Once, a co-worker told me that when I was middle-aged and no one street-harassed me anymore, I’d miss the attention. Another time, I tried to explain to a middle-aged white woman that while I got street harassed plenty, my non-white friends got double or even triple the number of lewd comments, following creeps, and just men trying to interfere with their day-to-day lives as I did. “Well maybe they’re just prettier than you,” the woman told me, absolutely backflipping around the point to avoid the possibility that sexual harassment is a problem in virtually every area of women’s lives—and that for women of color, sexual harassment includes a fuckton of dehumanizing racism in addition to the gendered dehumanization.
No one should need proof of this fact, and should, instead, just take women’s word for it. But to all those assholes like the ones I mentioned above (whom I hope are reading because I’m talking about you, asshole) here is footage of some random white man interrupting reporter Brianna Hamblin while she was waiting to give a news report, then yelling a bunch of racist shit at her just seconds before she’s supposed to project a calm persona for the broadcast.
“You look nice, by the way,” the man who has been yelling expletives in the background says as he passes behind Hamblin, who is attempting to avoid engaging by looking down, a move most women know very well. “You’re beautiful as hell,” he says, as she tries to offer a de-escalating “Thank you.”
Politeness does not work. “God damn,” the man says. “I better not be on camera though,” he says before harassing her (and not the male cameraman filming her) about what she’s doing as he clearly makes her uncomfortable.
Hamblin’s demeanor remains friendly but her entire body languages changes, arms crossed around herself, eyes more alert. Again it’s a defensive posture with which most women are all too familiar.
“You see, that’s why I can’t be left alone with a Black woman,” the man finishes, leaving nothing for Hamblin to do but give a tight-lipped smile that is absolutely heartbreaking for its lack of surprise. “Or a Mulatto, shit. Because I can’t stand these fucking white girls.”
“Alright, we are done here,” Hamblin says, in a tone that is still as friendly as it has to be around a man who is threatening her for his own amusement. “Have a great rest of your day.”
“You are sexy as fuck,” the man says as the camera closes in on Hamblin’s face, unsmiling now, left with just the blank, angry confusion of having had a stranger attempting to reduce a human to nothing more than a vulnerable body in front of a crowd just for the mean fun of it.
On Twitter, commenters inevitably told Hamblin to learn to take a compliment, to which she responded: “‘Oh, men these days just can’t give compliments.” No. The first man’s “you look nice” as he continued to walk away is fine. It’s the 2nd man who took this to another disgusting level it didn’t need to be.”
And while I appreciate Hamblin’s diplomacy and gracious explanation, I’m not diplomatic or gracious. No. Don’t give a compliment. If you see a woman working, or waiting for a train, or wearing an evening gown exiting a carriage with one goddamn glass slipper, she likely already has an adequate sense of the way in which she’s navigating the world. Shut the fuck up. No one cares what you think.
Update, 5:28 p.m.: Spectrum News, Hamblin’s employer, has sent Jezebel a statement:
“We are glad that Brianna wasn’t alone in the face of such adversity and we’ve never been more proud of her. She handled the situation impeccably, remaining calm and professional throughout. We want our employees to feel safe and are constantly working towards achieving that goal.”