As a collective, black people are no strangers to sexual assault as a vindicating force to domestic terrorism. Sexual assault allegations that engendered the lynchings that ornament our past and present. We are also not strangers to how a racist society employs hyper-sexuality to stain the legacies of black greatness from Sam Cooke to Michael Jackson.
Nevertheless, the racist mythos that bound us to branches where we were mutilated and tortured before murdered remains how many within the black collective have come to see themselves.
I know that I am not saying anything new with the statement that I just made. However, it is hard not to be shocked, disappointed, and heartbroken at the social portrait earlier this week which conveyed just how indoctrinated the black collective is in anti-blackness.
From celebrating the transition from one racist to another, basking in the hollow symbolism of a woman who made a career of criminal offenses against the black community, censuring the release of a black man on the grounds of “me too,” to calling for Phylicia Rashad to be fired, it is evident that the present moment elucidates a culmination of centuries of systemic abuse.
The black individual is no more American than their African ancestors. Yet, a large faction of African-descended peoples have become completely immersed in the American ideology to their detriment.
It is painful to think that a few decades ago, those who took to the social media streets to censure Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad would have been the same folks in the lynching crowd smiling at the mutilated corpse of a black man murdered for similar role in American mythos and calling for the same thing to be done to Ms. Rashad.
Upon reflecting on the disturbing performative gestures that decorate the last year, I find myself asking the very question that black arts poet and playwright Sonia Sanchez placed as the title of one of her plays: “uh huh, how do it free us?”
How exactly does it free us as a people to incarcerate Bill Cosby based she whose words has engendered the deaths of countless black men? How does it free us to join the chorus of the African-adjacent who call for Ms. Rashad’s resignation in hopes of filing the position with someone not of African desent?
In fact this chorus of systemic affect conveys a lucid portrait of cognitive bondage where the oppressed perform acts of enslavement they’ve been conditioned to perceive as freedom. There are few sights as atrocious than an oppressed people holding their collective feet to the fire that burned their ancestors alive and what engendered their very existence.
I mean here that we as a collective would not be in existence if it were not for rape. Our last names are not just of our abductors, but those who, bearing a red, white, and blue “pill” raped their way into the bloodlines of an abjected people.
While my claims may seem adjacent to the Cosby trial, convincing those physically and socially raped into a subordinate social and systemic position that they are the problem constitutes a defining victory for white supremacy.
Domestic terrorism has too many saying “me too” to white women trying to preserve their conjugal sanctity whiling honing their power to incite murder and social death, and not Phylicia Rashad— a black woman who has yet to defile or disgrace blackness in image or concept with any role taken in a career that spans decades.
Additionally, it is the essence of psychological warfare to lead anyone to believe that this trial and social lynching was solely about Bill Cosby as an individual. Yes, it is about staining a legacy, and yes, it is about rebranding “America’s dad” as he who foments America’s sin. However, it is moreso about deeming black sexuality as intrinsically violent in the same way that blackness in itself is, under an anti-black gaze, is often perceived as “loud” and gauche.”
Niggerizing the black people is the tried and tested way to make the collective a national scapegoat, all the while creating a social environment that crucifies those who dare to articulate a stance against the bamboozlement of a white world. See, niggerization was never about calling us “nigger.” Instead, the social concept that befell both Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad elucidates a consummated niggerization where the white world hones epistemological control over what black people think about one another and foments anxiety around blacks in powerful positions.
An anxiety where blacks in said positions are to be seen and not heard and not to ruffle the feathers of white comfort. An anxiety that requires blacks in said spaces to place cowardice where true leadership places courage. While Rashad’s act may seem inappropriate to many and insensitive to others, much of this response is an aversion to true leadership. Refusing to be silent, Rashad raised the bar as leaders should; namely, being unafraid to voice an unpopular opinion where disagreement and character assassination are default retaliation.
Simply put, Rashad is not to be black in a black space; she is to be the black face of white power and choose a gender founded on her exclusion over the race. When both she and Bill Cosby were black faces of white success, or “American” values, they were a staple in households across the nation. As black people that reflect the systemic ugliness cast onto black people, they are a social inconvenience that reminds us that the world has not changed anything but its methodology.
A world where Kanye West’s incendiary phrase “slavery is a choice” is as horrific and generationally devastating as slavery itself. A world where it is no longer the Florida town that turned a blind eye to Ruby McCollum as a rape survivor, or the Mississippi Town that took a vow of silence in the “white lie” used to vindicate Emmett Till’s murder, but Rashad who bears a promise to turn a blind eye to the needs of a predominately black student body.
As I write these words, the phrase, “you cannot make this up” comes to mind as I attempt to access the damage of the present moment; however, as this country shows us time and time again, you can.
Furthermore, what the Cosbys show us in their contemporized form is that cognitive bondage is not merely the inability to distinguish the truth from a lie—it is in having no desire to do so. It is to completely surrender to the mercy of a supremacy that gloats in its ability to conflate morality with its social and systemic mutilation.