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Transcript from IMKC "#MeToo and Black Women: From Hip Hop to Hollywoo‪d‬"

Kim Crenshaw: I’m Kimberlé Crenshaw, and this is Intersectionality Matters.

On March 26th, the African American Policy forum organized a panel in partnership with the Hammer Museum, “Black Women and the #MeToo Movement.”

(EVENT RECORDING) Kim Crenshaw: Good evening everyone. Let me get to it, this is a long overdue conversation about an issue that doesn't get the attention it deserves either in the Black community or in the broader community, and that frankly is the sexual vulnerability and victimization of African American women.

Kim Crenshaw: The panel was part of AAPF’s annual week on the status of Black women and girls, Her Dream Deferred. Every March since 2015, we’ve devoted the last week of March to lifting up the particular experiences and barriers facing Black women. This year’s Her Dream Deferred took place in LA, so with Hollywood as a backdrop, the experiences of Black women in entertainment became a centerpiece of the week.

Kim Crenshaw: There is a deep history behind this Me Too movement that is all too often erased when the movement becomes part of the political mainstream. One of the things that AAPF has been committed to for the last several years is lifting up the voices and the experiences of black women, girls, and femmes, and also fighting the gentrification of issues like Me Too.

The panel brought together six incredible women, who we’ll hear from throughout this episode: actor and Times Up WOC activist Rashida Jones, supermodel and Bill Cosby accuser Beverly Johnson, cultural critic Jamilah Lemieux, historian Stephanie Jones-Rogers, #MuteRKelly co-founder Kenyette Tisha Barnes, who you’ll remember from Episode 2 of Intersectionality Matters, and Dee Barnes, my co-host for today’s episode.

(EVENT RECORDING) Dee Barnes: Show of hands, if you guys are familiar with the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Well, my story is Dr. Dre and Andre Young. Andre Young is a friend of mine, he was a friend of mine, big Brother, would've followed him anywhere, trusted him.

Kim Crenshaw: Dee Barnes is a recording artist and television personality known for her performance in West Coast hip hop duo Body and Soul, as well as for her role as former host of Fox’s video music show Pump It Up.

(EVENT RECORDING) Dee Barnes: We did an interview with the group NWA, by this time Ice Cube had left the group so there was a lot of tension there. But the producers mixed an interview together, which showed Ice Cube in a rebuttal against NWA, and the retribution was on me. They felt it was a personal attack because I had known them.

Kim Crenshaw: She is also known for surviving the brutal violence of Dr. Dre, also known as Andre Young, who publicly attacked Dee in 1991 over a perceived slight on Dee’s show, Pump it Up.

(EVENT RECORDING) Dee Barnes: There was a record release party, a Def Jam Record Release Party, full of industry people, lots of drinks, free drinks, and he was there, Dre was there. But I wasn't in fear because I felt he would never do that to me.

Kim Crenshaw: Since the attack 28 years ago, Dee has been the punchline of numerous jokes and song lyrics, and has essentially been blacklisted from the industry that she built a career in. Dee bravely spoke out about the harrowing attack a few weeks ago at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

(EVENT RECORDING) Dee Barnes: I ran into the women's restroom and he followed me in there, trapped me in the bathroom, I was on the ground. He had his knee in my chest, foot against the door to keep people from coming in, so he was on top of me. One of the things that people never ever ask me is what happened to you in that bathroom? They just assume that it was just a physical assault.

If you guys have recently seen The Defiant Ones where he said he was out of his fucking mind, he was. He was definitely out of his mind, but he knew exactly what he was doing.

Kim Crenshaw: A few weeks after the event, Dee joined me at UCLA to catch up, and reflect on some of the highlights from that evening. After joining me in one of my law school seminars, the two of us sat down in the studio to delve further into her story and rebroadcast some of what had happened during the panel. Here’s what we talked about:

Kim Crenshaw: Today I'm delighted to bring Dee Barnes on as co-host for this episode of Intersectionality Matters. Now I have to tell you I'm a little nervous because she has way, way more experience than I do hosting. Dee is a former VeeJay and a host of Fox's Pump It Up which is legendary in the hip hop world. Hey Dee.

Dee Barnes: Hey Kim, what's up? What's up world?

Kim Crenshaw: So Dee, it was such an honor when-

Dee Barnes: The honor was mine, let me tell you, to be amongst those women, those powerful women. All of you guys together and sharing our experiences, it was amazing.

Kim Crenshaw: First of all I was pinching myself because you answered the call. My girl Jamilah was ....

Dee Barnes: Oh Jamilah, shout out to Jamilah. She pulled me in, she pulled me in.

Kim Crenshaw: Jamilah Lemieux, so we were wanting to have this conversation for a while particularly bringing together some of the sisters who had had abusive experiences with well known, beloved members of the African American community. But you know, the thought that we could get you all was like how's that going to happen. So I said to Jamilah, "You know, can you get Dee?" And she said, "Oh man, yeah." I guess you all are Twitter friends.

Dee Barnes: Yeah, we're Twitter friends. We were introduced by a mutual friend and when she messaged me that you guys were pulling me in, I was like, I was overwhelmed because I felt like this was an opportunity for me to step out there on faith and to express something that for the first time that's going to be listened, that people are going to listen to. Because I've told my story before and at different times. You know when you think about, everybody brings up the time, it's been over, close to 30 years for the incident, but what's really like 28.

Kim Crenshaw: It's still raw though, it's still fresh.

Dee Barnes: It's still raw and it's very fresh and it's even more relevant. So the time is now, the time's up.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah, you're right, exactly. So you had said that, you told the story a few times, but not ... I mean why do you think there haven't been more moments where you've been called into this conversation, especially after #MeToo finally arrived in the entertainment industry. Why weren't you the first person on the list of people like, "Yeah, you know what? We need to call up Dee Barnes."

Dee Barnes: Let me tell you, I think it's what you just said a few minutes ago because it's still resonating with me. You said, "Unpacking layers of denial." That could be my mixtape. Girl, that could be my mixtape, unpacking layers of denial because that's what it is. People are in denial about what happened to me. And one of the things that I say, and I brought up before, when he followed me into that bathroom and continued to assault, no one asked me, "What happened to you in that bathroom?" So I think maybe because they didn't want to know.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah, well let's roll a little bit of the conversation that happened, because we started with asking the women who were part of the conversation to share just some part of the story they felt comfortable with. And here is what you shared that night.

