Accountability

More Thoughts on Bill Cosby…

Newly released court documents reveal that in 2005 Bill Cosby admitted to having sex with Andrea Constand after drugging her. In light of this new information, a reader reached out for my thoughts on what this meant for Bill Cosby and his legacy.

“…The Cosby Show has been taken off of the Bounce Network and TV Land. A professorship named after him at Spelman was suspended. Cosby resigned from the Board of Trustees at Temple. There is even a movement to remove his star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Do you think his actions, which in some people’s opinions range from just disgusting to rape, erase the good work he has done? Is it possible to separate the two?…”

Some thoughts;

First, in a literal sense, of course this doesn’t ‘erase’ the good work he’s done (whatever that may be) – but his good work is irrelevant to this situation. Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. And despite public acts of charity – we have to remember that this same man repeatedly chose to drug and rape women. With that in mind, the ‘backlash’ is warranted; he should be held accountable for his actions.

And don’t forget – Bill Cosby didn’t want you to separate the public from the private.  His brand revolved around convincing you that the person you saw on camera was the same exact person he was when no one else was watching. America bought it and Bill Cosby was given a pulpit like few other African-Americans have ever enjoyed in this country. And with that pulpit, he decided to criticize and shame poor black people, peddling the idea that black poverty and oppression was the result largely of black depravity. Now, as his own transgressions have finally come to light, it’s only fitting that we hold him to the same standards by which tried to hold others.

At the same time, as I stressed in a previous post, Bill Cosby is merely the headliner. He is a serial rapist in a country full of serial rapists. If the only outcome from all of this is that we scrub Cosby’s image from the public spotlight – we’ll have only gotten it half-correct. We’ll have completely missed out on a chance to look at ourselves and ask why so many women could come forward with allegations of rape and be entirely ignored. Why an estimated 300,000 women a year are victims of rape in this country. Why 80 percent of female college students who have been raped or sexually assaulted do not report it to authorities.

If this latter-half of the conversation doesn’t materialize, if we don’t challenge this toxic culture of rape and assault on Facebook walls and twitter feeds, at dinner tables, and in public spaces – we’ll only see more Bill Cosby’s. That would be a tragedy.

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On Power and the Police

There doesn’t seem to be anyone in the United States without an opinion on the recent events involving police violence against black men. But I have growing concerns with the emerging narrative which paints the police as innocent (and powerless) victims of undue societal backlash. It is critical we understand that this is not, nor has ever been, the dynamic between the police and the general population, and it certainly has never been the dynamic between the police and people of color.

Often when the police are accused of misconduct, any investigation into the matter is the shrouded in mystery, with discipline and reprimand happening behind the closed doors of precinct offices and within police department hierarchies. This means that people die at the hands of the police, and we are left with doubts about whether or not those deaths were justified. But one thing is clear: In the conflicts that ensue between police and citizens (some unarmed), the police are the ones with both the guns, the trust of the public, and the preference of the law on their side. Here is an excerpt from the NYT article about the Darren Wilson case that makes this point: (more…)