What happened to Christine Blasey Ford happens right here, too
By JENNIFER MUIR BEUTHIN, Contributing Columnist
How the Senate, the president and our nation respond to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as a United States Supreme Court justice could be a turning point in the moral history of our country, watched by generations to come.
And it’s not because of how the outcome will impact the balance of the Supreme Court.
Rather, this nomination process may well determine whether we as a nation — with the perspective of history — value self-interest over justice, whether winning for our team is more important than fairness and due process, whether we can look the other way on sexual assault allegedly committed by a white man in his teenage years, but bring the full force of the law against 17-year-olds of color for similar or less serious crimes.
Countless women across the nation can understand why Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a professor from Palo Alto, waited decades to publicly tell the story that has stalled the light-speed nomination proceedings for Kavanaugh. Blasey Ford told the Washington Post in a story that ran last Sunday that decades ago while in high school at a house party, a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her down, covered her mouth to keep her from screaming and groped her.
She may not have wanted to relive the trauma. She may have thought it wouldn’t have made a difference. She may have seen what has happened when others have come forward to expose sexual misconduct. She may not have wanted to risk going on trial herself, the way Anita Hill and so many others have in the past.
But she did ultimately decide to come forward and now, as a nation, we have a responsibility to allow the time for a thorough evaluation of all the facts and not just some perfunctory interview with both parties where the only arbiters of truth have a political interest in the outcome.
Just look at what has happened in our own community when women came forward to report sexual abuse by a high-ranking and powerful figure, and those responsible for responding also had a personal interest in how the case would be handled.
In 2011, when female Orange County workers first reported being sexually assaulted by their boss, then-Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante, the small group of people responsible for acting to protect those women instead sat on the complaints and then botched an investigation before the accusations saw the light of day and some justice resulted.
The claims were initially referred to an employee who reported to Bustamante, and Bustamante and his subordinate reportedly joked about the allegations. Even when the allegations were brought to the attention of higher-ranking officials, they were buried until the women subsequently contacted the news media.
Ultimately, charges against Bustamante were finally filed in 2012, and he pleaded guilty in 2015 to multiple felonies.
Investigations take time. And they take a real curiosity about finding the truth. Hearing testimony is just one part of that process.
Kavanaugh’s age at the time of the alleged assault should have no more bearing on the outcome of these hearings than the ages of the countless black youth who are tried and convicted as adults and remain in prison today. Or youth like Trayvon Martin, who was gunned down at age 17 by an adult who was later acquitted for the murder after claiming self-defense.
Our children and grandchildren will be historical witnesses as this nomination to the highest court in our land proceeds. The questions we are about to answer are: Do we want them to learn that winning at all costs is the American way? That we value self-interest and short-term advantage more than justice? Or do we want them to see Americans as citizens who placed the moral fiber of our country above self-interest, who acknowledged the systemic sexism and racism in our nation, who made a principled decision to commit to dismantling those systems and who continued in the tradition set forth in our nation’s constitution to work to create “a more perfect union.”
Jennifer Muir Beuthin is general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.
Publication Date: September 22, 2018