Home USA OP-ED: Justin Fairfax Deserves a Fair Hearing: When African American men are...

OP-ED: Justin Fairfax Deserves a Fair Hearing: When African American men are accused of rape, a sordid history is evoked

Lieutenant governor of Virginia, Justin Fairfax (Photo by: forwardtimes.com)

By Frederick H. Lowe

Justin Fairfax, the lieutenant governor of Virginia, has asked the FBI to investigate allegations by two women that he sexually assaulted them. The alleged assaults, which occurred years earlier, were never reported to police or to physicians but were reported to the women’s friends.

Dr. Vanessa Tyson and Meredith Watson, the two women, indicated they are willing to testify at a hearing to impeach Fairfax. Virginia delegate Patrick Hope recently said he soon would introduce articles of impeachment against Fairfax.

Tyson said that Fairfax forced her to perform oral sex on him after they kissed consensually while they were attending the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Meredith Watson says she was raped by Fairfax in 2000 while the two were students at Duke University.

Fairfax has denied the allegations of both women, but that hasn’t stopped almost everyone, including Senators Tim Kaine (D-Virginia), Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Kamala Harris (D-California) and Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus from demanding that he resign.

The sexual assault allegations against him also have taken attention away from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam who admitted wearing Black face at a Michael Jackson dance contest and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring wearing Black face at parties. Both men said they will not resign from office and they may survive.

Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, Gayle King interviewed Northam who said it was 400 years ago when Black indentured servants were brought to the Commonwealth. That comment seemed to go right over King’s head because blacks brought to Virginia were slaves. Indentured servants paid for their passage and worked for their employer a set number of years until they paid off their debt and were free. King claims she corrected the governor, but I didn’t hear it.

Margaret Brennan, Face the Nation’s host, asked King about the allegations against Fairfax.

She said Tyson’s and Watson’s allegations were very credible. King is a Black woman, but no Black men or someone who could add a historical context to rape allegations against Black men appeared on the show.

U.S. history has plenty of tragic examples.

On June 15, 1920, a white mob in Duluth, Minnesota, lynched three Black circus workers —- Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie —- after Irene Tusker, a 19-year-old White woman charged that the three men had raped her, although a physical examination by a physician established she had not been raped, according to the book “The Lynchings in Duluth.”

Recently, Rick DeSantis, Florida’s governor, pardoned four black men for the 1949 rape of a white woman that never occurred.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (D., Illinois) and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D., Illinois) said they will introduce legislation that would designate the site of the 1908 Springfield Race Riots a National Historic Monument after whites and immigrants burned down an entire black neighborhood after a White woman claimed a Black man raped her. The woman later admitted she made up the story.

Black women are not unbiased observers of the way society treats Black men. Some are sympathetic, while others know they have cachet with Whites, especially White men, because they are women and women who are expected to be especially deferential.

I have had this happen to me. I was a member of the Art Institute of Chicago. I was waiting in the gift area of the modern wing for my wife and son who were shopping nearby to join me.

A Black woman security guard, dressed in plainclothes, said to her White partner, ‘I am going to see what he’s up to.’ With an angry look, she pressed her face close to mine and said nothing. When my wife and son ran up, she told her partner, “Let’s go,” and they left.

Another abhorrent incident of this ilk took place while I was a fellow at Northwestern University. The fellows were waiting to visit Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart after twice clearing jail security. I was the only Black man among the fellows who were all younger White women except for one older Black woman and an older White man.

A Black woman deputy sheriff walked up to me and wanted to know why I was there. I explained to her that I was a fellow, which she didn’t believe. My answer angered her. She moved her watch hat with one hand in a threatening manner. Her other hand rested on the butt of her gun, leading me to fear that she was going to shoot me. I was waiting with the others to go inside the jail. I wasn’t breaking out. I wasn’t an inmate. I was an invited, registered guest.

At some point, I must have dissociated because I can’t remember what happened next. I was subsequently aware the deputy sheriff had left without explanation. None of the other fellows came to my defense to say I was with them. A few just stared at me. The Black woman fellow said something which I don’t remember.

I wonder who will come to Fairfax’s defense. People are already building gallows to lynch him over the Internet. He deserves a fair hearing.

This article originally appeared in the Houston Forward Times. 

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