(EVENT RECORDING) Dee Barnes: If you guys are familiar with, recently a video that just came out where this man was kicking this woman on a train and everybody stood around and watched, I can relate. Everyone stood around and watched, no-

Kimberlé Crenshaw : No one stepped in, no one tried.

Dee Barnes: No one ... There was one person that stepped in, he worked for the company. He wound up ... he worked with them, he tried to step in and the bodyguard that was there, was holding off people with a gun. He pistol whipped the guy that tried to help me, knocked out two teeth. This was a brutal, this was not a smack.

Kimberle Crenshaw: Do you think it was planned?

Dee Barnes: I don't think it was planned. What do they call those, crime of passion, act of rage? It was that, it was rage it was absolute rage that he had against me in particular because he felt it was a personal violation, that I had humiliated him.

Kim Crenshaw: Okay, so Dee that was you telling the story of what had happened to you. What was that experience like for you to be in that space with those women, talking about these issues?

Dee Barnes: I mean such a gift, such a blessing. I want to first thank you for even inviting me into that circle. To sit there in between Beverly Jonson to my right, Kenyette to my left, one dealing with Bill Cosby and the other one dealing with R Kelly, and then have me in the middle there, however it was set up, was so powerful for me. It was so validating. It was a moment for me, a moment of getting closer to that closure, getting closer to that wholeness. It was very healing. And I hadn't had that opportunity before. I told the story, like I said, in front of the camera three different times. All of it wasn't released. And I talked on some heavy topics and they were never really accepted or recepted. I mean and to have that time and that space to release that was amazing and powerful and emotional. You saw I got emotional.

Kim Crenshaw: It was.

Dee Barnes: I got emotional because it was a happy moment for me, not happy in the sense that I'm reliving this horrific moment in my life, but that I've come this far and the journey was, like this continuous, it was another moment of growth. And I wouldn't have had that opportunity if it wasn't for you ladies.

Kim Crenshaw: And you were so courageous that night to talk about the ongoing consequences. I mean this was almost 30 years ago, but the material dimensions were very real and still are very real.

Dee Barnes: I mean to think back now, I never looked at it like I'm about to risk it all. Not in a million, that was not where my mindset was. My mindset was on justice, not just justice for me, but I couldn't live with myself if I just kind of dealt with my own pain, trauma, and not think about those that come behind me.

Kim Crenshaw: And when you say, "Risk it all," your decision to go public with what had happened.

Dee Barnes: That wasn't a decision, it was a no brainer. It was, my decision was to seek justice, to go forward with this. I have to report this to the police, and we all know the police is not a friendly part of our community. The irony of the person that I was involving the police in wrote a song called Fuck the Police. Look at the irony of that. So I called the police on Mr. Fuck the Police. See, you know hip hop is a code of the streets so to speak. And so what I did was considered like snitching, but why is it considered snitching when we want people to be held accountable for their actions.

Kim Crenshaw: Exactly, and who is putting into place the mechanisms for accountability, because that whole critique of snitching when there is nothing there. And just to put a point on it, was anything ever done inside the community, inside the hip hop community, inside the black community, to hold him accountable for violence that ... It didn't even happen behind closed doors. I mean there was no question about he said, she said. He said, he did, everybody saw it.

Dee Barnes: Right, and bragged about it. I wasn't just someone, I was on TV every week, on a network.

Kim Crenshaw: Didn't matter.

Dee Barnes: I mean what other network do you know that would allow something to happen to the talent and just ...

Kim Crenshaw: There was no institution, no informal group that were prepared to say, "Yo, you know what, it can't go down like that." Yet, you're supposed to abstain from seeking justice in any way.

Dee Barnes: Exactly, I'm supposed to be quiet. See, and that's the thing, that code of silence. I'm not saying he didn't see any backlash, probably privately, but nothing publicly.

Kim Crenshaw: And did you receive support?

Dee Barnes: When the incident happened it was very public. Support, same thing, very privately, not publicly. And really one of the first people to publicly support me was dream hampton. She wrote the article on it, calling out the guys on their violence and the incident.

Kim Crenshaw: And let's just say, dream hampton is a common thread throughout all of these conversations. Dream Hampton is the producer of Surviving R Kelly. So she's been on the right side and been taking hits for ...

Dee Barnes: For her activism.

Kim Crenshaw: For exposing this dimension of black women's vulnerability. She refused to be quiet.

Dee Barnes: She refused to be silent.

Dee Barnes: You refused to be quiet, Beverly Johnson refused to be quiet, Kenyette Barnes. So it's a small, there's a small community of women who are refusing to be quiet and a lot of the experiences that you all have talked about, particularly that night, have been some of the consequences of refusal to be silent. I mean for any woman that comes out speaking her truth, there's always backlash, but it's a special kind of animosity towards black women.

Kim Crenshaw: And you know your sister, and I'm saying that in jest, Kenyette Barnes.

Dee Barnes: Yes, that's what people think right now because we have the same last name. And they are attacking her.

Kim Crenshaw: I asked her about, "Who are the people who have been coming after you?" And surprisingly I guess to some, but not to others of us, it was other women. It was other sisters, it was other black women. So she talked a little bit about that, let's hear about some of that.

(EVENT RECORDING) Kenyette Barnes: It's that degree of vitriol that happens just because you want to stand in a space to hold people accountable. Yes, to that question about black women who-- sometimes our aunties wear lipsticks and sometimes they're wolves. And you gotta be able to discern. I teach my 13 year old daughter discernment. Everyone who comes to you is not going to look like a monster. They're going to look like you in most cases. It is discernment, it is listening with your gut, it is listening with your intuition. It is when that little twinge happens and you know it's not right, that's when you get out the situation.

