This has been, I say with complete confidence, the weirdest week ever.
Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, wrote a fiery missive accusing the National Enquirer of extortion over his … what are we calling them? Racy photos? He’s not wearing a lot of clothes, but he is wearing a wedding ring. And the intended recipient of said photos was not his wife. Or the National Enquirer, for that matter. Anyway, his essay is fiery and, despite the sordid circumstances, rather awesome. (Like I said. Weirdest week ever.)
Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times, is mired in plagiarism claims over her new book, “Merchants of Truth,” which is about journalism.
Gucci apologized for selling an $890 sweater that looks like blackface.
Blackface, of course, is already on our minds and tongues because elected officials in Virginia keep admitting they posed in it. Or edited yearbooks full of it. Except the lieutenant governor, who’s accused of sexual assault.
Joe Ricketts, the billionaire dad of Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, appears to enjoy and share racist, Islamophobic emails.
Liam Neeson told a newspaper he once prowled the streets looking for a black person to kill.
And actress Michelle Rodriguez said Neeson can’t be racist because of the way he kissed Viola Davis.
“Dude, have you watched ‘Widows?’” she said at a Wednesday night gala. “His tongue was so far down Viola Davis’ throat. You can’t call him a racist ever. Racists don’t make out with the race that they hate, especially in the way he does with his tongue — so deep down her throat. I don’t care how good of an actor you are.”
I’d like to stay on that last bit for a minute.
Wanting to have sex with a person is not the same as seeing that person as your equal.
Harvey Weinstein, man. That guy LOVES women. Look how many he tried to get naked!
See how ridiculous that sounds?
You can desire a person, passionately kiss a person, have sex with a person and still not fully recognize or respect that person’s worth, outside of the ability to satisfy your needs — sexual or otherwise.
Slaveholders raped slaves. Strom Thurmond, a notorious segregationist, fathered a daughter with his African-American housekeeper.
I’m not equating Neeson’s words with raping slaves or pushing for segregation. I’m saying history proves sexual desire doesn’t equal open-mindedness or the desire for parity.
What has a person done to champion equality in his or her community? How has a person pushed for inclusion at his or her workplace? What has a person done to chip away at bias — inherent, structural, historic or otherwise?
Who are a person’s close friends?
That, I’ll listen to. He kissed hard? Eh.
Crazy stuff happens in the bedroom. Or in the pursuit of the bedroom. Ask Jeff Bezos. It’s not the place to judge a person’s commitment to a fair and equal society. And pretending it is distracts from the larger, more thoughtful and useful conversations we need to be having around race, gender, power, equality.
If we can take away one thing from this supremely weird week, I hope it’s that.
Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @heidistevens13.