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Bill Cosby Doesn't Deserve Black People's Support

Jonathan Tolliver |
December 4, 2014 | 8:00 a.m. PST


Standing up for Bill Cosby right now has to take a lot of work. Nearly 20 women have now accused him of sexual assault. On Wednesday, a woman filed a suit that alleges he forced her to manually stimulate him when she was only 15 years old. 

The public has come to somewhat of a consensus that Mr. Cosby is an unrepentant monster. It’s difficult to imagine all of these women, many with very similar stories, are lying.

READ MORE: Dickinson Accuses Cosby Of Sexual Assault

Under the din of voices calling for him to, at the very least, apologize, are people reminding us that he’s innocent until proven guilty, or wondering why these women didn’t go to the police.

Bill Cosby (Kate Haskell/Creative Commons)
Bill Cosby (Kate Haskell/Creative Commons)
It’s unsettling to me that so many of Cosby's defenders are black. 

To clarify: he has supporters of many different races. He’s drawn especially strong support from white male conservatives who have radio shows. 

I worry that black folks are defending Cosby not because they think he’s innocent, but because there is a completely warranted, deep-rooted fear among many of us that America is constantly trying to destroy our leaders. 

Jill Scott, a gifted R&B singer who writes regularly writes about female empowerment, tweeted her support for Cosby last week.

Jill Scott Tweets (Twitter)
Jill Scott Tweets (Twitter)

Jill Scott Tweets (Twitter)
Jill Scott Tweets (Twitter)

Jill Scott can’t possibly believe these women are all colluding to destroy Bill Cosby’s legacy. Most of them aren’t even filing lawsuits. They would gain virtually nothing. 

The less-respectable-but-still-black comedian Faison Love went so far as to call black Cosby detractors “house niggas.”

Kai EL'Zabar, executive editor of the Chicago Defender, arguably the foremost black newspaper in the country, accused the media of being on a Cosby warlock-hunt. 

Black people aren’t alone in defending beloved artists or political leaders. We’re the most vilified group of people in the country. If you’re constantly being attacked, you get more chances to defend yourself. 

That doesn’t let us off the hook.

The same dynamic played out earlier this year as Ray Rice supporters crept out of the woodwork. Once again, shameful people of all races spewed defensive rhetoric. 

Julian Long, a writer at TheNegroLobby.com, seethed in a piece published by the Washington Post, “Brothers, recognize what’s wrong and stand up for what’s right.”

Long was asking black men to speak out against domestic violence, not sexual abuse, but the message resonates in the Cosby case, too. Reflexively defending a monster because the monster looks like you is cowardly. 

Adrian Peterson (Mike Mozart/Creative Commons)
Adrian Peterson (Mike Mozart/Creative Commons)
I feel the same way about Adrian Peterson, Chris Brown, R. Kelly and any other very powerful person who gets a pass. All three men faced court, but they’ve all pressed on with lucrative careers. 

Brown and Kelly both wrapped themselves in the loving arms of the black community during their trials.  No one would be surprised if Peterson does the same.

Let’s also point out that all of the people receiving support from our community are men. This impulse can be traced back to an era where black men were routinely stopped in the street and killed in front of large crowds in a public display of barbarity.

Unfortunately Darren Wilson won’t face trial.

READ MORE: #Ferguson And #BlackLivesMatter Illustrate How James Baldwin's Words Resonate More Than 25 Years After His Death

All not-even-really-jokes aside, some loud black voices let Bill Cosby and men like him off the hook because they’re avatars for all of our justified bitterness toward this country. Cosby comes to represent our struggle. We can’t let them take another one. 

That’s sick, though. 

It’s looking very likely that Bill Cosby drugged and raped a lot of women. A lot. One would be too many. 

Letting our desire for a just country blind us to the inhumanity of that behavior is cruel at best. These women lead real lives. 

Victims of sexual assault carry those moments to their graves. They have trouble sleeping. They battle addiction. They’re never the same. 

We all know women who have been raped. Black women in particular face higher rates of sexual assault. Attacks against them are also more likely to go unreported. 

In the spirit of those women that you know, and in the spirit of being a humane person, stop defending Bill Cosby.

Contact Contributor Jonathan Tolliver here; or follow him on Twitter.




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