What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman's face? What woman's terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny? -- Audre Lorde, self-described black lesbian feminist mother lover poet
Florida's Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll has been accused by Carletha Cole, a former administrative assistant to Carroll, of being involved in an inappropriate sexual encounter with a female subordinate. Cole is a grandmother and a minister, who took a lie detector test regarding the accusations and passed.
When Carroll decided that she was going to defend this matter publicly, she stated that her accuser is not only attacking one person but is attacking her entire family. Her actions that followed demonstrated that she needed to transfer her pain.
In an attempt to seek public sympathy for her personal and professional matter, Carroll decided to insult every black woman who is a lesbian, bisexual and/or single. She decided that her personal status as a wife and mother with a long-lasting marriage to her husband was somehow superior and above reproach for inappropriate, extramarital relations. She further decided to insult my beautiful black sisters by comparing her life situation to those of longtime single women, and imply that women who engage in sexual relations with other women could not possibly look like her.
I am so furious and frustrated by a black woman of power trying to bring other black women down to save face. Jennifer Carroll, the core of your character is at stake, and you are showing your true colors. Leadership requires grace and dignity under fire, and you are showing that your character includes misguided superiority and poor judgment.
Carroll's sinister laughter after her comments gave me chills, but I will leave the judgment to those who have the power to seek justice for her or her accuser. I will pray for her ignorance to be enlightened by the backlash she will reap from my black sisters, my lesbian and bisexual sisters, my single sisters, and all those who support and love us.
Words have the kind of power that can make the invisible, visible; the weak, strong; and the broken, resilient. Regardless of their intent, their impact can be very real and dehumanizing. Public figures are powerful change agents who can educate people to overcome stereotypes (in this case, stereotypes about black, single, lesbian, bi or questioning women) -- or they can perpetuate those stereotypes, even if unintentionally.
Jennifer Carroll, I can only hope that you choose your words more wisely as you seek to represent me -- a resident of the state of Florida for more than 25 years -- and other Floridians as a public official.
A Sister in the Movement,
Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks
Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks serves as the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), which is a national civil rights organization dedicated to empowering black LGBT people. NBJC's mission is to eradicate racism and homophobia. For more information about NBJC, visit www.nbjc.org.