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“Mike Huckabee’s Confused Morality”: White Privilege And The Limits Of Public Forgiveness

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks in Iowa in April. The GOP presidential candidate was quick to voice his support for Josh Duggar, who this past week admitted to having molested children while a teenager.

In America, public forgiveness is largely dependent on race. In the weeks after Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, pundits and media outlets were quick to jump on a robbery Brown allegedly committed minutes before being fatally shot. Among them was 2016 hopeful Mike Huckabee, who told NewsMax TV, “It’s a horrible thing that he was killed, but he could have avoided that if he’d have behaved like something other than a thug.” For Huckabee, (alleged) theft was grounds for death.

That is, if you look a certain way. Contrast these statements with Huckabee’s recent defense of reality TV regular Josh Duggar, who admitted last week to having molested young girls as a teenager in 2002 and 2003. The 27-year-old son of Jim Bob and Michelle, Josh Duggar is a star of the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting, and was executive director of the Family Research Council—a right-wing organization that prides itself on family values—until last week after news of his crimes went public. TLC quickly pulled episodes from their line-up.

After the story broke, Huckabee wasted no time. “Janet and I want to affirm our support for the Duggar family,” he posted to Facebook less than a day after Duggar went public. “Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable.’ Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things.”

Huckabee’s sentiment was echoed by Duggar’s parents and wife, who together released a statement on Facebook on May 21. The word “teen” was used four times and “mistake” was used three. Not long after, fans of 19 Kids and Counting went to the Duggar family Facebook page to voice their support for the admitted sexual abuser. But the statement of support from Huckabee, who has been close with the Duggars since they endorsed and campaigned for his 2008 presidential bid, was the strongest. Sexual abuse may be a crime, yet for a straight, white, Christian man, it seems sympathy has no bounds.

And if you fall outside of these categories, forgiveness only goes so far. From Ferguson to Baltimore to Sanford, Florida, when victims of police violence make headlines, major media scurry to dig up the often petty mistakes of their past. How many times was Trayvon Martin called a “thug”? Before his family could even bury his body, The New York Times declared that Michael Brown was “no angel.” Even 12-year-old Tamir Rice was smeared for having an abusive father. For daring to be black and exist, their names were tarnished by white America, even in death. 

But if as a teenager you molested children, even presidential candidates will give you a pass—at least, if you’re white and male.

And, it seems, even if your crimes include a cover-up. According to the police report, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar knew their son had committed these crimes. They met with church members and sent Duggar off to help a friend remodel homes—their version of counseling. They believed that this was the help their family needed. Who knows what kind of help the victims were offered—stories like these are tragic and my heart aches for the victims, who will hopefully receive any help that they want or need. For Duggar’s part, aside from his career, he’s pretty much off the hook: Arkansas law mandates child sexual abuse charges be filed within three years (Duggar’s crimes were committed in his home state of Arkansas). With charges never filed, Duggar will face no prosecution.

Of course the same is not true for millions of black Americans, who routinely face prosecution, violence, and even death at the hands of police for often minor or nonexistent crimes. Adding to this confused morality, in January, Huckabee criticized Barack and Michelle Obama for letting their teenage daughters listen to pop juggernaut Beyoncé, calling her music mental poison. If you are keeping score, listening to Beyoncé: bad parenting. Sexual abuse: forgivable.

When you’re straight, white, Christian, and male, even horrific crimes can be forgiven. When you’re a black teenager who has been accused of shoplifting, you’re a thug—your life has no value. White privilege is being a sexual abuser and finding more support than a 12-year-old shot by police while playing in a park.

 

By: Nathalie Baptiste, The American Prospect, May 28, 2015

May 29, 2015 Posted by | Josh Duggar, Mike Huckabee, Sexual Asault | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oops, I Dropped My Coffee is A Mistake”: Josh Duggar Didn’t Make A ‘Mistake’ — He’s Going To Get Away With Sexual Assault

Just before the long weekend, Josh Duggar apologized for having “acted inexcusably” when he was a teenager. Because we have access to recently unearthed police reports and other accounts published by In Touch magazine, we know the connotation of Duggar’s phrasing: He is requesting forgiveness for sexually assaulting multiple young girls.

