Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shifting the Burden

**Trigger Warning**

So apparently, Oprah Winfrey had Mo'Nique's brother, Gerald Imes, who molested Mo'Nique beginning when she was seven, on her show Monday.

Why? I am asking seriously because I really can't think of a good reason.

And he apologized.


I know it's not my place to be dismissive, but I don't understand what the apology is supposed to do.

I am angry that Oprah gave Gerald Imes such a public, highly visible venue to make his apology. Though Mo'Nique has refused, understandably, to respond, he has created the impression that "the ball is in her court." It as if he has shifted a burden onto her because of the unspoken expectation that she do or say something. He hopes, he says, that they can "come back together as sister and brother," putting further pressure on her to negotiate some kind of relationship.

He gets to re-image himself as penitent and remorseful and as a victim in his own right. And in remaking himself, he tries to disrupt what Mo'nique said, ensuring that he has the final word if she keeps to her silence. According to his story, it's not that she's a liar... exactly. She's just wrong about the details.

From Liss, I learned that their parents were there. That they would join him in this very public forum made me angrier. Yes, I can understand that they don't want to abandon their son, or whatever.

But what does their appearance, as he was giving his apology, mean/say to their daughter? To me it says, "We have forgiven him." What it doesn't say, but seems to imply, is--"You should, too." That's how that sort of pressure works. I don't think I'm far off in my assertion; Mo'Nique's own parents seem to have a "Let's put this behind us" attitude:
The Imeses told Oprah they thought the matter had been addressed when they temporarily asked Gerald to leave the family home after Mo’Nique told them her older brother had “tried to lay on top of me” when she was 15.


Imes now regrets not revisiting the sexual assault with her daughter after banished Gerald returned to the family home - but she was hurt when Mo’Nique decided to go public with the family’s secret on national TV.

She added, ..." ‘As a family such as we were, this is something I felt that should have been discussed first privately within the family. Now, if you wanna tell the world, but give us a chance (sic).'


“I only hope, with doing this, this can cleanse her hurt.”
I don't think Mo'Nique's hurt is the primary concern here, especially since she is the one being portrayed as betraying the family bonds.

I am viewing this through the lens of someone who has been disheartened by the way many communities rally around men who abuse--that in itself is not a racially specific thing.

But the pressure on women of color not to tell, because men of color already have a difficult time having to deal with a racist/kyriarchal system is well-documented.

As if we don't exist, and as women (!), under that same system.

There may be survivors to whom the apology means something. Mo'Nique is in a situation in which, while the abusers wasn't prosecuted, her story was believed/verified. If an abuser was denying the abuse or walking around as if zie had done nothing and people were doubting or disparaging the survivor, maybe the apology would mean something. Or maybe there are people, in circumstances like hers, to whom the apology means something. I don't know.

I really want to understand why Oprah had him on.

What is that apology supposed to mean or do? Especially, if it is true that Gerald Imes is seeking to make money off the "story."

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