Women are seen and treated as overly emotional creatures whose hormones are in such a state of constant flux that we can not be trusted to explain precisely what we mean, nor describe with any accuracy what has happened to us. We must have it mansplained to us along with admonitions
to “just calm down.” Couple that with our constant “conflict” with sexuality and the desires of women as women still wrestle for control of our own lives and bodies from our government and our significant others, it should come as no shock that rape and sexual assault accusations remain a tinderbox of confusion, hurt, anger, and a constant battleground.
The saying, “The oppressed have become the oppressors,” has never rang truer than it does now we witness black men lead the charge of protecting someone who has confessed to doing the very thing of which he is accused. The rush to his defense is mired in conversations about an injustice justice system when it comes to people of color, especially African Americans and cries that one is considered innocent until proven guilty; but again, we have legal documents that show that he has admitted to doing, at least, a few times exactly what he has been accused of so what is there to defend? These men want to protect the legacy of Cosby but at what cost? This defense comes at the expense of the women who have endured these assaults.
Social media is riveted with justifications and explanations. Even some of my colleagues here felt the need to come out in the defense of Cosby. The all too familiar “But Statements” have started rolling in. “What he is accused of is detestable, but…,” “His actions are indefensible, but…” So eerily the specter of the race conversation rises in my mind when I hear these comments.
Comparisons have been made to Jared Fogle, Bill Clinton, and Woody Allen. All these complaints are very reminiscent of the black-on-black crime retort that is incessantly thrown up as a counter argument when people-of-color attempt to speak on police brutality. When did we become so eager to be considered on par with the worst behaviors of the white community? I’d say it started in 1995 with what I call the O. J. Simpson Effect. The black community, myself included, cared very little about true justice or the victims of a brutal murder but for once we wanted to see someone who looked like us get away with what had been done to us for centuries. It felt like a moment of equality, but it was a bitter pill for women to swallow—no pun intended.
It was dark commentary on how beaten down we’d become as a community that we salivated for this one “win” in order to feel that we had made it; it kept dreams alive that if we just had enough money that one day we could live a life equal to that of our white counterparts. Sadly, we have learned in the past seven years that we are never immune from racism even if you hold the highest office in the land.
But what I do not hear though are complaints from black men about R. Kelly’s pass or how we are embracing back into the fold Mike Tyson and how we rarely mention that for which Clarence Thomas was accused. None of that can be blamed on white supremacy in the legal arena, but it can show us how we have picked up the habit of Oppressor Syndrome and set out to make it part of our own legacy in an attempt to prove we have reached the mountaintop when really we are just living in the brightly lit slums of our oppressors behaviors.
What this can be partially blamed on though is a long history, especially in the black community of slut-shaming young girls before they have even begun to think about sex. We inundate them with accusations of being fast, which is code for that behavior, that language or that outfit means you are “asking for it,” so that victims tend not to report an attack because they have already been schooled in the many ways that they are to blame for what happened to them. So in shame, fear, and confusion women suffer silently.
In the accompanying interview with actor and comedian Eddie Griffith, he comments on the Bill Cosby accusations, and he states around the 2:10 mark that “the 70’s were a different time.” You know where else I hear that? I hear that from neocons in defense of slave owners that the country still wants us to idolize today as the fathers of our country. As if in the past there was no understanding of basic humanity. So do we accept that slavery and Jim Crow were okay along with accepting the sexual assault of women perpetrated by Cosby because it was a different time? The only difference in the times that I see is that now women are more likely to speak up about the abuses they have suffered. Just as the #blacklivesmatter movement is forging ahead to make changes in how the attacks on black people by LEOs and others in official capacities are seen for what they are, feminists have worked tirelessly for the blame for rape and sexual assault to be placed squarely and solely on the shoulders of the rapists and assaulters. We see the efforts of the movement come to fruition at this crucial intersection. We must understand rape and sexual assault for exactly what it is and the fact that “they went to his room” does not mean “they are down to f***” as the interviewer seems to suggest to in the interview. Whether this is said to draw out the inflammatory comments from Mr. Griffith or in a head nod of understanding, I couldn’t tell you.
The most telling comment from Mr. Griffith for me is the following: “some p**** is supposed to tear that down?” What that says to me is that he thinks, and sadly I know too many other men with the same mentality to dismiss this point as unimportant, that women are just a collection of body parts who exist for a man’s pleasure. You see p**** doesn’t have emotions or say; it has one function and beyond that we shouldn’t care. Everything is superior to p****. It is the term we use to shame men not “man enough” to accomplish some task. It is used to describe something weak and in need of manliness to bring it any meaning or purpose. Once you understand that viewpoint there is very little more needed to understand the mentality of someone who would drug women to use their body. The women are a disposable and unnecessary hindrance to the main objective: getting to the p****.
There seems to be a very specific type of personality that can make it in this world and that kind of mindset often comes with narcissism and an inability to care about what other people want or need. Consider for a moment that any one of these women initially wanted to have to have sex with Cosby. Why would he need to drug them? He drugged them because he didn’t intend to give them a chance to change their minds because what he wanted was paramount to and superseded everything else. But what does a man like Cosby have to fear when he can do something like this only to buy his way out of trouble or frighten his victims into silence? All that does is prove to him that he is truly successful, and it says to those around him that money and power can allow you to behave however you want—carte blanche. After a time, he begins to believe he is untouchable and we start to believe it too. His behavior is validated by his success–success in the public eye and success in not having to pay for his despicable actions all with a chorus of voices willing to defend him despite his confession.
Why are you defending him? Does it feel like treason to say anything negative about a black man no matter how guilty he may be? Take a long hard look at your reasoning before you fill your twitter post with all the hashtags for “the cause.” Maybe, just maybe, you are defending him to put salve on your own past actions or current behaviors, so you don’t have to look too deeply at that man in the mirror.