Dear Moise Morancy,
Days ago, a video went viral wherein you declared “this is what imma do to you” to men who touch women or girls without their permission, while restraining a distraught, bloody-nosed male suspect who allegedly fondled a teenage girl on a bus. With good reason, the public and media declared you a hero. And while I agree with that characterization, I believe that your decision to stand for that young girl that day was for more than just heroic. It was a demonstration of Black male activism at its finest: A call to action for all men to stand for women and girls and against sexual harassment and assault.
Like many women, I endured sexually harassment and assault on numerous occasions in public and even, more specifically, on public transportation. The first time, I was only ten years old and on my way to the grocery when a group of men from my neighborhood beckoned me. They all knew my family, so I felt it necessary to oblige.
“You like school?” one of the men questioned in front of the group of men in their 20’s, “I’d love to school you”. He made his declaration with a smirk and the entire group laughed. I didn’t quite understand the joke at the time, but I knew it was inappropriate. I walked away and cried the entire way to the store.
I wrote about that experience a decade plus later in one of the first essays I ever published online. Within hours of its publication, I found the piece being discussed on a public message board by other Black men and women. Many of the men condemned my actions– the actions of a then 10 year old; my decision to respond to the calls of older men who were familiar faces to me. In their opinion, my victimization was simply my fault. Perhaps, even, a matter of over exaggeration. Such sentiments weren’t confined to the online world. I told the story again when a male acquaintance invited me to speak on his documentary about street harassment. With a tear-stained face, I recounted the tale.
“I think women are making this whole street harassment thing a bigger deal than it really is,” he dismissively responded.
It was then that I fully came to terms with my vulnerability; the vulnerability of all young women and girls. Not only do we constantly face a world of predators. But we cannot and should not expect any protection from them.
Not that I did not previously understand this. I knew I was on my own when a man sat across from me on the subway with his hands in his pants, fondling himself while plainly staring at me. I sat quietly, turned up my headphones and prayed that he would not do anything to me between then and the next stop, where I quickly hopped off the train. I knew I was on my own when a man sat next to me on a bus with his hand in his pocket and began to stroke my leg. I knew I was on my own when a teacher from my high school came to my job every night, always close to closing and started offering me rides home when he say me waiting for the bus. On the day I graduated, he asked me out to dinner. However, after processing those responses to my writing, it hit me very hard. The fact that men did not care about the wellbeing of girls or women in public spaces.
Or at least so I thought until I saw the video of you restraining that man on the bus. Your actions helped me to believe, once again, that women and girls can and should expect protection and advocacy from men. That perhaps, had there been a man like you in that group years ago while I was walking to the store, or sitting on that train or bus, he would’ve taken a stand for me. And beyond the should have or could have, it helps me to hope that more men like yourself will decide to act when they see or hear sexual harassment or abuse.
Earlier in this letter, I wrote that I recounted my story of sexual harassment to a dismissive man with a tear-stained face. The truth is that just thinking about this subject stirs painful memories and makes me emotional, despite my typically stoic countenance. While writing this piece, I once again found myself in tears, except for a different reason. I cried because it forced me to contemplate just how much differently I would’ve felt about men if a man like you ever stepped in on my behalf when I was being harassed. And how differently so many young girls and women may feel about men in the future because more men like yourself can and will chose to take a stand. The hope for a better future brings me tear-inducing comfort.
So, I thank you not only for your actions that day, but for that hope.