Cliff Huxtable and Bill Cosby are not the same person. One is a fictional character. The other is a real person with a history of documented predatory behavior. Neither of them are your father. Stop promoting rape culture.
On December 30, after a slew of allegations from nearly 60 women spanning across decades, Bill Cosby was finally arrested and arraigned in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania charged with drugging and sexually assaulting a former Temple University employee in 2004. As with any story involving a celebrity, social media was abuzz with a wide spectrum of commentary ranging from those publicly denouncing the actor/comedian and his actions to those hailing him as a modern day civil rights martyr and a victim of white supremacy’s attempt to assassinate the character of a successful black man.
I try to make a conscious effort not to engage in debates on social media, particularly Facebook, about social issues that are important to me. What typically ensues is a cyclical debate with people who hold very staunch opinions about subject matters that they have not thoroughly researched and who have instead obtained the bulk of their information from memes, faux news sites and unsourced YouTube videos. It’s never really just a matter of conflicting viewpoints but rather a futile war between the informed and the indignantly misinformed and willfully ignorant. I wind up getting extremely frustrated and develop adverse feelings for people I once liked or thought highly of. Thus, I try my damndest to avoid those topics of discussion altogether. Some issues just are not up for debate or discussion. Like respecting the basic humanity of other people.
At different points in our lives we have experiences that we can later look back on as pivotal moments in changing who we are. For me, one of those experiences was going to Ferguson in August 2014 just weeks after Mike Brown was killed as part of the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride and participating in thoughtful discussions with an array of people of color from around the country on black liberation. Upon my return it became more important to me to use my social media platform to speak out on the issues that are important as opposed to holding back on initiating conversations on race, gender and sexuality to preserve my brand (and perhaps also my sanity). My interest in music promotion and discussions about hip-hop culture waned and were replaced with attempts to make my followers more aware of local movements and social issues while fostering SENSIBLE discussions and spreading knowledge. In posting critiques of the Bill Cosby rape allegations I have realized that for the most part you cannot really have sensible discussions on social media because people are too deeply invested in their own delusions to have thoughtful, productive discussions about sensitive topics.
I am now on day 4 of fending off trolls and rape apologists on my statuses related to Bill Cosby. Most of them are folks I have never had any prior interaction with. All of them are black men. The same black men that I have marched in protest for. The same black men I’ve been arrested for. The same black men that I have provided a platform for. These same black men have for 4 days now camped out on my statuses and have launched vitriolic personal attacks towards me all in an effort to defend a man that they do not know from allegations that he has himself admitted to. A man who they clearly haven’t taken any time to read up on or they’d be more knowledgeable about his anti-black sentiments. These black men have speculated that my passionate response to rape and rape culture is because I have been violated. But instead of expressing compassion and empathy, these black men have taunted me online, tagging one another in on arguing that my outrage is because I have unresolved issues with my own experiences and I therefore have a personal vendetta against Bill Cosby and should seek help instead of being vocal online. One lad even used this as an opportunity to tell me that he doesn’t like me and had long ago unfriended me. Funny he never expressed his dislike of me before yet chose to do so in the context of a discussion about rape.
To be clear I have been fortunate enough to be one of the only women I know personally who has NOT been raped. The fact that they believe that I have been and would proceed to use that trauma as an opportunity to taunt me is very telling. They do all of this mud slinging and victim blaming then have the audacity to ask why women do not report rape and sexual assault sooner. No one tells black men that their righteous rage against police brutality is because they have unresolved issues from prior experiences with police that they should seek help with and get over or attempt to try to invalidate their experiences by criticizing them for the length of time it took them to talk about it or discredit them with false equivalencies to completely unrelated situations and circumstances.
These black men have charged head first into this discussion and will boldly admit that they haven’t read even the most basic facts regarding these allegations and lack a basic understanding about even what constitutes rape but believe these allegations to be false simply due to their admiration of a television character. A man who has publicly denounced even their humanity. These black men have created memes and statuses to express their unwavering support of Cosby and their outrage that he has been charged while killer cops go free, failing to realize that Cosby has blamed police killings of black men on their choice of clothing, guns and lack of parental guidance. He doesn’t even acknowledge the reality of racism yet you behold him as a martyr for a cause he doesn’t even believe in. Bill Cosby is not a victim of white supremacy. He is and has always been an agent of it.
I encourage black men to ask their mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins etc about their experiences with rape and sexual assault with the hopes that perhaps they can develop some compassion and understanding about the lasting effects of sexual trauma and the definition of rape and consent. It is a shame that we have to personally relate to suffering by drawing direct correlations to the people we know instead of compassion standing on its own as a basic component of human decency. But whatever it takes.
In the meantime I encourage black women to get well versed in personal self defense and know that you have every right to use whatever is at your disposal to protect yourself. Keep standing up for yourselves and your sisters. We really are all we got.