Ta-Nehisi Coates has a great piece up today on Bill Cosby and those in the black community who have defended him amidst rape allegations from over 50 women (I’ve written about Bill Cosby in the past here and here). Coates does a marvelous job of drawing the parallels between the language and power that’s habitually employed to harm, silence and dismiss victims of systemic racial violence and that being used by Cosby’s supporters in response to his victims and critics.
It’s also a great piece because it lifts up the idea that ‘victim’ and ‘oppressor’ are not constant titles, but rather shift from issue to issue. And that to demand justice for yourself without demanding it for others — is really nothing more than a demand to join the privileged class.
It is always particularly painful to see those who have been victimized by a habitual looking away to then turn around and do it themselves. But what it illustrates is that the line between victim and victimizer is largely circumstantial. There was always some number of black men who invoked Trayvon Martin’s name simply because he was a black male, simply because it could have been them. “It could be me” is a fine starting place for confronting the evils of the world, but a really poor conclusion. If no broader theory of sympathy and humanism emerges beyond one’s mean particularism, then all we really are left with are tribalism and power.
You can read the whole piece here.