Be sure your sins will find you out : Cosby, Rapists, Sexism and Racism

Posted: November 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

When I grew sensible I used to fear the text “…be sure your sins will find you out” (Num 32:23). You see like many I too have skeletons in my closet and I know this text to be true!
So here we are at the allegations against Cosby. His skeletons are falling out the closet daily and we are tripping on them. According to legend many have known about Cosby’s extra interests and many know he is your typical narcissistic power tripper.

I write this not to add more shame, blame or defaming but to have a conversation that I seem to be cyclically stuck in for weeks now. In particular mostly my male friends are reluctant to believe “Dr. Heathcliff Huxtible” could be a rapist. Mostly because the character played on TV was in our minds flawless. Others disbelieve because they have had or their “boy” has had some encounter with a lying woman. So the convo has too quickly become about victim credibility. While the amount of accusers seem overwhelming, the piece hardest for them to reconcile is the timeline. I hear comments like “why now?” “how come they took so many years to come forward?” “they are just trying to take him down”, other comments I won’t repeat based on the harshness.
My shortest retort has been–unless you have experienced rape you cannot hope to explain how somebody should deal with it and when they will speak about it.

Man vs. Icon
It is never easygoing when an icon meets reality. The human can never hope to be as awesome as the iconization they benefited from. In Cosby’s case the icon Bill Cosby was the cat’s meow. He has had a number of firsts in Comedy, TV and Film and has opened doors for many black actors and comedians in America. Arguably without a Cosby on TV there would not have been numerous other blacks on TV.

Further, products like the Cosby Show were culture-changing. For while critics and critiques would argue that Cosby Show did not portray realistic “black life” in the America they knew, back on a medium sized island in the Caribbean sea a girl watching the Cosby show whose only plan was to finish high school had a seed planted that –more was possible. Certainly if that message reached her surely it reached many more. This in mind, it is clear why hearing that such an icon may be a horribly flawed human is hard to digest. The man Bill Cosby for whatever reasons–power tripping, psychosis or other has smashed into the icon head on. In this new age of immediate technological impact icons can be de-frocked/stripped within days or weeks. Now laying bare before us are fragments some parts man some parts icon.

Rape is no Joke
For one of America’s funny men to allegedly engage is rape/assault acts is no laughing matter.
The success of rapists has always been advanced by silence. However it is never easy to break the silence. Practically every rape victim is disbelieved or worst yet blamed. Have you heard questions like “why was she at his hotel room though?”, “why didn’t she fight back?”, “why didn’t he use his natural power to get out of it?” “Where is their rape kit?”. These very questions and judgement keep the victim silent. The rapist depends on this reaction. In instances where they are not assured of the silence they ramp up their twisted game. It is not unlike a rapist to intimidate, use shame, use vulnerabilities against the victim, threaten the victim or their loved ones, use their gender dynamic to impact the victim, threaten exposure or pay to secure the silence (once a victim takes a settlement society judges them as having lied and possessing other motives). In this instance the rapist is the expert. For these reasons and more a victim is less likely to come forward because they seem to have more to lose than the rapist. So don’t be surprised if it takes some people a lifetime to admit to the assault! Know that daily they have lived and suffered with it, they have weighed how people will react and dig and criminalize them and then some.
Here is something to consider–apparently less than 10% of rape accusations are false (multiple sources including the FBI, other sources project higher rates but they also think when a rape victim withdraws a claim they were lying). So why are so many people inclined to think the accuser is lying. A real lie about rape has to be hard because a victim of any crime tends to recall details that a lie would show up. I suggest sexism or gender norms plays a major role in the rape culture we have and the reaction a rape victim endures. We quickly pool together all we know about both parties and a believability quotient emerges based on our relationship to sexism and how much of an icon one party is.

Does Racism play a role here?
Is the ocean salty??
Let us look at what we know for sure– Bill Cosby a black male is being accused of rape or other sexual violations by mostly white females.
-The accusations are playing out in mass media, the spaces most inclined to the vilification of blacks.
-The black community does not know if they should believe in a falling icon or fight the system on splaying our dirt for all to see or call out the hypocrisy seen when the accused is non-black/brown.
-Surely we know rape is horrible but do we abandon hero-worship knowing his fall will set us all back?

Racism has a lot to do with this! It shapes how each person responds as accusers come forward and it shapes the narrative about Cosby in media.
One of my favourite lines from Lauryn Hill’s Superstar may be instructive here
“Just as Christ was a superstar, you stupid star, They’ll hail you then they’ll nail you, no matter who you are, They’ll make you now then take you down, And make you face it, if you slit the bag open and put your pinky in it, then taste it”

The Cosby take down speaks to these lyrics on levels– he ate his own jello pudding! He forgot how insidious white supremacy is, he probably does not think it exists since he “surpassed his race”. He surpassed it soo much that he was spending his spare time chastising and reprimanding the other blacks–the ebonic talking, pants down, single parent, keeping up with the Jones blacks! When he was publicly shaming us he probably never recalled that the pendulum swings both ways.
Is he the first celebrity to face these allegations? Nope! But he will be among the few who has their allegations handled in these ways. He may have been shielded all this time by celebrity status or privilege bought from gatekeeping but something shifted and he now like the other blacks is unprotected from facing the music.

Is he guilty? He may very well be! Will we know for sure? Probably not! The statute of limitations may have run out on all the accusers so there will likely be no day in court. Meanwhile in the court of twitter and other public opinion Cosby has been experiencing his trial and the consequences as per society (loss of Netflix series and NBC pullout and TVLand pulling the Cosby Show). Coincidentally all the black stars are being punished while the networks will move on to the next flavour until such time as is deemed necessary.
Some questions which linger for me:
1)Why hasn’t Cosby filed slander suits?
2) With statute of limitations run out what do we think women can gain from coming out now except the regular thoroughfare of criminalizing the victim?
3) With such an extensive career and impact why haven’t there been equal parts celebrities and Cosby kids coming forward to defend Cosby’s character?
4) With the ferocity of allegations why does Cosby still think his lawyers’ advice of no comment is still sufficient?
5) Who will come forward next??

As I post I know I don’t have answers but I am too aware of how rape culture and racism are intersecting. I am also too aware that the game play on display is beyond uncomfortable it is sad…


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