First Lady Michelle Obama leads Black women clergy condemning Trump remarks

First Lady Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama

Black women across the U. S. are continuing to express outrage this week in response to a released tape of lewd comments about women, made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

In an epic speech Oct. 13, First Lady Michelle Obama told a crowd in New Hampshire that Trump’s language could never be excused as “locker room” talk as he described it, and she asked women, Republicans and Democrats, not to remain silent.

“The fact is that in this election, we have a candidate for President of the United States who, over the course of his lifetime and the course of this campaign, has said things about women that are so shocking, so demeaning that I simply will not repeat anything here today. And last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women. And I can’t believe that I’m saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women,” she said. “And I have to tell you that I can’t stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted. So while I’d love nothing more than to pretend like this isn’t happening, and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream.”

Mrs. Obama’s sentiments were among a groundswell of outrage, including a string of Republicans who withdrew their endorsement of Trump after hearing the audio. That outrage continued to grow this week as a racially diverse group of more than 1,200 leading Christian women signed an open letter also expressing their disdain and to urge other religious leaders to not only take a stand, but also “help their communities heal from the sins of sexual violence and misogyny,” according to a release announcing the letter.

“As Christian women we are appalled by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recorded remarks that disparage women and condone sexual assault. Such language cannot be dismissed as ‘locker room talk.’ Mr. Trump must offer public contrition that fully acknowledges the seriousness and depravity of his actions. The sin of misogyny has caused many of us to experience sexual assault or sexually abusive language that threatened our safety, dignity and well-being,” states the letter, released Oct. 14.

“Christian leaders cannot condone such violent speech about women as a minor mistake or an innocent attempt to be ‘macho.’ These excuses teach our young people that such language is acceptable and do further harm to those who have been abused. We urge all religious leaders to preach, teach and help their communities heal from the twin sins of sexual violence and misogyny. While we are disheartened by Mr. Trump’s toxic words, we believe this moment presents an opportunity to teach our daughters and sons that they are loved, and to teach all Americans how to speak out against sexually violent language.”

Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner

Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner

The lead signature on the letter was that of Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life Action Fund, who spearheaded the campaign. It is joined by Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner, president, Skinner Leadership Institute; Rev. Dr. Cynthia L. Hale, senior pastor of the Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Ga.; Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church of New York; Lisa Sharon Harper, chief church engagement officer of Sojourners among hundreds of other women pastors and leaders.

This week, Trump’s wife, Melania, said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she had forgiven her husband for what she described as “boy talk.”

However, First Lady Michelle Obama rejects any minimization of Trump’s words: “This is not something that we can ignore. It’s not something we can just sweep under the rug as just another disturbing footnote in a sad election season. Because this was not just a ‘lewd conversation.’ This wasn’t just locker-room banter. This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turn on the TV. It is cruel. It’s frightening—and the truth is, it hurts. It hurts.”