Right now, comedian Bill Cosby is causing his millions of fans to have some serious cognitive dissonance issues.
No one wants to believe that someone they idolized isn’t who they thought they were. A lot of folks think Cosby is being picked on; a man beset on all sides by predatory women determined to take him down with their sexual assault allegations.
I even have one friend who thinks it’s some kind of liberal conspiracy to punish him for telling young Black men to pull their pants up. Seriously.
But while at one time I would have been surprised and dismayed by the idea of Cosby as bully, those days are long gone for me.
You see, once upon a time, I worked in the Office of News Communication at Temple University. I was the media liaison for the College of Education, which meant that I spent a lot of time trying to get professors to understand that the best way to keep those grant dollars flowing is to make sure that the folks who gave you the money see the project they financed on the news.
Because Cosby is a member of Temple’s Board of Trustees, and one of its most famous alumni, it was a pretty high profile event whenever he did anything with the College of Education.
I would never say whether I think he did what he is being accused of, because I have zero qualification to do so, but I will say this.
I understand why those women were terrified to come forward. And you should know the truth too.
They say "never meet your heroes," and this adage fits far too well with Temple University's most famous alum.
There is a wide heartbreaking schism between the brilliance of Bill Cosby the man and the brilliance of Cliff Huxtable, the "Cosby Show" fictional patriarch. Again and again, I saw Cosby throw his weight around to underlings who had no choice but to comply and repeatedly bully and threaten people who gave him no reason to. Not to mention the fact that like he has done in recent days, he tried to aggressively control and censor the press coverage surrounding him.
When I remember how a colleague of mine nearly broke down in tears after long days of being ordered around and yelled at Cosby (she could not speak out, as going against the Board of Trustees, a university's "royalty" can cost you your job), I can easily understand why the women who are telling their stories now never told them to the police. It’s one thing to be sexually assaulted. It’s another thing entirely to be sexually assaulted in a courtroom in front of a live audience by a flotilla of high-powered lawyers paid for by the man who assaulted you in the first place.
Sexual assault is that place where sex and violence intersect. It’s a murky area populated with a lot of topics and phrases like “respectability politics” and “issues of consent” that we’d rather not deal with.
Because of this, rape goes grotesquely under reported. According to the Department of justice, out of 100 rapes, the police will only be told about 40.
Of those 40 reported rapes, the victims in only 10 of these cases will see an arrest.
Of that 10, only eight victims will get their day in court.
Of that eight, only four will see trials that lead to a felony conviction...and...
Of these four convictions, only three rapists will see a day in jail.
The odds are already bad for your getting justice. Adding money and power just makes them longer.
If you've never interacted with Cosby and seen how he treats human beings when he's not on camera, I understand the willingness to give Cosby a benefit of the doubt.
But let's look at that.
These accusations are not new. And the one that cost Cosby money, the one that would have led to about 13 women testifying in court, came from a former Temple employee.
Andrea Constand filed a lawsuit against Cosby in 2005 for a 2004 sexual assault the Montgomery County (Pa.) District Attorney refused to prosecute. Once she decided to sue in civil court, 13 women who said Cosby sexually assaulted them as well were prepared to testify to their experience in civil court. Cosby ended up settling the suit.
I just hope that anyone who is busy discrediting Cosby's accusers for "not coming forward earlier" understands why it was so difficult to do so. Our culture is changing. The culture that exists now -- a more transparent, all-inclusive social media driven culture that led comedian Hannibal Buress to even feel able to bring rape accusations up on stage against Cosby -- did not exist years ago.
This is not some grand conspiracy by White women to bring down a Black man or liberals who want to bring down a Black man willing to take other Blacks to the woodshed. Constand’s suit was filed in 2005, which predates Cosby’s “Black Kids, Pull Up Your Pants” tour. He was able to do that with a straight face despite the allegations. The “America’s Dad” image was maintained.
So please stop.
If anyone was powerless here, it was the women who are now speaking out.