I have walked out of many conversations of black women who profess to be about black women and girls -- anytime you walk into a space with black women and we're talking about sexual violence, human trafficking, especially sex trafficking or anything of that nature, and they lead with good gotta have better self esteem. That to me is the red flag because it has completely ... That is victim blaming in another term. To take the responsibility of sexual violence off the predator and put it on a child. That is what that call for self esteem is really about. I've walked out of so many meetings because they want black girls to learn self esteem and wear longer skirts and not show cleavage and not twerk. A twerk has never gotten any ... A twerk has never raped anybody. Rapist rape people.

Kim Crenshaw: So that's Kenyette Barnes, founder of Mute R Kelly. Dee, I wonder whether your experience was like that as well, and what do you make of that? And first of all, what does it do to you when you can't count on other sisters who knows this stuff is not fabricated? I mean in your case it's not the case that people thought, "Dre? We never thought he would take a hand to a woman." It's not like it was a shock or anything like that.

Dee Barnes: Exactly, yeah it's mind boggling to me. I don't understand how, like I've seen a lot with Kenyette. A lot of women are attacking her, defending R Kelly. Like I said, social media plays a different role in it. My incident happened so long ago, it was before really the whole social media. There weren't all these different apps where you could speak on it. For a woman it seems to affect her whole life, not just a career, her whole life. You know, financially, for perfect example all the women with Weinstein. If he didn't get what he wanted, he blocked them completely and told people specifically to not hire them, they are problems. See women get the title of difficult.

Kim Crenshaw: Difficult.

Dee Barnes: Difficult, especially black women. We get angry.

Kim Crenshaw: The only thing worse than being a difficult woman is to be black and difficult woman.

Dee Barnes: Whoo-wee, yeah. So for me personally it has been, I lost, my whole career just kind of disappeared.

Kim Crenshaw: Because of something someone did to you.

Dee Barnes: Something someone did to me and they don't want to be reminded of it, even though ... I can't think of the right words for it, but basically they don't want to be reminded of what happened.

Kim Crenshaw: And you're a walking reminder of it.

Dee Barnes: Me, you know all of the women you could make disappear you don't have to think about it.

Kim Crenshaw: And the compromises ...

Dee Barnes: So you starve them out, you starve them out financially so that they disappear, so they're not traveling in your circle. You don't have to see them, you don't have to deal with them.

Kim Crenshaw: You get banished.

Dee Barnes: You get banished, you get ostracized, you become a joke, a punchline. I look at all of the things they say about Monica Lewinsky, things they say about Anita Hill, and these should have been red flags for me in a major way. But you're always in that space where you think, "It's not going to happen to me." It happens to women, and it's happened to women around me, but somehow ...

Kim Crenshaw: So and when you say, "This happened," the experience of violence ...

Dee Barnes: Of sexual violence. Just any type of violence I'm talking about a to a woman, we are all, the possibility of us experiencing it is high.

Kim Crenshaw: And then the consequences of that, I mean that I think is ...

Dee Barnes: The consequences of seeking justice is almost another assault, another assault on a woman.

Kim Crenshaw: Do you think that if you had not determined to seek justice, that the economic and career consequences might not have been as severe?

Dee Barnes: Yes, I definitely ...

Kim Crenshaw: So you were being punished.

Dee Barnes: I am being punished for speaking out, yes, and on several levels. But definitely I think if I had remained silent and, complicit is the word I'm looking for, I think my path would have been different, it would have definitely been different.

Kim Crenshaw: So as it transpired, how did you seek justice and what was the immediate consequence of your refusing to stay silent in terms of your career?

Dee Barnes: To seek justice was to definitely file a police report and then go to court. So the immediate backlash for me was ... Actually it wasn't immediate, it was very slow. It was a very slow process. Starting with one of the first things about a restraining order. I talk about it, I go into depth in the book, but I ask for a restraining order and I was denied the restraining order.

Kim Crenshaw: On what basis?

Dee Barnes: Yeah, I know, I need to bring these legal papers to you Professor Crenshaw so you can look over this.

Kim Crenshaw: We need to talk about this.

Dee Barnes: Yeah, we need to talk about it, but the judge denied the ...

Kim Crenshaw: How does something that happened in the open that everybody saw ...

Dee Barnes: The judge denied the restraining order on the basis that we both work in the same industry. How about that? And- Kim Crenshaw: Wow.

Dee Barnes: But I didn't, I wasn't, all of a sudden I wasn't working.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah, that's what I find so fascinating.

Dee Barnes: Who was he protecting?

Kim Crenshaw: So the law doesn't protect you, right because you guys are in the same space. But the industry protects him.

Dee Barnes: Right, right.

Kim Crenshaw: Because the restraining order was basically you got kicked out.

Dee Barnes: Yes. The restraining order was reverse restraining order if there's such a thing.

Kim Crenshaw: Well, yeah, okay you need to put that, that's a chapter in the book, reverse restraining order.

Dee Barnes: A reverse restraining order.

Kim Crenshaw: Here's the door Dee Barnes, here's the door.

Dee Barnes: You have to stay away from him, ma'am.

Kim Crenshaw: Right, which means you have to stay away from your career.

Dee Barnes: Right, you can't work, you're not allowed to be around him.

Kim Crenshaw: And it wasn't a temporary thing. I think that was one of the things that was just so astonishing to the people at the panel, that you're being pushed out of your career has had long term consequences. Your being able to become established in some of the other things you tried to do, eventually people find out who you are and there's consequences to that. So in that very night as you are talking, you shared with the audience what your current circumstance was. And there was a huge reaction, let's listen to that.

(EVENT RECORDING) Dee Barnes: I've had jobs. It's been hard for me to work. I don't know if some of you are familiar, if you're on twitter right now, I'm actually homeless. I was evicted because it's been very hard for me to work. I had like regular jobs. I've worked for H&M, Forever 21, TJ Maxx. I applied for Trader Joe's. All kinds of just 9:00 to 5:00 jobs. Great people. Usually I get on there, no one knows anything. Sometimes two months, three months, sometimes two weeks, they figure it out. I've had supervisors who told me I'm a fan of Ice Cube. I've had supervisors who actually put the Eminem tape on my desk. It's like a form of harassment. Now, what am I going to do? Sue the company? Possibly. I could've done that, right, but am I going to sue everybody? Am I going to be in court the rest of my life? I got to keep it moving.

Kimberlé Crenshaw: I don't think our work can be done as long as Dee Barnes is homeless.

