THE DEFAMATION OF BILL COSBY: BLACK COMMUNITIES AND RAPE CULTURE

by Emmanuel Agu

In the three years since the origin of Black Lives Matter campaigning- we as a people have plenty to be thankful for.

Amongst the continuous protests against non-indictments of cops who slaughter us; despite being refused entry to the venues that play our music and profit from our culture, we have made progress.

The movement only gains further ground each day: the suffering of our people is openly documented for all to see, and pioneering individuals in the movement are meeting with possible presidential candidates. The most important achievement of the movement lies in the renewed energy within a generation. Though it is often exhausting hearing the same harrowing accounts; to continuously explain valid theory and personal lived experiences to voices that will attempt to silence you- I am firm in the belief that the only way we can initiate radical change within structured oppression is through continuous and accessible discourse.

I was incredibly disheartened to see such an aggressive defense of patriarchal norms and propagation of rape culture.

Amongst the progression in narrative: last year also documented the graceless fall of comedian Bill Cosby- previously honored with the epithet of “America’s dad” in clear and open view for all to see. Currently, allegations spanning over ten years from at least fifty-one individual women, depict vile corruptions of a mentor-mentoree relationship, drugging and physical force- often followed by Cosby leaving money for his victims. Though Bill Cosby has had a long history of sexual assault with multiple out of court settlements (there’s a full Wikipedia page devoted solely to it, with accusations beginning in 1965), I was incredibly disheartened to see such an aggressive defense of patriarchal norms and propagation of rape culture.

Damon Wayans attempted to undermine the validity of the accusations as the victims were clearly “un-rapeable, Faizon Love claimed these accusations were a conspiracy to distract us from the Charleston shootings, and insults other prominent black men speaking out against Bill Cosby as ‘House Niggas’ and “porch monkeys”. Similarly Jill Scott once defended Cosby, in spite of the 40 women who testified against him–  it wasn’t until the word of testimony of Cosby himself she decided to retract her support. This support of course extends far past celebrities- one quick web search can direct you to a selection of YouTube conspiracy videos or websites keen to educate you white societies’ plans to dethrone our black heroes.

The extra dimension of pain comes with the misdirection of racism to uphold the subjugation of women.

To say that this happens more in the black community, than anywhere else is, of course intrinsically racist. Roman Polanski won his Oscar to a standing ovation in 2003, despite being found guilty of statutory rape of a 13-year old girl (and is still evading extradition to the united states after fleeing his formal sentencing). Terry Richardson continues to direct and shoot multimedia influential to pop culture despite unresolved accusations of sexual misconduct with underage models. And most remarkably, popular culture’s frequent veneration of John Lennon and everything his hands have touched – though his history of domestic abuse is well documented. The extra dimension of pain comes with the misdirection of racism to uphold the subjugation of women.

In critically understanding societal norms and highest ideals, we often analyze the figures and heroes revered in both fictional, and non-fictional characters of the past. Were we to analyze classical literature and society and dissect the norms of mythological heroes, (notably the Iliad or Aeneid) – inspirational protagonists depicted are frequently men who have achieved a great level of stature by overcoming insurmountable obstacles that would seem unachievable to the average mortal man. In their often superhuman displays rage; uninhibited carnal desire or often frequent extensions of what can only be perceived as patriarchal entitlement: these men freely massacred those in their path, taking and raping women whimsically as their battle prizes and committing various other atrocities. For classical audiences and modern audiences there discrepancies in moral frameworks – some of these acts were expected norms for the original receiving audiences: but in other cases the sheer heroic qualities and acts demonstrated, or the divine lineage of these characters is enough to protect them from facing consequences for the actions.

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Triumphant Achilles by Franz von Matsch

Why is it in the thousands years of history that have passed, the same cultural norms are repeated?

Yes, I respect that Bill Cosby isn’t a famed warrior dipped into the River Styx – but comparisons can be still be drawn. Cosby (arguably) deserved fame and wealth for his talent and business acumen – and of course achieving this in spite of the society that discriminates those of darker skin has gained him increased notoriety within black sub-cultures.  Raping, sexual assault and domestic abuse can never negate the achievements nor the talent of the accused and convicted heroes – but adulation of these talented characters regardless of their flaws is something that I cannot stand. At what point does talent and notoriety supersede our personal moral principles?

If we are able to proclaim that black lives matter, should all black lives not matter?  We are able to inundate social media with #SayHerName changing various pictures to Sandra Bland’s face to protest the non-indictment of police officers- keen to expose the fact the state actively protects its white citizens, but why is it that we cannot extend this same logic to men within our own black communities? Especially when faced with a long track record of accused behaviour, previous out of court settlements or plain upfront video evidence.

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( Left to Right R.Kelly and Erykah Badu © VH1 )

Similarly, R.Kelly was recently welcomed back to perform at B.E.T soul train awards; a platform created to give black people recognition when a white society would otherwise exclude them – but what message are we sending to our black women when we happily welcome a child molester on such a platform? just because R.Kelly didn’t go to jail doesn’t magically negate the fact that there is video evidence of him urinating on minors- the law remains to clearly an extension of the means of protecting the privileged.

What good is a ‘liberated’ black community if it just echoes patriarchal, hetero-normative white society it was freed from?

Featured Image: Bill Cosby © Thewrap.com

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