On the day when copiously alleged sexual predator Harvey Weinstein was indicted for rape among other crimes, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah asked Tarana Burke, if such news “brings [her] joy.” Burke, who founded the #MeToo movement to give voice to survivors of sexual violence over a decade ago, explained patiently that bringing down powerful (again, copiously alleged) sexual offenders was never the movement’s primary goal. Noting that, for many survivors, all-too-rare prosecution only marks the beginning of another wrenching chapter in their ordeal in the legal system, Burke said that #MeToo originated in the idea of “focusing on what survivors need to begin a healing process—and end sexual violence.”
That last point formed much of Burke and Noah’s interview, as Burke talked about the need for not only the exposure of sexual predators, but for broad cultural change, something the “millions and millions” of sexual assault survivors around the world are banding together to bring about. Explaining her support of the recent “Mute R. Kelly” action (founded by two other black women, she was quick to point out), Burke said that the recent decision by Spotify to remove the (copiously alleged) sexual predator from its playlists is a concrete way to remove the financial means she claims Kelly has used to prey upon young black and brown women “for 20 years.” She also noted that cultural factors surrounding the way women and girls of color are regarded (both inside and outside the black community) have played into Kelly’s hands, claiming that, if his victims were “white girls or black boys,” his rumored predations would have provoked widespread outrage much sooner.
In their wide-ranging talk, Burke stressed to Noah that, no matter how many Twitter users and Hollywood figures have taken up #MeToo as a slogan, the fight to truly change society’s views and behaviors around sexual violence and rape culture are only at the very beginning. Still, as she noted to Noah, the fact that there are so many survivors around the world finally coming together to speak out on the issue represents a formidable “power base” prepared to carry on the fight. As Burke put it, the real goal of #MeToo is to support survivors, to help them heal—and to allow them into “a place of leadership.”