It is a crime for which Duggar will never be charged; which neither he nor his family will likely ever call by name; and which he’ll get away with committing. He admitted to something — ostensibly, to committing acts of violence against children, against his own sisters — but it doesn’t matter. Duggar might have resigned from his job, but otherwise, the whole situation has been set up to play out in his favor.

Duggar’s parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, are well-known Quiverfull adherents, members of an extremist Christian denomination steeped deeply in the purity movement. As several commentators have already pointed out, that movement grants Duggar and other abusers like him a reprieve from ever being held accountable for their actions; it is a culture that places blame on the victims of sexual abuse, and demands not only mercy for abusers, but protection for them as well.

As Stephanie McNeal points out at BuzzFeed, that’s exactly the sort of response Jim Bob and Michelle have already had to their son’s confession, and could cause irreparable harm to his victims. The language the Duggars have chosen to describe the assaults — that they were merely “mistakes” — undermines the seriousness of the abuse, McNeal writes:

Abuse survivors and experts told BuzzFeed News the Duggars’ description of the abuse as a “mistake” diminishes both the effect on victims and the seriousness of the crime.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a mistake, I would say it’s sexual abuse, something that is such a serious crime,” one survivor of sibling sexual assault, who wished to remain anonymous, told BuzzFeed News. “You say, oops I dropped my coffee, that’s a mistake.”

[California School of Professional Psychology] Professor [John] Caffaro agreed, telling BuzzFeed News that the incidents described in the allegations against Josh Duggar are “clearly more than a ‘mistake.’”

“[The abuse] potentially signals the presence of individual psychopathology, developmental trauma, and significant family dysfunction,” he said. […]

The family environment can also play a factor in sibling sexual abuse. Research suggests this type of abuse is more common in large families where there are blurred lines between who is a parent and who is a child, Caffaro said.

“Emotionally and/or physically absent parents may empower older siblings to assume parental roles,” he said.

Parents in these types of families are also more prone to dismissing the abuse, he said.

“If sexual behaviors are noticed, they are likely to be minimized and misinterpreted as a normal aspect of childhood development,” Caffaro said.

But as Samantha Field points out on her blog Defeating the Dragons, it is not simply the size of the Duggar family that could allow for the perpetuation of abuse and protection of an abuser, but also a very specific set of teachings that echo the most fundamental, dangerous messages of rape culture (emphasis original):

Rape is referred to as “non-consensual sex,” and Josh sexually assaulted five little girls by groping their breasts and genitalia but that’s not what the media is calling it, and it certainly isn’t what anyone connected to the Duggars is calling it. It’s not being described as child sexual assault, not as the felony it is, but as molestation. Over and over again I’ve seen Christians calling it a “mistake.” In the different announcements we’ve gotten from the Duggars, it’s been coated over with a thick layer of Christian Speak. Anna, his wife, called it an “offense,” as if the sexual assault of a five-year-old were the same thing as calling her carrots.

It’s not just the Duggars that do this. We see this every single time one of these “scandals” comes to light. Whoever was responsible “apologizes,” but they never admit to anything. Josh said he “behaved inexcusably,” which doesn’t mean anything. If Josh had gotten up in front of everyone and said the words “I committed a felony, I sexually assaulted five little girls, and I’m sorry,” it would make it obvious to every single last person on the planet that oh, I’m sorry isn’t going to cut it.

What’s at stake for victims, Field notes, isn’t forgiveness, but justice. And the chances of finding it can be reduced by the language people choose to describe the crimes they experienced.

“This is why I never use softening, minimizing language,” Field writes. “I say assault and rape and abuse. And, if it comes to light that Josh digitally penetrated his victims, I’m going to start saying Joshua Duggar is a rapist.”

 

By: Jenny Kutner, Assisstant Editor, Salon, May 26, 2015

May 27, 2015 Posted by | Josh Duggar, Sexual Asault, The Duggars | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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