Bill Cosby is all the wonderful things his daughters said: “Civil rights activist, advocate for children, philanthropist, talented entertainer” — and a rapist. These descriptions will never be mutually exclusive.
Bill Cosby’s daughters, Erinn and Ensa, appeared on the New York radio show The Breakfast Club this week — and tried to make their father look look like a good guy. “I strongly believe my father is innocent of the crimes alleged against him, and I believe that racism has played a big role in all aspects of this scandal,” Ensa said. “My father has been publicly lynched in the media.”
It gives me happiness to know that Bill Cosby was able to provide a sheltered and privileged environment for his daughters to live in. One where they can be so out of touch with reality. They appear to have a strong family unit — and they are going to need it, as any family would when a loved one is going through a criminal proceeding. So when I listened to Erin and Ensa Cosby’s statements this week, I wondered, “what does this have to do with the young black millennials who tune in to The Breakfast Club for ratchetness? What do you want from me?”
In depositions, Cosby confessed to purchasing quaaludes with the intention of drugging women before sex. There are paid settlements and non-disclosure agreements. What assessment about Cosby’s character am I supposed to make from that? As a person of color, I rebuke the idea that I need the same court system which refuses to try cops for murder of black and brown people to tell me whether or not Bill Cosby raped anyone. With 58 accusers, this is bigger than a sexual misunderstanding — this is a pattern. Cosby, yes, like Donald Trump, and many men, used his power and influence to do harm. There is verified proof that Bill Cosby participated in the rape culture which plagues this country, and therefore Bill Cosby should never be considered the victim.
The Breakfast Club is syndicated in more than 30 African-American communities and on REVOLT TV. There was no better place to release the sisters’ audio statements if you are trying to get the attention of young blacks. Cosby is headed to trial next month, and apparently the Cosbys believe that he is entitled to more than just familial support. Perhaps Erinn and Ensa are hoping to remind black people of the national treasure that was Bill Cosby. The advocate for social change, the educator, the philanthropist. All true. But there are at least 58 people with a very different opinion of him, and they are entitled to share that, too.
People like me who grew up watching the Cosby Show, we are reaping the benefits of his endowments and scholarship foundation donations, but we have abandoned Cosby. And I don’t feel one way or the other about that. We were the ones who, when they took reruns of Cosby off the air, shrugged in unison and hung our heads in shame, and then moved on to Blackish, which has no suspected criminals in its cast.
We know Bill Cosby is all the wonderful things his daughters said: “Civil rights activist, advocate for children, philanthropist, immensely talented innovative entertainer” — and a rapist. These descriptions will never be mutually exclusive, and we are sophisticated enough to understand that. We are also smart enough to know that our court system is due for real reform. We are the first generation to teach our kids that consent can be revoked at any time. My clothing does not give you the right to approach me, and I do drugs at my choice and leisure. So Bill Cosby will never be cool with us.
Yes, Our society has evolved. Gone are the days of a double life, or at least it has become more difficult for celebrities to hide their criminal habits. We expect the people who entertain us and who we financially support to fall in line with our moral values, and that is our right as consumers. The black experience has become so diverse, and there are so many Black Americans in a position of privilege and leadership, we no longer have to accept questionable behavior from our leaders. We have choices. So, Cosbys: If you want to have young Black America collectively behind you, you must be worthy. You must be morally qualified.
Erinn and Ensa, your time would be well spent if you continued some of the good your father has admittedly taught you. I could get behind these sisters if they spent their time trying to further his legacy with acts of compassion. Instead, it sounds as if they are making excuses and shifting the blame to us for publicly shaming him. If Cosby is the agent of change and Civil Rights he claims, you all would be silent, and not grasping on to the myth of innocence you pretend this country affords you.
It is time for the Cosby sisters to start evaluating the world we live in, our expectations of leadership and the challenges faced by women who have been raped. They should familiarize themselves with the way men of power silence victims’ voices and exploit the legal system to avoid jail time. In order to do this, it is also time for them to stop shining their privilege in our faces.