Dee Barnes: Thank you.

Kenyette Barnes: I was just thinking the same thing.

Kimberlé Crenshaw: This is not possible. As long as Dee Barnes does not have a career, as long as Dee Barnes has to consistently recognize that the long term consequences are actually physical, they're real. It's time to go from being rhetorical and talking about it to actually doing things. I very much want those who are committed to doing something about this right now to let us know, to let Dee know, to make it sure that when she leaves here she has a sense of security. Thank you.

Dee Barnes: To share let me say that whole day was amazing because prior to when we finalized everything, because you guys invited me to be on this panel in the end of January I believe, the first week of February. So as you see, everything was happening in that moment. And the day before, or that weekend actually, so that Friday perhaps is when I got asked, "Let me write that article and put your GoFundMe in this article for a hip hop website called Hip Hop DX." And Kyle used this, she's the one that wrote the article. So it was released on the website that morning. Then by that evening I was on your panel. So during the day as it started going and trending a little bit, I was like, "okay." So I had assumed that everyone there kind of maybe had a clue about it, maybe not. And just like me putting it out there in the first place, I wanted people to hear it from me. There's this quote and I said it that night too. I don't know the origins, but "You can overcome anything in life, but first you must be willing to live in your truth." And that was my truth. I might have been up there looking, I try to look as decent as possible.

Kim Crenshaw: Well, you know what, everybody was looking great.

Dee Barnes: Everybody was gorgeous.

Kim Crenshaw: You know Kenyette said, "When you're going on a panel with Beverly Johnson you've got to have your face beat”

Dee Barnes: I mean you sat me next to her. I was like, "Oh my God. Am I looking right? Do I look right?"

Kim Crenshaw: Everybody brought it.

Dee Barnes: Everybody brought it. All the sisters were beautiful, everybody, everybody. And you looked like royalty up there with the blue and the crown. Yall know Professor Crenshaw got these dope locks, but we won't get off the subject. Anyway, so yeah I felt, in that space and in that moment in time, I know you say it comes from a place of courage. I don't really see it as that. I know it does take courage to speak your truth, but also speaking truth to power, it's powerful and liberating. This is what's happening, I'm not going to be ashamed of it. I'm going to hold my head up high, and I'm going to get through this.

Kim Crenshaw: Absolutely.

Dee Barnes: The support was overwhelming.

Kim Crenshaw: The support was amazing. I mean everyone on the panel said, "Look, we cannot walk out of here and leave this situation like it is." The panel donated honorary to the GoFundMe site. Other people kicked it up and kicked it out and I thought it was an amazing moment of kind of galvanizing sisterhood. It's one thing to create safe space for people to tell their stories, but this isn't just about storytelling. It's about doing something, right?

Dee Barnes: It's about real life and the consequences of real life, and then how do we move forward, how do we fix it, how do we right those wrongs. That's what I thought that your whole goal was about the panel. Like, okay this is what's happening, now what do we do going forward. And because of that panel, and because of the Hip Hop DX, the next day Wendy Williams spoke about me on her show because all of that stuff was out there.

Kim Crenshaw: Kicked in and then you eventually were on.

Dee Barnes: Yeah, she invited me on her show. The first person to invite me from the industry. I can't even ...

Kim Crenshaw: In how many years?

Dee Barnes: I mean a lot, a lot, decades. How many decades? Didn't somebody say that in your class?

Kim Crenshaw: I know.

Dee Barnes: Decades, decades. And then you said, "Centuries." That's what it felt …

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah, exactly.

Dee Barnes: And it was an honor to be with her, because I know people have their own opinions about Wendy, but I think she's amazing. I've been listening to her since she was on the radio, followed her through to television, because she used to do a show, too. She had a show where I used to watch her on the weekends. And for her to say, "Hey, come here, sit down and talk," was just amazing. It was the first time we met, too.

Kim Crenshaw: Wow.

Dee Barnes: Yeah. Because we travel in the same circles, but we hadn't met. So, it was an honor to be there.

Kim Crenshaw: Well, you know, it's kind of amazing... and this takes us back to the #MeToo moment, right? Because all of this stuff had happened, it's not as though it was a secret.

Dee Barnes: Right.

Kim Crenshaw: But the-

Dee Barnes: Expectation.

Kim Crenshaw: .. time was different, and the imperative that something be done about it hadn't galvanized-

Dee Barnes: Right.

Kim Crenshaw: ... until-

Dee Barnes: Recently.

Kim Crenshaw: Until #MeToo sort of became a rallying cry for, honestly, white women in Hollywood. And I think that generated a, "Hey, wait a minute. We've got sisters who are still dealing with some stuff that hasn't really been addressed." So it was, I think, a-

Dee Barnes: Even acknowledged at all.

Kim Crenshaw: Exactly. Even though people know it. And it takes me back to what you just said a few minutes ago, the banishment, the, "We don't want to think about it." I think a lot of times people don't want to think about-

Dee Barnes: The ugly truth.

Kim Crenshaw: ... what happens to some of our sisters because, number one, we know it could happen to us.

Dee Barnes: Right.

Kim Crenshaw: Right? Number two, I think some of our allies don't want to think about it because it does say to them, "What are you doing to facilitate this?"

Dee Barnes: Right.

Kim Crenshaw: Because if you're not doing something to interrupt it, you are basically doing something to allow it to happen.

Dee Barnes: To allow it to happen, complicit.

Kim Crenshaw: And I think that, going all the way back to what we were talking about earlier, in the mid-20th century all the way to slavery, we don't want to remember the abuse of our sisters, our mothers, because it reminds us of our inability to step to it, our shame about it. So we just kind of want to erase the woman, we want to erase the fact of it, so we don't have to think about it. So, I think what was so important is that this was an anti-erasure moment.

Dee Barnes: Yes, it was.

Kim Crenshaw: It was like, let's bring it back in, let's draw in all of its details, its colors.

Dee Barnes: Let's finish the outline.

Kim Crenshaw: Exactly.

Dee Barnes: Let's color in all the spaces.

Kim Crenshaw: Some part of filling in those spaces is actually looking inside to kind of figure out the "what" of it. So, Beverly Johnson stepped up, actually first, to tell a story about how America's dad had-

Dee Barnes: Can't even imagine.

