If you haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution yet, try this one on for size – respond to the real issue at hand.
There have been a lot of allegations surrounding Bill Cosby over the past 10 years. Interestingly enough, they have come full-circle in the form of one of Cosby’s accusers, Andrea Constand, yet again willing to carry him to court for his alleged assault of her. And there are a lot of things to take into consideration. It is worth keeping in mind, for instance, that Constand was the first person to come forward with allegations of assault back in 2005. It might be worth noting that the civil suit she filed then was settled out of court with terms undisclosed.
And it is worth noting that Bill Cosby is black. Of course it is.
A lot of folks have acted, though, that it’s the only thing that matters, and for all the wrong reasons. There have been numerous (in my view, incredibly poor) arguments made in news and on social media. They say that they didn’t demonize Woody Allen. They argue that the universities that stripped Cosby of his Honorary Doctorates should also return his donations. They believe that it’s obviously a ploy from The Man to keep a successful black man from achieving greatness (apparently Cosby was in line to own NBC, something I can hardly confirm). According to them, it’s because Cosby is black that these people are accusing him of rape, and that the relevant powers believe them. As far as they’re concerned, the only reason anyone would believe that lovable Cliff Huxtable could sexually assault anyone at all is because of the stereotype of the angry criminal black man, and they’re weaponizing that stereotype to bring an aging black stalwart to his knees.
…Except not even half of that is true. And precisely 0% of it is important.
It is true that Woody Allen still makes to make movies and walk about relatively undeterred in spite of sexual assault claims by his own daughter and his marriage to his unofficial stepdaughter. It’s also true that, legally, there was very little that could’ve been done to Allen. There is some truth to Cosby trying to buy NBC…back in 1994. He was clearly unsuccessful, and the first case of sexual assault against him came a decade later. Everything else is, quite frankly, nonsense. Not one word of it is important.
Rapists can donate money. No doubt other rapists have before Cosby. And what folks did with that money when they didn’t know has no bearing on whether they support him now that they do know. More importantly, giving Cosby back his money won’t change the conversation. The wider conversation about folks like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski shed some light on a systemic failing when it comes to justice for black people…that can be had at the same time as the conversation about Cosby being a rapist. Because, if he is guilty, other people not being in jail won’t change that. Those people should be in jail, yes. Along with a guilty Cosby.
I’m not saying that I definitely think that Cosby is guilty…but 50-plus women coming forward saying he is means a lot. A lot of these women can’t sue him and settle for money (some of the statutes of limitations on their potential assault charges have expired). Cosby himself admitted that he’s used drugs on women before. At some point in time, it starts to at least look suspect…
Of course, I’m just a juror in the Court of Public Opinion. But Cosby’s case being ultimately decided in a court of law doesn’t absolve regular citizens of their responsibility to monitor and invest in justice, if even as small a gesture as staying informed and interested. Especially since his will be a case that will go to court, it requires our interest and investment in justice. Because miscarriages of justice are more frequent than we deserve, and sexual assault is a matter that is prevalent and under-addressed, that investment must also be met with an investment in systems and their transformation.
Which is why I will go ahead and say it’s completely understandable that folks would be fearful that Cosby is being victimized, in a world where Tamir Rice can be shot and his shooter – a cop – could get no worse than paid leave for the crime. But let’s not forget that there are more than 50 people who say they’ve actually been victimized. That requires investigation – the same quality and meaningful investigation folks wish the murder of Tamir Rice got.
Like I said earlier, there’s a lot going on with this case – a justice system that seems to fail African Americans constantly, a famous African-American cultural figure, numerous examples of injustices around white alleged rapists… Which is why we should see this situation for what it actually is – a potential place to argue for more secure justice in future for all people regardless of status. It’s not about race. It’s not about money. It’s not about The Man. It’s just about justice.