danger is that this will turn into a full-blown witch hunt. In fact, that’s already claimed one life.
The article calls the Jackson incident “sexual harassment”. That’s a legal term with a specific meaning: either quid pro quo offers (Hollywood “casting couch” stuff, for example), or creating a hostile work environment (like saying “nice dress”). Since Jackson was only a guest speaker, neither applies. This legal term should not be used for other things, such as awkward encounters, bad game, or even being a douchebag. That may be reprehensible in some instances, but the current trend of expanding definitions isn’t helpful. Call out this misnomer when you hear it.