Kim Crenshaw: ... abused her trust in him, and put her in a situation in which she was... at least he thought she was defenseless.

Dee Barnes: Right.

Kim Crenshaw: And there was a lot in that story, I want to share it for a moment, and come back and talk about our reaction to it.

(EVENT RECORDING) Beverly Johnson: We also came over to his home, my daughter and I. We met his children and his family and then he said, “We've done all this stuff, why don't you come back so we can really audition for the part of the role?” That's when the assault happened. I was offered a Cappuccino, I don't drink coffee, and he insisted. I took a little swig of the coffee and I immediately felt the room spin and having been a drug addict, alcoholic drug addict and sober and now sober for 35 years, I knew exactly what it was, but I was so ... I was so incredulous. I just looked at him and I just said, “You're a mother fucker, aren't you?”

I'll never forget the expression on his face, it was like, huh, and then I just began to say the MF word over and over and louder and louder and louder and louder until he eventually just dragged me out, threw me in a taxi, I don't remember anything else until I woke up the next day. I was very, very angry, I wanted answers, and I demand the answer the next day because I did make a phone call and his wife picked up the phone and I realized that this was a war, a fight, that you were not going to win. There were too many people in on it, NBC, the producers, the writers, the people, the cast member, everyone knew but me.

Kim Crenshaw: So, that was Beverly Johnson, the legendary supermodel, who was one of the first black woman to grace the cover of Vogue Magazine.

Dee Barnes: Of Vogue Magazine. It's amazing.

Kim Crenshaw: So she opened up-

Dee Barnes: And she's gorgeous up close.

Kim Crenshaw: Gorgeous, gorgeous, which I why, like I said, everybody had to get beat for that.

Dee Barnes: Yes, we did. We had to step up our game, we had to step up our game.

Kim Crenshaw: And it was such a... I remember being astonished about the story basically because, unlike many of the others who still were under the influence of it and questioning themselves, she said, "I knew what had happened."

Dee Barnes: Yep. She knew immediately.

Kim Crenshaw: And wasn't it funny when she said she started calling him a "motherfucker".

Dee Barnes: Yes.

Kim Crenshaw: Can't you see that?

Dee Barnes: I can see it so clearly, and it was the best visual of the night.

Kim Crenshaw: Yes, it was.

Dee Barnes: Let me tell you, because you can see his face, she said his face had changed when she started cussing him out. That's because he realized, "Oh, shit, I'm not in control."

Kim Crenshaw: Gig is up.

Dee Barnes: "I didn't put in the blue pill with the blue pill, and I didn't mix in the pudding," right? I had to do it, you know what I mean? I mean, just to make light of a serious situation. I can't even imagine being... And this happens to so many women out in public, with people they trust. To be drugged and raped.

Kim Crenshaw: By someone you trust.

Dee Barnes: By someone you trust. That is devastating.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah. And she talked about recognizing that there was a whole institution of-

Dee Barnes: Enablers.

Kim Crenshaw: ... enablers built around him.

Dee Barnes: And that's what I learned.

Kim Crenshaw: That was really an eye-opener. You know this stuff happens, but being brought inside and seeing through her eyes how everything was structured to make it possible. So, her only choice was to go away, and to be quiet.

Dee Barnes: Right.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah.

Dee Barnes: That's what they force... They back us into that corner.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah. And so it was so resonant with the conversation about grooming, because we've talked about grooming. And when grooming comes up, particularly in the context of sexual violence, it tends to be talked about in terms of... well, particularly trafficking and girls. And we had just come off of a town hall that Saturday in which two black girls talked about having been groomed from the time they were eight-

Dee Barnes: Oh, my God.

Kim Crenshaw: ... to basically go into "the life", as they called it, by the time they were ten. And how many black girls are caught up in it. In Los Angeles, black girls are less than 10% of the population, they're over 70% of the girls who are trafficked.

Dee Barnes: What?

Kim Crenshaw: So it created sort of an awareness, or a need to talk to young girls about what grooming looks like. But this conversation took it further, because Beverly's conversation was a conversation about being groomed.

Dee Barnes: When Beverly was talking about grooming, it was for the first time that I ever thought about, "Was I groomed?" And what does grooming look like? Because I wasn't sure.

Kim Crenshaw: Let's listen to that, just for moment.

(EVENT RECORDING) Dee Barnes: It’s still mind boggling to me, listening to Beverly, because I was like, was I groomed. Just 28 years later I'm thinking about, was I groomed?

Jamilah Lemieux: You know what, I think we were all groomed. I think black women have been ... we're groomed from girlhood to be the water carriers, the help mates, the comfort- Just to provide nurturing and support and solidarity and silence. And it's one thing to not be able to get that in return. To see that when we're victims of racist violence and abuse and sexual violence from other people, that we don't always get what we deserve from our own folks. But the idea that we must be- if we are not complicit with violence against us, that happens within our community, that we are on the side of our oppressors. That we are working in cahoots with the state to harm our men.

Dee Barnes: It was really something - it made me think about things that I haven’t thought about in a long time, a long time. Different scenarios. When I found out he was violent, it shocked me, because I had never experienced... not even the anger. He was always...

Kim Crenshaw: Just never anything that you saw?

Dee Barnes: Not at first.

Kim Crenshaw: Not at first.

Dee Barnes: That's what I'm saying, because the first time I found out he was violent, I witnessed it, and I was shocked. And I tried to have a conversation about it, because I was like, "This is not who I thought you were." And... completely dismissive of it.

Kim Crenshaw: Dismissive in terms of...

Dee Barnes: Dismissive of talking to me about it, dismissive that it mattered, dismissive of it was none of my business. I wasn't getting any answers. "I'm not going to talk about it."

Kim Crenshaw: Was it another woman?

Dee Barnes: It was a different woman, yeah. It was someone, too, that I didn't know well, but I knew of her. And it shocked me.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah.

