I’ve been relatively MIA on the whole Bill Cosby rape allegations issue. Mostly because, as heartbreaking as it is to hear the dozens of stories of abuse and manipulation pour out, I’m not surprised. The insurgent pockets of doubt or victim blaming come as no surprise me either.
When I wrote about Ray Rice over the summer, I made it clear that Rice was never really the issue, domestic violence was. The same goes here. Bill Cosby is a serial rapist in a country that has many serial rapists. He may be today’s poster child, but he is not alone. Wyatt Cenac talked about this a little in a stand-up set a few weeks ago:
We can be mad at Cosby, but let’s take this s— further, because we live in a country … [that’s] done pretty well by rape,” Cenac said. “We live in a country where in 31 states, a rapist has parental rights and parental claim on a child that they conceived out of rape. Thirty-one states out of 50. That’s not all the states you hate. That’s some of the ones you like…
Ta-Nehisi Coates makes a similar point:
It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn’t just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things.
Bill Cosby has been a fixture of the successful Black-American narrative for some 40 years. White families across the country whose feelings about blacks were ambiguous at best wouldn’t have minded at all if the Huxtables had moved in next to them. And many black families wanted so bad to BE them. Bill Cosby’s rare place of esteem in whitewashed popular American culture is what pushed many to ignore years of allegations and give him the benefit of the doubt for so long. No one wanted to believe that Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable was capable of such things.
But he was and so many more are. We need to stop being so damn surprised and start being more vigilant.