Renowned Dominican-American author Junot Díaz has finally spoken out about the shocking and controversial sexual misconduct allegations that were made against him back in May. In an interview with the Boston Globe—his first since the claims surfaced—Díaz categorically denies any inappropriate sexual behavior.
Just a couple of weeks ago MIT—the university where Díaz works—announced that there investigation of the misconduct claims against the author and professor were complete and that he was cleared to resume teaching stating, “To date, MIT has not found or received information that would lead us to take any action to restrict Professor Diaz in his role as an MIT faculty member, and we expect him to teach next academic year, as scheduled.”
In his interview with the Boston Globe, Díaz said, “I was shocked, I was, like, ‘Yo, this doesn’t sound like anything that’s in my life, anything that’s me.'” He also expressed feelings of being “distressed,” “confused,” and “panicked.” Díaz insists that he did not forcibly kiss original accuser Zinzi Clemmons, “I did not kiss anyone. I did not forcibly kiss Zinzi Clemmons. I did not kiss Zinzi Clemmons,” he said. “It didn’t happen.”
However, Clemmons and the other women who have spoken publicly about their experiences with the author are standing by their original statements, despite the fact that all the other evidence seems to be in Díaz’s favor. Recordings and reports from other first-hand witnesses seem to back up Díaz and show that much of what has been said was overblown. Some of the women involved have even clarified that their original statements were misinterpreted.
In fact, many are speculating that Junot Díaz’s situation is likely to change the face of the #MeTooMovement, forcing people to think more critically about how they define sexual misconduct and inappropriate sexual behavior as well as how to differentiate those situations from simply being made to feel uncomfortable or disagreeing with someone’s opinions and/or personality.
Furthermore, his case proves that we should all be a bit more discerning when it comes to levels of misbehavior—not jumping to align one person’s poor behavior with another’s much worse behavior just because we are living in a societal space that allows for it. It’s our responsibility to carefully assess each situation individually rather than rushing to tear anyone down—man or woman—without due process.
Rape, sexual harassment, abuse, misconduct, etc. claims should be taken seriously every time, but making unfair accusations and placing blame where it does not belong do nothing but undermine the #MeTooMovement and the stories of every person who has suffered at the hands of an abuser.