On Friday, during Aretha Franklin’s funeral service, something truly reprehensible happened. The officiating minister, Bishop Charles Ellis III, touched Ariana Grande inappropriately on stage after she performed Aretha Franklin’s 1968 hit – “A Natural Woman”.
After her performance, Bishop Ellis pulled the beaming Ariana Grande towards the pulpit to apologize for thinking that her name was “a new something at Taco Bell” when he saw it on the program. He then went on to say “girl, let me give you all your respect” after which he gave her a hug and called her an icon. Meanwhile, while making all of the comments, he had one arm around her and, perhaps unknowingly, clutched the side of her breast. Grande pulled back in a bid to escape the awkward position that she was now in, and repeatedly look startled as the affair went on, but the visibly unaware Bishop was having none of that. He pulled her closer.
The unfortunate event generated a barrage of emotionally charged reactions on social media, especially on Twitter. People took to comments, using the hashtag #RespectAriana to express their disaffection at the event. The bishop has since apologized to Grande, her fans, family and the Hispanic community about his conduct and the taco bell joke. In an exclusive video with the Associated Press, he expressed his contriteness at the situation, saying “I would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast.” He went further, “If someone took it the wrong way, or was offended by it, the easiest thing for me to do, as a Christian – as a man of God, is to apologize. And I sincerely apologize to Ariana if I have offended her I any kind of way.” He also expressed his regret for being a distraction on a day that was meant solely for the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
A Bishop who officiated Aretha Franklin’s funeral, Charles H. Ellis III, has come under fire for groping singer Ariana Grande shortly after her performance. .. Ellis had invited Grande to the podium, and made sexually awkward jokes. He also appeared to severally grope the singer’s breast. .. Ellis apologised for his actions after public outrage. .. “It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast,” he told The Associated Press at the cemetery where Franklin was interred late Friday. .. “I don’t know I guess I put my arm around her. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize. .. “I personally and sincerely apologize to Ariana and to her fans and to the whole Hispanic community. When you’re doing a program for nine hours you try to keep it lively, you try to insert some jokes here and there,” he said. .. Via @newsroomdaily
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The bishop’s actions, without any doubt, falls well within the line of what constitutes sexual harassment. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition is also featured on the United Nations’ website. Bishop Ellis groping Ariana’s breast was definitely not welcome, so it is sexual harassment.
However, while examining cases like this, it is important to note if such acts are deliberate or not. Most of the time, this is what separates an innocent touch or mistake, from a malicious clutch, or grope. In our everyday lives, mistakes do happen. A lady swinging her arms a little too wildly has touched my penile area once, she apologized immediately – I took it as a genuine mistake and made nothing of it. I, too, have put my arms around a woman which mistakenly grazed her breast, I apologized immediately and she took it as a mistake – we’re still good friends. While these mistakes happen daily, I also know that people – men especially – capitalize on this to grope women and sexually harass them. It’s an everyday reality. From the guy that slyly leans sideways in a tightly packed bus or cab to put his shoulders on a woman’s breast, to the one the taps a lady’s buttocks with a straight face and then claims it was a mistake afterwards, or the one that gets an erection while on a bike with a lady he probably doesn’t know, and starts rubbing his hands on her thighs while jerking his waist as the bike enters any pothole.
These are things that happen daily. How do you then, accurately tell which is what? How do you expect someone that faces such acts almost every day to believe you when you do the same and claim it’s a mistake? My opinion? Men, keep your hands to yourselves. It doesn’t totally insulate you from MISTAKENLY – if it really is – touching a lady in a sensitive area, but at least it minimizes the chances.
Now back to the Bishop. Personally, I think it was a mistake and that he had no sexual or malicious intent while touching Ariana Grande. I might be wrong, but I noticed that he didn’t look uncomfortable or forced, it seemed like he was in his comfort zone, like that’s what he does. Given this view, which type of degenerate pervert would pick what might have been the highlight of his career to perpetrate sexual harassment? It seems stupid. To me, he just seemed like a handsy person. While this might sound relieving in some quarters, I think it is very scary.
Here’s the deal: I know a person who used to be handsy. He would unwittingly touch anyone while talking to them and sometimes lean a little too closely. It used to make me uncomfortable, but I just chucked it up as “one of those things that friendly people do” at that time until I saw him do it to a lady sometimes. She was very uncomfortable but he didn’t seem to notice. He just kept talking and touching. After that event, I called him and asked if he noticed that she was uncomfortable, he said that he didn’t. We had a conversation about it and he promised to be more careful. Of course, it didn’t end there, but I can reliably say that today, he is much better than where he was at that time. This is someone that was less than twenty when we identified the problem. Now imagine if Bishop Ellis had the same problem in his teens and twenties, and he had nobody to talk to him, he would think it was normal. Imagine that, coupled with the fact that clerics are usually revered to the point that people don’t seem to talk to them as peers, even if he does stuff like that to his church members routinely, nobody would say a thing about it. He is 60 years old now and at this point, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
I don’t know if handsy people feel like they score more friendliness points when they touch you, or lean over and invade your personal space while talking, but having been at the receiving end lots of times, I know that it is uncomfortable to me – and undoubtedly, lots of other people too, women especially. In the world where we live in now, those seemingly “friendly” gestures can cost you your reputation. Wouldn’t you rather restrain yourself and keep your name untainted with unnecessary controversy?
You don’t have to lean in or touch people to talk to them. Keep your hands to yourself.