I think if Black men who believe there is a conspiracy against Bill Cosby had to say “Bill didn’t do nothin’ to that girl” 50+ times–for every accusation–instead of in one dismissive statement, they may come close to realizing the magnitude of what Cosby is accused of. Women are continuously coming forward with abhorrent allegations against Cosby, and it seems as if a significant chunk of Black men are reaching for any reason to dismiss them.
Any time a new Cosby-related story breaks, Twitter resembles a breakneck game of tennis, with Black people—specifically Black men– finding ways to deflect the women’s accusations as a rite of Black solidarity.
First there were people claiming Cosby was being punished 20 years after he tried to buy NBC in the early 90s, but that makes little sense. Similarly, it was speculated on social media that Bill was trying to start his own “positive” network, and the powers that be were so against his “positive” network that they decided to engineer decidedly negative sexual assault allegations.
The thing is, for as equally long a period as Cosby was “America’s dad,” it seems like he’s been a crotchety beacon of respectability politics. I’d argue the millennial generation recognizes Bill more for “pull up your pants” than anything else. He doesn’t have our ear, so giving Cosby a TV channel to spout populist views on respectable Blackness is hardly a move that will stoke the flames of revolution.
Equally flawed is what Bob Lewis wrote for this very site, expressing his opinion that the outrage against Bill Cosby amounts to a “lynching.” Lewis wrote, “continuing to disparage Cosby publicly without the benefit of a court trial is no different than white supremacists lynching innocent blacks.” That kind of extreme comparison serves no one. As angry as some people are at Bill Cosby, he’s still alive. No amount of thinkpieces or tweets can match the evil of lynching.
The bedrock of Lewis’ argument is another popular talking point, that we should basically shutup because Cosby is innocent until proven guilty. In the court of law, yes he is. Who can deny that? That’s why court officials screen jurors though, to attempt to keep those immersed in the “court of public opinion” out of the actual jury.
“Innocent until proven guilty” doesn’t preclude the public from reading the graphic testimony of Andrea Constand and being disgusted that Cosby told investigators that their intercourse was “never asleep or awake.” It doesn’t prevent us from expressing the opinion that maybe these 50+ other women aren’t lying about him.
Takes like Lewis’ compound with the kneejerk deflections of Eddie Griffin and Damon Wayans and make me ponder the underlying reasons for all this defense. Obviously, there is troubling misogyny at play. What’s additionally telling however is the racial makeup of this particular ordeal.
Many of Cosby’s accusers are white women. From inception of America, Black people have been sexualized as Mandingos and jezebels. Slave owners (and their wives) used their status to exploit slaves, inferring sex with them was a privilege. The effects of that abuse radiate today in varying degrees, especially among Black men.
Look no further than a line on Kanye West’s “New Slaves.” When referring to wealthy white men who own private prisons, West says “fuck you and your Hampton house, I’ll fuck your Hampton spouse!” The idea of the sexual conquest of white women as a personal protest against white supremacy exists. It’s prevalent. Beneath all of the lame defenses of Black men is there a twisted satisfaction that Bill Cosby took it a step further and abused these white women?
Whatever the reason, the lame excuses made to defend Cosby serve to highlight why feminists and likeminded people are using his situation to highlight the pervasiveness of rape culture and misogyny in the world. The cognitive dissonance of men who deny and sustain rape culture make me ponder just how many of us hate women.
It may be easy to scoff at the idea. But consider the amount of men sexualizing every woman by default, assuming famous men like Cosby can “have” any woman they want, and deciding that affirming Black manhood trumps acknowledging the predation of women. Equally troubling is the idea that bedding “bodies” is considered a rite of manhood which engenders entitlement.
Women who deny such entitlement are being killed, and the pleas of women—and their allies—to examine the psychology of our surroundings are being dismissed as an assault against males. It can’t go on this way. There needs to be a real dialogue. Not because “these women could be our mothers or daughters” or blahzay blah, but because they’re human beings like us. Men have become programmed to see accusations like those against Cosby in a patriarchal light, but a continuance of this cycle is a spineless failure of humanity.