News & Politics

Jesse Jackson Sexually Harassed Female Journalist

A female journalist named Danielle Young posted pictures on The Root showing Democratic politician Jesse Jackson sexually harassing her.

These are not accusations. She has the proof. And her account of the encounter is probably a story familiar to most women in media and politics.

Sexual harassment, unwanted sexual attention, grabby or flirtatious old men; we’re taught as women to make excuses for them, especially as black women. You’re supposed to be A-OK with a touch here, a squeeze there, a dirty look, or even an unwanted grab. You’re supposed to laugh—act grateful, even—for the attention.

Even if you never wanted the attention in the first place.

We’ve heard this same story from too many women in Hollywood and elsewhere. I can’t say I understand the behavior of these men. To me, it’s simply a matter of very bad manners, something a gentleman would never do.

Jesse Jackson is not a gentleman:

I used to work for a very popular media company, and we had a meeting that ended with a keynote speech by the living legend, the Rev. Jesse Jackson. So, of course, the conference room was packed wall-to-wall.

After Jackson’s riveting and inspiring speech about the responsibility of black journalists, we all lined up to take a photo with him. One by one, we stepped up, shared a few words and thank-yous with Jackson, snapped photos and went back to our desks. Simple enough, right?

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.

See the photos here. No doubt there will be pushback from Jackson partisans. In the tightly knit world of black journalists, it may even hurt her career. Still, Ms. Young is glad she spoke out:

Honestly, I think it’s worth it for women to speak out against men who simply can’t keep their hands to themselves. Because that’s where it starts. My silence gave Jackson permission to continue grabbing at the next pair of thick thighs he liked. I’m hoping that my voice does the opposite.

I think to some extent, this behavior is generational. Older men like myself grew up in a much different era than young men today. Many men assume that because they like to be touched, women like it too. Of course, there were serial harassers back then too — and far too often, the harassment escalated to the point where the woman gave up her body to keep her job.

From Jackson’s behavior, I think we can assume that many women have fallen victim to such abuse. Will any more women come forward and accuse the good reverend of sexual assault? Ms. Young’s brave outing of Jackson may open the floodgates.