Eve (of the Adams and Eves) must have been a black woman. Because if the Chris “Craigslist Congressman” Lee scandal has reminded us of anything, it’s this is all the black woman’s fault. Black women, apparently, are so powerful that even in the act of doing little-to-nothing (like trolling Craigslist) they can entice all men to their political doom.
To recap: Yesha Callahan, a woman of the black persuasion, put up a Craigslist ad as a joke. She got about 30 or so responses, one of whom was a white guy named Chris Lee who claimed to be a divorced lobbyist living in Washington, D.C. When Yesha asked Chris to “Send her a picture that didn’t look like a JC Penny Ad” he proceeded to give her the “Bishop Eddie Long” shot. Yesha later Googled the guy and found out that he wasn’t a divorced late 30s lobbyist in D.C. at all; he was actually a 46-year-old married Republican Congressman from upstate New York. One of her girls dropped a dime to a friend in the press (you can’t keep secrets like this in a small town like D.C.) and within three hours of the story appearing on Gawker, Chris Lee had resigned from office.
While there’s some speculation on Lee and his motives, much of the attention online is focused on Callahan, as blogs dig up her background, call her names and portray her as some sleazy home wrecker. The only thing missing was a phone message from Virginia Thomas and Callahan’s public vilification would be complete.
The “black” press hasn’t been much better. Lonnae O’Neal, The Washington Post reporter who interviewed Callahan, was a guest on the Tom Joyner Morning Show on Monday. While the show deserves credit for at least mentioning race, they failed to do anything other than reinforce existing stereotypes.
One host asked why Callahan was on Craigslist looking for a date, rather than asking why a married man was on Craigslist looking for a date. O’Neal commented that once she figured out that the object of Lee’s affections was black, she just hoped “she wasn’t a chicken-head.” Because even when a lying, married white Republican Congressman is at fault, our first reflex is to examine the moral standing of the black woman.
Jay Anthony Brown asked why didn’t Callahan expect this furor because when you “blow up somebody’s spot” you should expect it to go both ways. Which is interesting because the story has been out for a week and no reporters have investigated Chris Lee’s other potential and actual mistresses. All of these additional questions have barely been breached in any public discussion of the case because the lies and myths of sexuality and class propriety reign supreme.
Even when no sex occurred, the stench of America’s nasty racial history hangs in the air like bad leftovers.
America loves a sex scandal — girl sex, boy sex, hooker sex, and the current scandal du jour, the gay sex scandal. However, there is still nothing that drives the needle more than an ‘interracial’ sex scandal. How else other than the still present meme of the black Jezebel can anyone explain how Yesha Callahan has been the focus of so much media attention and speculation while Chris Lee has gotten over relatively Scott free?
African-American women are still depicted in popular culture as vixens, a right of passage for white men, or a testament to their virility. That fact that black women are so freely thrown into the arms of white men when it is a code red alarm, when it occurs the other way around it is a testament to the enduring racism that infects all public discussions of sex and race in this country. Toss a black woman into a sex scandal especially with a white man and it becomes America’s latest Zane novel. People can’t put it down but won’t admit they’re reading it either.
It doesn’t matter that Lee was warned to tone down his partying by the Tan Man himself — look to any blog comment section on Callahan and Lee and you’ll notice about half of them are negative and targeted squarely at Yesha Callahan. People accuse her of being a prostitute, or luring former Congressman Lee into this mess.
But this isn’t new, the black woman always has some nefarious plan to take down some innocent man. Desiree Washington planned to set up Mike Tyson but ended up being raped first. Anita Hill planned on setting up Clarence Thomas but changed offices too quickly. It’s as if these black woman have some magical power that leads men to stray and that was their plan all along. Only they don’t and they didn’t.
And the cry that they’re in it to get paid falls apart pretty quickly once you see how few parlayed their Jezebel notoriety into cash. Karrine Steffans got 15 minutes of fame that faded when she got played by Bill Maher and wound up with a drunk Bobby Brown on her couch. Blackmail is more likely to get you put in jail than paid, and Karin Sanford isn’t getting much more than child support from Jesse Jackson, as their affair almost ruined her career.
About the only woman who came forward in a sex scandal and ended up paid well was Divine Brown, and she was just smart enough to invest her money and go underground.
Most women, like Yesha Callahan, have no desire to become famous, get paid or take anyone down. They’re just caught up in someone else’s lies and bad behavior and think that cheaters should get exposed.
In another non-racialized universe Yesha Callahan would be viewed as a victim or a feminist icon. Instead she’s “Sunshine” from Harlem Nights without ever having to lift a finger.
The press and African-American press in particular needs to do a better job of controlling the language of these scandals in order to improve public discourse and set the record straight. In the “Chris Lee Scandal” the onus is on Lee — not the woman he lied to. It’s time for the press and public to put this event into the proper context, racially, gender wise and culturally and put the scorn and blame where it deserves to go.
This article originally appeared in TheLoop21.com under the title: “Chris Lee Drama Proves America Loves an Interracial Sex Scandal.”