"Silence Breakers": Let's Remember That Gabrielle Union Broke Her Silence 20 Years Ago
The big story this week was TIME Magazine’s reveal of their Person of the Year 2017. The fact that it wasn’t a single person (not even Donald Trump!) but a whole movement is monumental — and justified.”The Silence Breakers” deserve this recognition for having the bravery to come forward in spite of their fear, and for forcing our cultural conversation to address an issue we’ve pushed to the background for so long. It seems all we’ve been able to talk about this year are the various abuses committed by Trump, Weinstein, Spacey, and so many more. But it’s important to remember that while we finally seem to be ready to listen to the victims of sexual assault, we may not be listening to all of them.
And there are some victims who have been trying to engage in this conversation for a very long time.
Enter: Gabrielle Union. Perhaps it’s merely a coincidence that The New York Times just this week published a profile of the actor in promotion of her new memoir “We’re Going To Need More Wine.” Her book covers a lot of painful topics from her life, including one story she’s openly discussed for 20 years: the time she was raped at gunpoint when she was 19 years old. Union has tried to use her experience and her platform to help shine a light on victims, but she also recognizes that the current tide of attention being paid to the issue may be because finally some approachable white women put their names to the cause.
“I think the floodgates have opened for white women,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously. Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.”
It’s a topic she also spoke beautifully about in a video for The Root:
Even Tarana Burke, the activist who founded the “Me Too” movement before it was a hashtag (and who was recognized by TIME even if she didn’t make it onto the cover…), has been inspired by Union.
I wish I could tell @itsgabrielleu how much she is a part of the fabric of #metoo bc when I started out doing workshops with Black girl survivors she was one of the few examples of resilience I could point to. I’ve used her in workshops for a decade. This is why. 💕 https://t.co/aRFVVBmkZG— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) December 7, 2017
It’s great that we’re finally having these difficult conversations, and holding abusers accountable for their actions. But it’s important that we make sure to amplify the voices of ALL the victims, and so far we haven’t done enough to support PoC. As Union told the Times in her profile:
“When we have the microphone, how often do we pass it back to the people who are experiencing a different challenge, but who are equally worthy as having the microphone?” Ms. Union asked.
And then she stopped herself. “I just did this,” she said, and stretched her hand backward, over her head, as if she was symbolizing a passing of the microphone to someone behind her.
But the microphone shouldn’t be passed behind, she said, acknowledging that many people still feel ignored.
“It should be passed to the side.”