Published by the St. Louis American, May 1, 2018
After 2004, I had a few ounces of respect for Bill Cosby, mainly as a humanitarian for his generous support for education, particularly for Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs). Advancing black culture including exposing and financing black artists, creating career opportunities for people of color in the entertainment industry.
The saga of Cosby’s sexual predatory behavior has led to the evaporation of any respect I had for the once-revered comedian-actor.
I admit that I was skeptical when the first rape accusation against Bill Cosby came out. My skepticism was not about not believing rape victims; I’ve been working on violence against women for too many years to be in that camp. However, I could not be oblivious to the history of black men being falsely accused of rape white by women. Neither should I be dismissive of America’s treatment of black men who get too big for their britches.
But I was convinced of Cosby’s guilt long before the recent retrial of sexual assault of Andrea Constand which found the comedian-actor guilty on three counts.
For me, his character flaws became more real and large after criticizing black mothers for buying their sons expensive Air Jordan tennis shoes instead of investing in Hooked on Phonics. It was downhill from there with more shaming for the black community in his response to the Trayvon Martin murder by racist vigilante George Zimmerman.
At the same time Cosby was spewing his moral and self-righteous indignities, he was actively preying on women knowing that his powerful status would provide him cover and protection.
Many fans of The Cosby Show were deeply disappointed in the daddy icon. Despite the preponderance of evidence, there are too many that may still believe in Cosby’s innocence. There was a deep divide in the African-American community on the rape charges. That divide didn’t close with the recent guilty verdict.
We often give these predators a pass because of who they are and because we love them as the characters they play. This unconditional support of superstars (and some not so super) is a critical reason why women are reluctant to come forth when any form of sexual assault has been committed. It’s an environment that smacks a victim into shame and silence.
Cosby victims go back a long time. Some attempted to tell their stories or file charges but were often met with hostility and cynicism. Barbara Bowman was only 17 years old when she first made claims that Cosby drugged and raped her some 30 years ago. Bowman added her voice and story with the parade of Cosby accusers who finally, and some reluctantly, came forward.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that 68 percent of sexual assaults don’t get reported to authorities, which means that 98 percent of the victimizers will face the justice they deserve. The refusal to believe a female has little to do with whether their attacker is a super-star. There are predators on the lower rung who have gotten away with their dastardly deeds simply because they were males and their voices carry more weight in a patriarchal society.
I can’t count the number of debates I’ve had with men and women about what a woman did to deserve such a horrific assault. What about the short skirt she was wearing? And what time did she go to that man’s hotel room? Why would he have to rape her when he can get any woman he wants? How can it be rape when she knows him?
Sadly, these biased questions have prevailed throughout the years. My hope is that the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements take the issue of sexual violence to a much deeper place, where people can understand the underlying reasons for sexual control, there’s a community support system to embrace victims – and victimizers also get what they need in the form of psychological help and consequences.
I refused to shed a tear when Mike Tyson went to jail for rape or Harvey Weinstein crashed from grace. I won’t have any tears for Bill Cosby – only sadness for his wife and kids who must suffer the shame he selfishly bought upon them. We are all responsible for nurturing an anti-woman environment where our pain and suffering is ignored, de-valued or criticized. We must all commit to working together to make sure time’s up on sexual predators, regardless of their race, popularity or status.