Dee Barnes: It shocked me, and there were some other women with me... I'm not going to mention their names now... but I looked back at them, and they seemed like they were in shock, even though they knew him better than I did. As a matter of fact, one of them had introduced me to him. So, to see that, and to know that, "Okay, do I still trust him? Do I think he's going to do that to me?" And somehow I had convinced myself that I was not in that space, and it was something that you had brought up earlier that I wanted to talk about, when you say... Having a brother-sister relationship with him, I thought it insulated me from his dangerous side. That was so on point.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah, yeah.

Dee Barnes: I had it in my mind that... We were saying, we presume that gendered violence is only perpetuated in a romantic context.

Kim Crenshaw: Relationships, right.

Dee Barnes: That right there? Super key. Because I wasn't in a romantic relationship, I thought that that somehow insulated me from violence. And I was wrong.

Kim Crenshaw: And do you think it's partly because our understanding of misogyny is somewhat limited to male-female interactions when they're intimate, and not so much the way that male-female relationships outside of intimacy can also be spaces where misogyny plays out?

Dee Barnes: Right. That I knew, but it still somehow-

Kim Crenshaw: That it could be violent?

Dee Barnes: Right. Right.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah.

Dee Barnes: That it could be violent.

Kim Crenshaw: I think it does raise challenges for us, as women, to self-interrogate. Like, how is it that we maintain relationships with men that we know are violent? We know we've got to tell ourselves something about it.

Dee Barnes: Right.

Kim Crenshaw: And we know they encourage us to tell ourselves that thing about it. Like, "Okay, this isn't for you. You don't have to worry about that." And we value the relationship, so we often don't want to break them off because of something we see. And once we make that compromise, we're going down the wormhole.

Dee Barnes: Yeah, because I didn't condone the behavior at all. And let me tell you, as my friend, checked him. I had to check him like, "All right, you know... " Try to get at him like, "Are you serious?" Because it amazed me, too, because it was a circle of friends, so there were men there, too, and none of these men were checking him? Why the black woman in the room got to check him?

Kim Crenshaw: Why?

Dee Barnes: Why the black woman in the room got to check him? And that's what it was, I was there amongst other men and women, and I had to check him. Or I felt the need to check him, or I wanted to try.

Kim Crenshaw: Why don't men check other men?

Dee Barnes: I wish I could answer that, I really do, because I can't even imagine if he was in that type of space where... And I'm not saying all the men around him-

Kim Crenshaw: Of course.

Dee Barnes: ... approved that, and they probably did say something. It could be even to the point where, "You better not do that to my sister, or my... " But that's not the point, we're all your sisters, we're all your mothers, we're all your aunties, we're all your cousins, whatever. Daughters.

Kim Crenshaw: And here giving a shout-out to the brothers who do check, right?

Dee Barnes: Yes, because there are a few of them.

Kim Crenshaw: Call to men as one.

Dee Barnes: And there were a few around him that said something.

Kim Crenshaw: And check publicly.

Dee Barnes: That's what I was about to say, they say it privately. But it don't go down privately.

Kim Crenshaw: Because the beat down ain't private, why is the checking private?

Dee Barnes: Right, exactly.

Kim Crenshaw: Yes.

Dee Barnes: That's what I'm talking about. And it should be in the moment, you don't wait until later when you're by yourself with the homies. No, it's in the heat of the moment you need to say, "Hey, yo."

Kim Crenshaw: "Let's pull it in."

Dee Barnes: "Pull it in, reel it in."

Kim Crenshaw: Well, you know, one part of the conversation that I think really just blew me away was the conversation that Jamilah brought to the table.

Dee Barnes: Ah, yes.

Kim Crenshaw: About-

Dee Barnes: The difference.

Kim Crenshaw: ... the difference. Because your story, and Beverly's story, and Kenyette's story, it's all about not just the violence and the abuse, but then the backlash within the community when sisters tell their stories. So much that the traditional hierarchy that our society has in our head about the worst thing that could happen to a woman is to be sexually assaulted by a stranger. And she flipped that on the head and said, surprisingly, the worst thing that could happen to her is not necessarily what most people think. Let's listen to that.

(EVENT RECORDING) Jamilah Lemieux: There was this mask, there was a gun, I would not have been able to identify that person in a lineup if I tried. And these are the circumstances, again, for the rape that so many people think is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you. I think for me, I feel almost a sense of relief. One, knowing that one in three women who look like me will have this experience at some point in their lifetime, I think I'd always accepted it, and prior to knowing that statistic, that's something I learned as an adult, but I think even as a teenager, somewhere in me was like, and I forget the writer who wrote these exact words, but I read it, maybe in a Jezebel article and it really resonated with me that when she was being sexually assaulted, she thought to herself, okay, well here's my rape, almost as if I've been waiting for you.

I think I had sort of ... it's not something that I gave a lot of thought to prior to it happening and it's honestly not something I've given a lot of thought to after it happened because there was a part of me that was like, well this was pretty much bound to happen. Statistically, if you put you and your two best friends in the room, one of y'all is going to have this experience. Maybe I was the one who was tough enough to handle it, maybe, luckily it was me because I wasn't dealing with some of the triggers and issues or childhood sexual trauma that some of my sister girls were also living with. The fact that it was a stranger I think brings me a sense of comfort and relief because I didn't have to bear the load of this person is beloved, say in my family, this is one of my friends, this is somebody's frat brother or a member of a church that I go to or someone famous, an activist, a professor, a musician, this wasn't somebody that I knew anything about.

So I didn't have any emotional attachment to him, I didn't have to worry about defending myself against what he'd done to me when I described it to other people because this person was part of a protected class so he's going to get this level of a defensiveness and I'm going to have to fight really hard to prove that this happened to me. That's not to say that I had a good experience with the Prince George's County Police Department and the detectives that were responsible for handling it. I was treated like a suspect, like so many rape victims are, had to answer a lot of questions about where I was and why was I there. The detective actually said to me, sometimes someone may lose some money 'cause - yeah, he robbed me - they might have been gambling or maybe they overspent and they may come up with something like this to tell their families so that they are not embarrassed.

