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Black Women in Harvey Weinstein’s Hollywood Scandal

Lupita Nyong’o is one of over 60 women who has come out stating she was a victim of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment. Lupita Nyong’o is the only black woman to make these claims against Weinstein. Lupita Nyong’o is the one of three women who Weinstein has specifically denied any sexually abusive encounters.

The “12 Years a Slave” actress detailed her experience with Weinstein in an op-ed published in The New York Times on Thursday. In it, she recounts two occasions when Weinstein requested to spend alone time with her when she was a student at Yale School of Drama. During one encounter, he led her into a room and him requesting to massage Nyong’o. She took the situation into her own hands by giving him a massage to retain a sense of power and when he removed his pants, she left the room.

When allegations of sexual abuse first surfaced in the beginning of October, the defamed producer released statement acknowledging the claims. The statement was part-explanation, part-apology, and part-promise to do better. But many think it’s all-parts bullshit. However, when it came to Nyong’o, Weinstein was quick to deny the accusations, by singling Nyong’o out by name that same day.

In many industries, black women are the last to speak out about sexual injustices and the first to be ignored or denied. Why? There’s so much more to lose. For women of color, reaching a respectable and notable status at work is too risky to sacrifice by opening up about a matter so often shoved under the rug. While there are many Lupitas in the entertainment industry, political sphere, education world and many others, we may never hear their stories because they don’t want to jeopardize their jobs or the representation of women like them.

Weinstein has worked on over 100 films that have starred countless women of color…yet, Nyong’o is the only WOC who has spoken out. To play devil’s advocate, perhaps Nyong’o was the only WOC who was harassed by Weinstein. But to play angry black woman who is unafraid of the truth, she probably was not. According to the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Assault, for every African-American woman who reports her sexual abuse/rape, at least fifteen African-American women do not report theirs.

Several of Weinstein’s accusers are women who have already peaked in their careers and no longer need to quiet their experiences in order to get ahead. These women include Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Platrow, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan and Cara Delevingne. Household names who have the support, acknowledgement and ability to share their stories alongside other white female entertainers. They have power in numbers; Nyong’o did not get this privilege. Nor do her peers who may still be on the rise to stardom and don’t want to tarnish their name by attaching it to a Hollywood mogul who has (or had) power to make or break their career.

Since the accusations have unraveled, Weinstein had a weeklong stint in an Arizona sex addition rehab center. Many actors, actresses and fans have poured out support for the women claiming to be assaulted by the disgraced producer. Several women, including Gabrielle Union, Megyn Kelly, and Reese Witherspoon have opened up about their experiences being sexually harassed or raped by men in and out of the industry.

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