Bill Cosby: television patriarch, scholar, public figure, philanthropist and now serial date rapist?
Although I am inclined to disbelief, the validity of these claims are irrelevant. The irrelevancy is obtained through the political functioning of these claims. To sully perhaps the most well known television father of a generation with accusations of sexual assault, is a personal attack on the politics of black masculinity.
Thus, the blame of Bill Cosby functions two ways politically: to further dismantle the black male and to uphold the white female as the victim prototype.
The Hue of Honor
Would the allegations of rape be as significant if none none of the victims were white?
Admittedly, this query prompted my initial indifference to whispers of Cosby’s actions. My disinterest was fostered by the reality that the majority of the victims had would have to be white in order to create such a stir. Social constructed as binary opposites, the white woman is the black man’s kryptonite.
The black man-socially constructed as the inevitable aggressor, is inevitably perceived as monstrous when juxtaposed to its socially constructed opposite-the white woman. The white female as the internal victim, is almost mutually exclusive with the culturally cultivated concept of black masculinity. The mutual exclusivity is of course regarding the politics (rather than the personal) of black men and white women, as it is impossible for many to see either as existing beyond these constructs.
Considering the oppositional arragement of black men and white women in society, Cosby’s allegations would not be a scandal had the taboo dynamic of black men and white women not been featured. Had the majority of the victims been of a darker hue, talk of the allegations would simmer down to a slight hum, if prompting a response at all. Model and actress, Beverley Johnson is the most recent of the victims and serves as a diversifying element to the Cosby allegations. Ms. Johnson’s status as an alleged Cosby victim, portrays Cosby as an aggressor of no prejudice. However, had Johnson’s confession come first, her diversity factor would prompt the erasure of her confession. Johnson’s race and gender would cast her among the countless women of color disregarded as sexual assault victims.
The abundance of victims who have come forth following the initial allegations against Cosby are astonishing. The increasing number of victims is a performance in the belief that the initial victim’s confession empowers other sufferers. Interestingly, this performance is not mirrored in the case of another television dad facing similar allegations, Seventh Heaven’s Stephen Collins.
Juxtaposition- Intentional or Accidental?
Despite both being pivotal patriarchal roles in television, Bill Cosby and Stephen Collins share a primal difference: race. While both have suffered their share of public scrutiny, there has been an unusual abundance of support and empathy extended to Steven Collin.
Cosby, on the other hand, is irrevocably labeled a sexual predator. Despite Collins’ confession, some label him a “flasher” rather than the pedophile he inadvertently admitted to being. Collins’ sexual misconduct with underage girls has also warranted the mental illness label typically reserved for white women.
Many have questioned the timing of it all. This query is of inevitable curiosity, as the recent reporting negates the reality that the alleged crimes occurred decades ago. However, it seems to quite purposeful that Cosby’s actions surface at the same time as Collins. Juxtaposed alongside his white counterpart, Collins appears mentally ill, whereas Cosby is depicted as a repeated offender operating with intent and malice.
Interestingly, the allegeations have painted Cosby in a sexually aggressive manner assumed of many black males. So, why is the tainting of Cosby prevalent? While these allegations certainly add Cosby to the list of black men whose person and professional image is constructed then cast down by the media, it is most unsettling in its veiling of gender and racial anxieties.
The Changing Face of Oppression
I do believe that this scandal surfaced when it did to taint Bill Cosby’s legacy. Society allowed Cosby to climb the success ladder, only to tear him down. By allowing Cosby to climb the success ladder, the American Dream appears to be accessible to all. This depicts the historic implication that blacks are undeserving of their liberties, Cosby’s scandal inaccurately paints blacks as the cause of their own downfall. This acts as a distraction from the true face of oppression, depicting even the most pivotal image of black masculinity as a slave to his own untamable sexuality.
In its own way, Cosby’s scandal functions similarly to the murders of Martin, Brown, and Crawford (among many). Cosby’s scandal, like the murders of these young black men, falsely substantiates the fallacy of black man as threats to society, and thereby underserving of fame, fortune or in some cases, life itself.
Whether Cosby ia guilty, innocent or misunderstood- this scandal is so much bigger than him, and much more significant than anything I could ever write.
I don’t know what happened between Cosby and these women. I do know that his role as Phil Huxtable was a positive influence to many in the black community. Clad in his sweaters and stethescope, Phil Huxtable acted as the father and husband some never had, but would spend their whole lives aiming to be. I also know that his piece on skim reading, eased my academic anxieties as an eighteen year old college freshman.
I also know that few blacks who achieve success in the form of fame, fortune and influence, endure their journey unscathed.
To pardon the racial anxieties that have fostered the popularity and credibility of this scandal would be insufferable. As it would overlook yet another act to devalue the black male, and the reality that there is no shot granted by fame, fortune or age that makes an individual immune from the affects of racism.