May 15, 2018
An open letter published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on May 14 challenges the mainstream media treatment of Dominican-born, US-based writer Junot Díaz accused by writer Zinzi Clemmons of forcibly kissing her:
We write in deep concern over the ways in which the press and those on social media have turned tweets made against Junot Díaz into trending topics and headlines in major newspapers both inside and outside the United States. The (at times uncritical) reception and repetition of the charges have created what amounts to a full-blown media-harassment campaign. They have led to the characterization of the writer as a bizarre person, a sexual predator, a virulent misogynist, an abuser, and an aggressor.
Among the signatories are Milagros Ricourt, Coco Fusco, Lorgia García-Peña, Zaire Dinzey, Dixa Ramírez, Sharina Maillo-Pozo, Chandra Talpade Monhanty and others.
The statement also takes a strong stand against any form of sexual harassment and condemn any inappropriate behavior Junot engaged in the past for which he has already taken responsibility in a statement released to the New York Times through his literary agent. In his statement to the Times Junot said:
I take responsibility for my past. That is the reason I made the decision to tell the truth of my rape and its damaging aftermath. This conversation is important and must continue. I am listening to and learning from women’s stories in this essential and overdue cultural movement. We must continue to teach all men about consent and boundaries.
The bold and courageous open letter by 26 academics, writers and intellectuals, all of them women, takes issue with the media’s erasure of historical, political and social context that affect Black, Latino and Dominican men such as Junot:
The issue at hand is not whether or not one believes Díaz, or his accusers, but whether one approves the use of media to violently make a spectacle out of a single person while at the same time cancelling out the possibility of disagreement about the facts at hand, or erasing a sustained attention to how the violence of racial hatred, structural poverty, and histories of colonialism extend into the most intimate spaces.
The statement closes with an invitation to engage in a “a critical conversation for all, including the men who may or may not be accused, who are interested in justice beyond the spectacle of punishment afforded by press and internet-led public shaming.”
Read the full open letter here.