A few weeks ago Matt Damon found himself in the middle of controversy… again. Again, he was the target of women across the country for something he said in an interview. You’d think he would have learned from the first mistake a couple of years ago; nope, guess not.

This time he decided to give his take on the recent sexual misconduct accusations against some of the most powerful men in entertainment. The statement that got him in trouble was this one:

“There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

I actually understand what Matt Damon was trying to say, and I slightly agree with him… “very” slightly. His point was that there are different degrees of sexual impropriety and that each one should be treated differently.

It’s a good point if you equate it to illegal drugs. People who are busted for possession or marijuana should get a much lesser sentence than someone who’s busted for killing 10 people who owed you money for stealing a kilo of their best cocaine. Simple, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple… not even close.

I have a story to tell (of course I do), but it’s not related to anything sexual… not really. It’s a story of something that happened in my life, a racial story, that may or may not help explain why Matt Damon was 99.75% wrong.

Many years ago I was the director of patient accounting at a small hospital in northern New York, close to Lake Ontario. I’d been there 3 years, doing pretty good work if I say so myself, and was one of the few black people working there.

One day I got contacted via email at home by someone I knew pretty well while I was in college. I had a big crush on her a year after I graduated, and would drive up to the college to visit her often. We never went out on a real date, but I would have been willing in a heartbeat.

In the email she mentioned that she would be in the area where I worked and asked if we could meet for lunch. I hadn’t seen her in over 10 years by that point, but I was elated to get a chance to catch up with her and find out how her life had been going.


Not her; another college friend

She came into the hospital to greet me and we were both ecstatic. I’d mentioned to the women I worked with that someone I’d had a big crush on during my after college days was going to be stopping in, and they were eager to see what she looked like. We left for lunch, and it was a good time. I was glad to know how well her life was going.

I got back to the office feeling pretty good… until… one of the ladies said, in front of the other ladies “I didn’t expect her to be white.”

That threw me off; have to admit I didn’t see that one coming. I asked her if it mattered and she said “I’m not sure; it caught me off guard that she was white. I never expected you to have a crush on a white woman.”

She was one of the supervisors who reported to me, and she was white. At that time all my employees were white. The issue of my being black had never come up in the 3 years I’d been there until this day. Caught off guard, I said “My first girlfriend was white. The overwhelming majority of people who I went to college with were white. It wasn’t a big deal.”

She said “Wow… I just never thought of you with a white woman.”

I was a bit stunned and thrown off. I tried to get it out of my mind but the damage was done. We still had a good working relationship but I never felt the same being around her after her words that day.. and this time I was the one in charge. I still think about it every once in a while; obviously I’ve thought about it since I first read Damon’s words on sexual misconduct differences.

That’s the problem with Matt Damon’s thoughts on the subject. To him, it’s a case of one thing being worse than another. To any woman who goes through it, especially if the man is in a position of authority over her, the action is as bad as if she’d been more severely physically assaulted. You can’t look at that person the same, you never fully trust them, and a bit of your faith and self worth is shaken.

People who’ve never gone through a similar experience never seem to understand it; they see everything in shades of grey. It couldn’t have been “that bad” if it’s taken this long for the truth to come out. In my case I mentioned it to my wife when I got home but this is the first time I’ve ever written about it. Almost 20 years later and it still bothers me, even if it’s not an all consuming thought in my daily life.

It’s partially a different world now than it was even 20 years ago. More people are speaking out about bad behavior they had to endure from someone else. At the same time, more people aren’t believing any of it, which almost got an accused pedophile elected in Alabama and showed a major failure of political and religious leadership. It might be hard figuring out who’s telling the truth in a he said – she said story, but numbers don’t usually lie.

The degrees of indiscretion don’t matter either; damage is done either way. If you’re on the outside, you either understand or not; it still needs to be called out.

Matt Damon’s always been one of the good guys; if he doesn’t get it who will?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2017 Mitch  Mitchell
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