|Actress Reagan Preston-Gomez and her mom Cheryl Gomez|
By Mwabi Kaira
|Reagan Preston-Gomez is host of the podcast Reaganomics
Reagan Preston-Gomez’s mother Cheryl applied to the Detroit Metropolitan Police Academy in 1974 and got accepted in 1977. Although the course was both physically and mentally draining, Cheryl loved it and graduated twelfth in her class of 120 students. However, not everyone was excited about female police officers and a white male police officer greeted the new female officers with “Go back where you came from” to which Cheryl responded with “We’re here to stay.”
Trouble really began after Cheryl got married to then medical student Bennett Preston. The shift was immediate; officers suggested that she did not need to work since she was married to a doctor and was taking up a position that belonged to a man. She fended off racial slurs, verbal abuse, and even death threats by people she considered to be her colleagues. When she brought her concerns to her commanding officer he not only dismissed them but expressed a sexual interest in her. This commanding officer, a black man, was being groomed by the Mayor to be the next Chief of Police!
On the podcast Cheryl describes being invited to play racquetball with the department by the commanding officer. When she got there, she was surprised to find that she was the only one there. She immediately felt uncomfortable, considering his previous advances, but she stayed to play a game of racquetball so she wouldn’t be penalized for not participating. After the game, she tried to leave and he blocked the door and again made more sexual advances that she refused. Because of her refusal, the commanding officer told Cheryl that “since he couldn’t eff her he would eff her one way or another.”
Cheryl had a historic win in 1987, when Mack Douglas, the commanding officer was found guilty and received a civil conviction. Unfortunately, this did not stop him from continuing to be the Detroit Police commander. Cheryl went on to found the Association for the Sexually Harassed (ASH) and authored a book, When No Means No. And although Cheryl won her case, much damage was done during that time: her marriage fell apart, she became depressed, tried to take her life and became an alcoholic.
However, her strength was evident on the podcast. It was beautiful to hear a mother and daughter discuss something so devastating yet important in this way. Cheryl is now a recovering alcoholic. Reagan alluded to possibly making her mother’s story into a movie or documentary.
Because of charges being brought against Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein, and most recently director Brett Ratner, sexual harassment is a subject being discussed again. Women are coming forward with their stories using the #MeToo hashtag. Instead of judging these women, let’s embrace our sister-friends and educate our sons on not taking advantage of women in any capacity.