I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but life. Dr. William H. Cosby has been charged with aggravated indecent assault in relation to sexual assault allegations from Andrea Constand*. These recent allegations have been a point of dissention, as many are conflicted as to whether or not they are true. Various rumors have surfaced as to why these allegations are being made now. Some argue it is to destroy Cosby’s legacy, to tear down a hero of sorts in the black community. Others say it was to stop him from making a bid to purchase NBC** and others believe he committed the crimes.
When I first heard about this, I was shocked and defensive like we all were. I loved A Different World. The Cosby Show meant a lot to many (personally, I was more of a Fresh Prince, Bernie Mac, My Wife and Kids fan in regards to black family sitcoms). However, I was asked a few tough questions in regards to why I was defending him. Why did I want him to be innocent? Did the evidence defend or condemn him? Who is Bill Cosby, aside from his art?
Think about those questions, adequately research them. The answers weren’t pretty for me.
Why do I want Bill Cosby to be innocent?
I wanted Bill Cosby to be innocent because he was the creator of so much important art, an innovator in comedy and an important figure to the generation above me. Because Dr. Cliff Huxtable was a doctor on television, and Dr. Bill Cosby was a doctor in real life, which meant I could be one too. Because Bill Cosby created a space for black people on television where previously they only made shows to mock us. It may not have all been realistic, but neither was anything else on TV, so why not get to see people who look like me (although not like my family lol) exist in a fantasy world like everybody else.
I wanted Bill Cosby to be innocent because they can’t have him. They can’t tear down another black man with accusations of being a monster, a rapist (see Kobe Bryant, Michael Jackson, etc), a narrative that has been used to do a lot of evil historically. But, historical narrative aside, sometimes black people can do evil too. Sometimes the criminal justice system is right and sometimes its wrong. I don’t believe Kobe did it, but I think (know) R. Kelly did. Michael is innocent, but OJ was not. I don’t trust the American justice system to adequately accuse and charge minorities in this country, so I don’t look to its verdicts to make my judgement. Every accusation against a black man isn’t true, but each isn’t a lie either.
His legacy is being tarnished, conviction or not he is a rapist in the minds of many to this point. He never will be to others. But his legacy does not determine whether or not his art was important and a display of Black Excellence. The art stands for itself. But the art and artist have to be separated, most of our favorite musicians, actors, artists etc. have done bad, terrible, and sometimes evil things. They’re human like us. Their art still stands.
What about the women? Why now?
In a culture like ours, where women’s sexuality is treated like it’s not rooted in their own choices, coming forward about rape is difficult. Statistics say many rapes go unreported, followed up with questions of were you drinking?” and “what were you wearing? Did you lead him on?” as we look to absolve men of sex without consent, because consent is debatable (its not, consent is very clear but our culture denies it). I have never experienced such a pain, but that doesn’t mean I can flippantly dismiss those who have. If you know anybody who is comfortable talking about a sexual assault experience, let me know because most are damaged from it, those who do speak about their experiences will cite how hard it was to acknowledge it. As we all debate and discuss why they were drinking with him if they didn’t have sexual intentions, some even calling a few of the women “un-rapeable” (ignoring the fact that rape is often about power, not physical attraction), calling these women sluts and liars and whores and all kinds of terrible things, it becomes painfully evident why they didn’t come forward before. Why it took one women to open those floodgates. If they’re being attacked and dismissed now, imagine in the 70’s and 80’s.
To be objective in this case, Bill Cosby cannot be placed on a pedestal, nor these women placed in the mud. Bill Cosby stands accused. Money and legacy aside, he stand accused. These women are his accusers, race, color and narrative aside, their experiences count. Now that both sides are addressed and have been given even playing field, let’s look at the evidence.
*As of the time I am writing this, there has been a hearing set for February 2nd to dismiss the charges due to a deal made in 2005 with the District Attorney.
**I have yet to find any documentation that this is true. If you have anything with cited sources let me know.