John Conyers

Black men, sexual harassment and justice

By Frederick H. Lowe

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are the buzzwords of the day. Will black men accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault in today’s environment be treated the same way as white men accused of the same crimes— by being given due process? The racial history of this country says no.

It’s like the cowboy westerns I watched on television as a kid. The sheriff always said, “We’re going to try you and then we’re going to hang you.”

Take for instance the sexual assault allegation of this century particularly because we have a widely published record of what occurred and what didn’t occur.

Emmett Till, a 14-year-old-African-American boy who was accused by Carolyn Bryant, a white woman, of touching her and making sexual remarks.

This incident took place in 1955 in Money, Mississippi, where segregation was the law of the land and black men and boys had no rights. Bryant told her husband Roy, and J. W. Milam, Roy’s half-brother that she was the object of unwanted attention.

Emmett Till

The two men kidnapped Till from his uncle’s home, beat him to death, tied his body to an industrial fan and threw his anchored body into the Tallahatchie River. Till’s body briefly sank to the bottom before floating to the river’s surface.

Sixty years later, Bryant, now known as Carolyn Bryant Donham, told Timothy B. Tyson, a Duke University professor who wrote the book “The Blood of Emmett Till,” that what she told her husband and his half-brother to provoke them to kill Till was a lie. She admitted this 60 years after Till was brutally murdered. Till did not receive any due process, just a watery grave.

Carolyn Bryant. Her lies got Emmett Till murdered.

Even a sign, marking the place where Till’s body floated to the surface of the Tallahatchie, has been shot up by gunmen who are holding on to the belief Till insulted Carolyn Bryant.

Congressman John Conyers, the longest serving member of the U.S. Congress and co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, is being asked to resign after several women claimed that he either sexually harassed or verbally harassed them. (He announced his retirement, not his resignation today).

Conyers has denied the allegations although it has been reported that he paid a former woman employee $27,000 to settle a claim of sexual harassment.

Four members of Michigan’s congressional delegation and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have demanded that Conyers resign from office.

His supporters recently held a rally, and they claim the 88-year-old Conyers is a victim of a double standard since U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D., Minnesota) and President Donald Trump are not being asked to step down although both men face similar allegations from multiple women.

Conyers’ supporters added that he deserved due process since these are only allegations. Hip Hop Mogul Russell Simmons recently faced similar allegations and he resigned from a company he founded although he had a different recollection of what transpired.

These actions continue to show that many people believe black men are guilty of something in the eyes of all women because of the implied bias against black men and that white women’s accusations often are the law.

What’s opposite of a good Jewish Boy like Harvey Weinstein? A no-good black men, everyone believes


  1. This editorial has been rendered irrelevant by the fast moving events of the last few days–the calls for the resignation of Senator Frankel (for black people, is that smart before the final tax overhaul vote?) and the excellent article on this issue from TIME magazine in conjunction with their selection of Person of the Year:

    Anyway, this narrative that excuses influential black men for sexual harassment in the workplace by conjuring up Emmett Til and other lynchings of black men based on supposed flirtations with white women is not relevant to this discussion and has to stop.

    Right now the pendulum is swinging in the direction of kangaroo court for powerful men accused of such activity in all walks of life in the U.S. no matter what color they are.

    Black institutions should take advantage of this to evaluate the history of the pattern of such egregious behavior in our HBCU’s, entertainment companies, and the government and campaign offices of black elected officials. We should examine the impact of this corrosive behavior on both black men and women in the workplace, along with well meaning individuals who wish to do business at these venues, only to be thwarted by the insular concubine mentality of those in charge.

    Continuing to throw up the smokescreen of the white fear of the sexually voracious Big Black Buck as an excuse for this kind of behavior in situations that are under the control of black people is no longer going to fly.

  2. Your response makes no sense.

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