And says this to me within hours of the attack, we're not talking about -- there were no weeks of ... that was it. I don't think I ever spoke to him again. I got a call from the Maryland Rape Crisis Center checking on me three or four months later, 'cause I remember I was walking down Marcus Garvey Boulevard in Brooklyn. I was like, well, good thing I am okay. What was the plan? What exactly were you doing, what were you waiting for? With that, I often think about when a black woman is raped by someone who looks like her, having to think about, if I involve law enforcement, one, I can't say they have my best interest in mind, regardless of who the person who was harmed me is, I can't say they have my best interest in mind, I can't say they're going to believe me or support me, and then I have to think about, this is one of my brothers, what are they gonna do to him?

Kim Crenshaw: I have to say, I think when Jamilah took us there, is got a lot of people thinking.

Dee Barnes: Oh, yeah.

Kim Crenshaw: A lot of people.

Dee Barnes: It's easier to be assaulted by someone you don't know, a stranger, as opposed to someone you do know, that you trust. And all of the things that go with that, because there's a lot of variables that go with that, knowing somebody. For example, like me traveling in the same circle, or us having the same people that we know and deal with, and people having to choose sides. Besides dream, Tim Dog, a rapper in the community, came out with a song called Fuck Compton, and that was in regards to the attack on me. And there was an actual line in the song that says, "Dre beating on Dee from Pump It Up, step to the Dog and get fucked up." And it was like all of the Bronx was behind him, which is the birthplace of hip-hop. So, I mean, he was the one that said something publicly and it was put down on the record. Music is forever. My only... I loved it, my only issue was the title, because I had people, and family, friends, in Compton that lived there. So, my only problem with the song was the title, but what he said... Because you can't punish a whole city for somebody's behavior.

Kim Crenshaw: And he turned it into a territorial beef.

Dee Barnes: Right. Right. He categorized the whole city as being like that, and it's not true.

Kim Crenshaw: And there's certainly people who were getting beat in the place he was from.

Dee Barnes: Right. Right. So why would he turn it into that? But I do like the fact that he said what he said.

Kim Crenshaw: Which is the polar opposite of what Eminem did.

Dee Barnes: Right.

(EVENT RECORDING) Dee Barnes: Guilty Conscience is a song that was produced by Dr. Dre featuring Eminem and they mentioned my name. They mentioned, the line is, which I have to hear for the rest of my life by the way, music is forever. So this was some type of punishment for me as a reminder. Look what I did to you, I got away it And they say when the song was being produced, that supposedly Dre fell off his chair laughing when they did the song. But for me it's emotional abuse. It's a daily reminder of it. So I'm not sure if that song hadn't come out, would things have died down for me? Not sure about that, but because that song came out eight years after, trying to live my life, going on with myself, raising my children. At the time. I had a five year old daughter who heard the song, knew who I was, and I had to explain to my five year old daughter what it meant because she heard it. She was smart, "Mom, why are they saying that about you?” And I remember trying to shut the radio off when the song came on and I couldn't, she heard it. I had to pull over. I cried because now I've got to explain to my daughter, five beautiful years I've had, the innocence is gone on that particular subject.

Kim Crenshaw: For your story to become a punchline, you know...

Dee Barnes: Well, it's a way to change the narrative.

Kim Crenshaw: Yes, right.

Dee Barnes: It's a way to-

Kim Crenshaw: Diminish.

Dee Barnes: ... diminish, dehumanize.

Kim Crenshaw: Yeah, yeah.

Dee Barnes: You know what I mean? Degrade.

Kim Crenshaw: And that he's given license to do that. He's given license to do that.

Dee Barnes: He's given license, he's given permission by a black man to...

Kim Crenshaw: And can we just say, a black man giving a white man permission to degrade a black woman.

Dee Barnes: Yeah.

Kim Crenshaw: So what about the solidarity there? Where's the allegiance in this moment? This is where patriarchy trumps racial solidarity at any moment.

Dee Barnes: At any moment, at any moment. Clearly, clearly.

Kim Crenshaw: Well, speaking of race, Stephanie stepped to it, because we were basically talking about this as moments of intra-racial harmony or disharmony, the failure of our community to seriously censure what happens to black women.

Dee Barnes: The effects of slavery, basically.

Kim Crenshaw: The effects of slavery, and then she threw it in, like, "Well, as long as we're talking about slavery, let me tell you something." And so, some part of #MeToo is framed as solidarity among women to deal with our common vulnerability to sexual abuse and other forms of assault. But she historicized the relationship between black women and white women to talk about some stuff that went down in slavery.

(EVENT RECORDING) Stephanie Jones-Rogers: We think about white men as either the perpetrators of sexual violence against enslaved women, we also think about perhaps them as the orchestrators of circumstances in which sexual violence could in fact occur. But were white women also orchestrating circumstances in which enslaved women would be subjected to sexual violence? I looked to what formerly enslaved people had to say, and formerly enslaved peoples had to say exactly that. They said they were in fact not simply complicit, but arbiters, orchestrators of circumstances in which enslaved women were being assaulted, by white men, but also by other enslaved people. These were kind of instances of sexual violence that involved both enslaved women and men. There's a story of a woman named Henrietta Butler. She was enslaved in Louisiana. In 1940, this woman Flossy McElwee, she worked for the federal government and she sat down with Henrietta to ask her about her experience in slavery. I'm reading this and I'm saying, okay, so I'm reading this litany of horrors that Henrietta experienced and I'm waiting for the moment in which she identifies the perpetrator of these acts of sexual violence which she describes.

I was shocked to realize that she wasn't talking about a white man. She was talking about a white woman, her owner, Emily Haiti, who had essentially forced her to have sex with an enslaved man. When they would have children, she would sell the boys and keep the girls and continue the process. She would continue to force these enslaved females to have sex with men that weren't of their choosing and have children by these men. It was an economic calculation. From that, what I take from that is that there are circumstances in which white women understand that they are oppressed because of their gender identities, but they can exercise and wield extraordinary power because of their racial identities. Some women choose the racial identity, they choose white supremacy.

Kim Crenshaw: Now that really blew people away.

Dee Barnes: Yes it did. I mean I was today years old when I learned that, I must read that book. That was just, it was very eye opening and very educational to me. I mean you kind of know it’s in the background, but to hear it laid out for you.

