You know what conversation is confusing? This one: Bill Cosby has now been convicted of doing exactly what he said he did—please go read the deposition again—and there is a legion of people who want to make sure that we still acknowledge that Cosby has done a lot for the black community. I don’t know how else to say this, but, err, um ...
So the fuck what?
What do his accomplishments have to do with the fact that he’s a sexual predator who has harmed dozens of women? Do the lives he’s helped from afar matter more than the lives he’s personally ruined? I’ve had more than a few discussions (and social media is full of heated debates) with people who acknowledge that maybe he’s not a great person, but also say we can’t let what he’s done for the black community become a footnote in his history. The people with an agenda to ruin a black man (I don’t know who those folks are in this case, honestly) are trying to minimize how great he was for us as a community.
Some of you all are out here rape-culturing. Antoine Dodson warned us about you. Cosby sexually assaulted and traumatized women, and you’re worried about his honorary degrees. OK.
Seriously, though—what does it matter? Why? Real questions. While Bill was preaching the politics of responsibility on television and in speaking engagements, he was preying on women, drugging them and sexually assaulting them. While he was creating Fat Albert, he was ruining the lives of women. But the lives of women don’t matter, right? Not when the sanctity of a pillar of black excellence is on the big stage!
Why do his image (which he created) and the money he used in abundance for good causes get to be part of the conversation about him now? Why do conversations exist that include “But Bill did a lot for black folks!” even after saying, “He raped that woman ... ”?
This isn’t the system railroading him. Bill railroaded himself. He actively participated in his own downfall, one that I’m pretty sure he never saw coming. But the times they are a-changin’, and some justice is being exacted. And yet some of you want to point out his television programs as an example of a positive black man for the young people. So? He was able to creatively portray a good man. When he wasn’t judging us, he was playing a role model on television and simultaneously pissing all over the moral high ground he sought by being a terrible human being and using his power and influence to get away with it.
But we want to talk about Little Bill and The Cosby Show and donations to the Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College. They were important, no doubt. But now you know what you know, so the question becomes, “At what cost?” And why defend this man right now? Why are we so protective of his legacy? His legacy stands in direct conflict with his actions.
I know. I’ve said it: All of our faves are problematic. And that’s true. So many of the folks we exalt are failures as human beings. Very few have existed in the air of Cosby, though. Cosby played the respectability-politics game to belittle and judge our community. Even if there were some truth in some of the things he said, context is everything. Cosby’s elitism grew teeth, and he bit right into whoever looked the part; meanwhile, he’s been out here rapin’ everybody.
Let’s also address this issue about white men not being served justice for doing the same thing: THEY DESERVE TO BE TRIED AND CONVICTED, TOO. Does the racial imbalance mean that if those white men don’t see justice, then Cosby shouldn’t, either? What’s that shit about? They all need to be tried in a court of law. When white folks get pulled over by the police, I don’t want them to get shot. I want black folks not to get shot by the police. There needs to be equitable treatment. So I agree that folks like Harvey Weinstein need to see their day in court. Like Cosby.
And further, what exactly are you holding on to with Cosby? Your childhood? The good memories? They’re tainted. If he sexually assaulted your mother, would you care that you watched The Cosby Show every week? Of course you wouldn’t. Or your sister or auntie or whomever. Of course not. You’d want him to be put in jail. Yet when it comes to the larger community and people we don’t see—just names—it doesn’t matter; they’re trying to take Cosby’s legacy from him. They should take his legacy. Whoever “they” are, they can have it.
The saddest part of all this is the constant reminder that a lot of y’all—men and women—don’t love women (especially black women) as much as you think you do or say you do. I don’t think many people think about that at all. If you did, Cosby’s legacy wouldn’t even be a consideration; it would have died when you read that deposition. Of course, you’d have had to read it before being pissed that he was convicted for something he admitted to doing.
Sometimes you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.