Let’s begin with a stipulation: As a straight white male, I am totally unqualified to write this column.
In fact, in American culture circa 2019, I am uniquely unqualified to have an opinion on much of anything, due to my abhorrent “white male privilege” – a virtue of birth which frankly would feel more real if I hadn’t been born to teenage parents who lived in a basement efficiency in Queens, New York.
Never mind that I was privileged to grow up hand-to-mouth, that I’ve heard anti-Semitic taunts my whole life or that I worked my way through college and grad school.
Never mind the facts at all, in fact, because I’m white and male and thus need to stay silent – especially concerning the subject of Georgia TV reporter Alexandrea Bozarjian, a 23-year-old female swatted on the behind by a male runner during her coverage of a 10K race in Savannah this month.
It’s a swat Bozarjian believes to be sexual assault, as evidenced by the police report she filed two days later.
As she tweeted: “To the man who smacked my butt on live TV this morning: You violated, objectified, and embarrassed me. No woman should EVER have to put up with this at work or anywhere!! Do better.”
Later, during an appearance on the nationally televised CBS This Morning, Bozarjian explained, “He took my power, and I’m trying to take that back. I think what it really comes down to is that he helped himself to a part of my body.”
The jogger in question, Tommy Callaway, a husband, father of daughters, Cub Scout leader and church youth group volunteer, may yet face criminal charges.
Callaway, 43, told Inside Edition, “I was caught up in the moment. I was getting ready to bring my hands up and wave to the camera to the audience. There was a misjudge in character and decision-making. I touched her back; I did not know exactly where I touched her.”
My take – which surely will be greeted with accusations of my “not getting it: I can’t believe this is what qualifies as an assault in 2019.
I’ve watched the video – which has been viewed 12 million times on Twitter – and what I see is a prank in extremely poor taste, one that calls for an apology and deep soul-searching – not a criminal prosecution.
This won’t be a popular opinion nowadays, but I still believe that violations, injuries and crimes occur along a spectrum, from the mild to the deadly serious.
In court, it’s the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony. In the court of public opinion, however, we have abandoned all reason in favor of damning people over even the mildest affront – especially if such damnation earns us a few minutes of fame on national news programs.
Let me be clear: Slapping anyone on the buttocks is not okay, not when they’re at work or when they’re off work.
It has nothing to do with gender, though Bozarjian immediately played that card.
Rather, it has everything to do with treating our fellow human beings with respect, including respecting their bodies and their personal space.
Having said that, we should also treat offenses against this principle by examining the offender’s intentions, the circumstances and the amount of damage caused by the incident.
Was Callaway wrong to swat Bozarjian? Of course. And the public shame he’s faced since strikes me as appropriate punishment.
As for Bozarjian, I hope she feels suitably empowered now and that she goes on to a long, successful journalism career – one where she is treated with respect at all times and that never sees her facing an actual, awful assault.