Kim Crenshaw: So, that really set a challenge, I think, for us to come together with, as I called it there, sort of a truth and reconciliation. If we really want to talk about the challenges of sisterhood. We have to really talk about the historical dimensions of the lack of sisterhood, the fact that black women were exploited, the fact that it's not always been the case that white women have been innocent of our sexual abuse . Many times, as Stephanie's work shows, they have been the agents of it. And that's a very difficult history to grapple with.

Dee Barnes: That was history, and then how does it play into now?

Kim Crenshaw: Right.

Dee Barnes: How does it play into today? Because we were just talking about how the whole #MeToo has been co-opted, and black women in particular have been left.

Kim Crenshaw: Like, "Wait your turn?"

Dee Barnes: Yes.

Kim Crenshaw: And, you know, the fact then that we've got #MeToo out here, the fact that sort of the whole Time's Up framework has gone beyond the question of harassment and abuse to questions of power in the industry, it does raise the question about how do black women show up in the conversation about power? So Rashida Jones talked about the need to bring women of color more centrally into the Time's Up moment. So, Time's Up WOC, Time's Up Women of Color, has organized women of color, and then there's even an organization of black women within that. So, one of the really, I think, important dimensions of thinking about this industry is to think about what are the narratives that get told, and don't get told about black women? She had a lot to say about being at the table

(EVENT RECORDING) Rashida Jones: It's been mainly white hetero cis males making decisions for a really long time, it's systemic. The good news is that everybody in Hollywood is so scared. They're so scared. We have employed the very, very powerful device of shame. We walk in rooms and show them their numbers and say, is this really, this is what your studio looks like. This is what your network looks like. You know that doesn't represent the demography of this country, right? You know you're going to lose viewers because you're not representing the people who want to watch your shows, you have an audience out there.

Kim Crenshaw: So, it's clear that Hollywood is a male-dominated space. It's clear that-

Dee Barnes: So is the world.

Kim Crenshaw: The world.

Dee Barnes: The world.

Kim Crenshaw: It's clear that some women have a bit of a toe-hold in that space. A bit. And black women have less.

Dee Barnes: Have less, yeah.

Kim Crenshaw: So, as allies in these spaces, one of the challenges is to figure out how to use that toe-hold to bring more black women into those spaces-

Dee Barnes: Yes.

Kim Crenshaw: ... so we can begin to tell our own stories.

Dee Barnes: Exactly.

Kim Crenshaw: See ourselves in these spaces, not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera, as well.

Dee Barnes: Making decisions of what stories are going to be told.

Kim Crenshaw: Yes.

Dee Barnes: Like you said earlier.

Kim Crenshaw: Like who's going to greenlight the Dee Barnes story? Yes.

Dee Barnes: Okay.

Kim Crenshaw: What do you see in the future, Dee? What do you hope will come out of this #MeToo moment?

Dee Barnes: This #MeToo moment. What I hope will come out of it is to clarify a lot of myths. So I call the book Music, Myth and Misogyny: Memoirs of a Female MC. And that's because a lot of MC's, especially women in particular, sometimes they don't want to hear the title "female" because it categorizes them. But I feel like women bring something to the table that men cannot, there's a different element there. And hip-hop is unbalanced right now. You know about the forefathers, the founding fathers of hip-hop, but you don't know about the matriarchs.

Kim Crenshaw: Yes.

Dee Barnes: You don't know their names, and you should. People like Sha-Rock, Lady B, Lisa Lee, Debbie D, they were the Us Girls in Beat Street. Then we have the Mercedes Ladies, we have Sequence, which features Angie Stone. These are women that all female rappers, I feel, should know. They are the foundation, they're the reason why we do what we do. And they don't have that, it's because culture is unbalanced right now, and it didn't start out that way.

Kim Crenshaw: Right.

Dee Barnes: Those women were in the park with those men the same time, on the mic, on the turntables, but we don't have that. And bringing those-

Kim Crenshaw: And then the misogyny in the cultural unfolding of the art form erases that they were part of the art form.

Dee Barnes: Right. Erasure of black women, black and brown women.

Kim Crenshaw: It's like when we started, when we were talking about Rosa Parks, her role as a woman fighting for women in Civil Rights history has gotten erased.

Dee Barnes: Exactly. You don't know that.

Kim Crenshaw: The fact that you don't know it means that we're ignorant and ill-informed, it means that we make stupid decisions.

Dee Barnes: Yes, and what you were saying earlier about how you don't know that about Rosa Parks... That movie, Hidden Figures. Black women are hidden figures, and we're right in the forefront, we're right in the center of everything, but we're still hidden. How? How is that? And so it goes back to the title that you gave me for my mixtape, Peeling Back the Layers of Denial. We've got to peel back those layers, we've got to peel back those layers and expose it. And I think that that's what this time is about. The time is about now listening and hearing and comprehending what's going on, and not being in denial about it, facing that truth. You know what I mean? And it's more receptive now

Kim Crenshaw: Dee, it's been such a blessing.

Dee Barnes: It's an honor.

Kim Crenshaw: I'm just so delighted that we've had this opportunity to connect-

Dee Barnes: Me too. Thank you.

Kim Crenshaw: ... our paths to cross. I can't wait to see what's going to happen.

Dee Barnes: I'm excited.

Kim Crenshaw: I can't wait to get my hands on that book.

Dee Barnes: Oh, I can't wait for you to read that. And then I'm going to come back-

Kim Crenshaw: Yes, of course!

Dee Barnes: .. and talk some more.

Kim Crenshaw: Many, many times. It's been great.

Dee Barnes: It's been a blessing, and shout out to all the women out there, stay strong, stay positive. I love you.

Kim Crenshaw: Till next time, I'm Kimberle Crenshaw.

Dee Barnes: And I'm Dee Barnes, and we out this. Peace. And blessings. Bye bye.

Kim Crenshaw: Keep listening, and support us on our Patreon page for bonus content from all of our interviews. You can find us at @intersectionalitymatters on social media, at, and everywhere podcasts are available. You can email us at Intersectionality Matters is produced and edited by Julia Sharpe Levine. Additional support was provided by G’Ra Asim and Michael Kramer. Special thanks to Dee Barnes for co-hosting, to the rest of the panelists for sharing their stories with us, and of course to the Hammer Museum, who co-sponsored and recorded this event. I’m your host, Kimberle Crenshaw and this is Intersectionality Matters.

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