As ugly allegations continue to surface about comedian Bill Cosby, I choose not to see things in absolutes. I refuse to stop giving him credit for providing wonderful lessons for kids on the show “Fat Albert.” I’ve never been one to believe that a celebrity can do no wrong, Cosby included. I still think Clair and Cliff Huxtable represented the greatest couple in the history of television. I still think Bill Cosby is both a jerk and a genius. I will always thank him for giving millions to HBCUs, when men like Dr. Dre refused to give a dime. To me, Bill Cosby is neither a demon nor a saint. He’s just a brilliant, modestly-funny, sometimes-detached, philanthropic old man who might have raped women and probably thinks way too much of himself.
So, the point here is that my views on Cosby have always been deliberately mixed, partly so I could avoid the temptation of buying into false imagery created from Jello Pudding pop commercials, and also because I know a modern day lynching when I see one. Yes, the Cosby attacks appear to be too consistent and orchestrated for me to believe that it’s all happening by chance. Almost every single day, the media delivers a new accuser to the public like the UPS guy dropping off a package from Amazon Prime. Someone clearly wants to destroy him.
To say that Cosby is being metaphorically lynched by the American public doesn’t mean that he’s innocent.
Instead, it reminds me of the overzealous manner by which whites have always responded to crimes (alleged or otherwise) against black men. Many of the men who’ve been lynched in the past might have actually broken the law, but like Cosby, they were often prosecuted by the court of public opinion rather than in the court of law. Evidence was replaced by speculation, and white supremacy allowed some people to feel that they didn’t need a conviction, trial or evidence to behave as if the allegations were true.
Anyone familiar with the incidents involving Tiger Woods and OJ Simpson understands how the American public can so readily believe the black man to be an insatiable predator, unable to control his impulses, particularly around beautiful white women. It’s no coincidence that Tiger, OJ and Cosby are all accused of harming white females. Had their alleged “victims” been black, the media would have barely covered the story. Other prominent men, including former president Bill Clinton, have also been accused of sexual assault, but the last time I checked, Bill Clinton was an American hero.
As I watched an old 1964 stand-up routine by Cosby, I tried to retrace the steps of his life. I went back to his birthday in 1936 and imagined every decade, when he was in his 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond. I thought about his age relative to the ages of the alleged victims. I thought about his beautiful wife Camille and how he progressed into the man he is today. I thought about his daughters and how they must feel to hear about these horrible things their father might have done to other women.
In my reflections on Cosby, I wondered why this 40-something year old millionaire with a beautiful, classy, intelligent wife was spending so much time with white girls who were young enough to be his daughter. All of this started in the 1960s, when black men were being sent to prison for barely touching a white woman, let alone assaulting her. Many of these women were on drugs, and some of them maintained relationships with Cosby long after he allegedly assaulted them in their sleep. Most rape victims don’t really do that sorta thing. I doubt that hardly any of these women would have spent any time around a big black man if it weren’t for all of the money in his wallet.
What was Bill thinking?
Before all of these allegations came to light, I’ve always thought of Cosby as the cranky old grandfather who says things you don’t want to hear because he loves you. Even when he was attacked heavily for his remarks about black people back in 2004, I didn’t dismiss his credibility entirely, because some of those things we needed to hear. I am stunned by how there are many liberal commentators can rail off a long list of everything that rich white men are doing to destroy our society, but can’t think of a single thing that poor black people might be doing wrong.
Is it that our culture is superior and perfect, while rich white men are fundamentally flawed? It almost seems that we sometimes get tempted to replace white supremacy with black supremacy, and that’s wrong. Black people screw up too, and Cosby was at least partially right to call it out. You can’t let any ridiculous thing in the black community get a pass just because we’ve been oppressed.
At the same time, Cosby himself appears to have had some serious imperfections himself. By consistently placing himself in compromising situations where anything could happen, he was risking both his future and the well-being of his family. Spending nights in hotel rooms with 19-year old kids is hardly the place to expect a 40 – 50 year old married man to be. The person I’d love to hear from most might be Camille, to see how she feels about all of this. She may see some of these allegations as chickens coming home to roost, as a husband who couldn’t keep his dirt under control. Cheating was allowed in many old school marriages, but sloppy cheating was unacceptable.
As quickly as we can point out what’s wrong with Cosby, we can also point the finger at our society. We still live in a world where a black man is more readily attacked for harming a white woman than he would be for harming a black woman. We are, right now, seeking to ruin and persecute a man who was never convicted and for whom there is no physical evidence. We are attempting to destroy the good things Cosby did for the world because we don’t appreciate the bad. We are allowing maniacle rhetoric on the airwaves from people with long-held beefs with Cosby, who see this fiasco as an opportunity to settle old scores. All of this is wrong, and serves as a reminder of how ridiculous our society can be.
Despite the harshness of the attacks against Cosby, I can’t help but feel that he brought much of this onto himself. For many years, his arrogant, self-righteous, insensitive behavior made people feel that Bill truly believed he was better than the rest of us. He, like OJ and Tiger, had become (what he believed to be) the untouchable chosen negro because he’d been propped up on platforms provided by his oppressor. As the lead character on the show, “House of Cards” once said, “Some mistakenly believe that having proximity to power is the same as actually wielding it.” Cosby, like many other black celebrities who’ve been boosted up by our society, took great pride in sitting on a throne that belongs to somebody else.
The point here is that it’s always dangerous for a black man to base his self-esteem on how many white people seem to love him. The public can turn on you in a second. Keep this in mind as we watch Bill Cosby’s legacy get burned right into the ground.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is one of the the most highly sought-after African American public figures in the United States. He has been a Finance Professor at Syracuse University for 12 years, and was the only African American in the country to earn a Ph.D. in Finance during the year 2002. He is the author of several compelling books, including “What if George Bush were a Black Man?“, “Black American Money: How Black Power can Thrive in a Capitalist Society,” and “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about College.” He is the co-star of the Janks Morton film, “Hoodwinked,” along with Drs. Steve Perry, Marc Lamont Hill, Ivory Toldson and Jawanza Kunjufu. He has also appeared in a slew of national media outlets, including CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and many others. This article is culled from BOSS..
Opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.