In the wake of a judge declaring a mistrial in the criminal case against Bill Cosby, his spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, continued to speak of the entertainment industry behemoth, whose fortune is estimated to be upwards of $400 million, as a victim. Addressing reporters outside the courthouse, Wyatt claimed, “Mr. Cosby’s power is back. It’s back. It has been restored.”
It was only a month ago when Cosby’s daughter, Ensa Cosby, released a statement to the popular syndicated morning radio show, The Breakfast Club, decrying the purported double standard against black men in rape cases, claiming:
How my father is being punished by a society that still believes that black men rape white women that passes off as ‘boys will be boys’ when white men are accused. How the politics of our country prove my disgust. My father has been publicly lynched in the media.
Bill Cosby himself pushed the notion that his race played a role in his criminal trial in a conversation with SiriusXM host Michael Smerconish. In his first public interview in two years, Cosby was asked about his daughter’s assertion that racism played a role in his scandal and answered this way:
“Could be, could be. I can’t say anything, but there are certain things that I look at, and I apply to the situation, and there are so many tentacles. So many different — nefarious is a great word. And I just truly believe that some of it may very well be that.”
Even after it was noted that the women—the number of which has approached 60—who have accused him of raping them have been both black and white, Cosby countered:
“Let me put it to you this way: When you look at the power structure, and when you look at individuals, there are some people who can very well be motivated by whether or not they’re going to work. Or whether or not they might be able to get back at someone. So if it’s in terms of whatever the choice is, I think that you can also examine individuals and situations and they will come out differently. So it’s not all, not every, but I do think that there’s some.”
There it is again: power, specifically the notion that no matter how wealthy you become in this country, your power will be diluted instantaneously if you are black. Last fall, Cosby’s attorney Brian McMonagle noted that the comedian “is no stranger to discrimination and racial hatred.” More recently, McMonagle decried what he called “a systematic exclusion of African-Americans” in the jury pool.
No one with a basic understanding of America’s past and present should be deluded about the realities of systemic racism—especially when it comes to the right to a fair trial and the idea that you should be innocent until proven guilty. Racism is historically tied to accusations of rape, particularly if it involves a black man and a white woman. However, when it comes to power and sexual assault, the system affords men far more sway than women no matter the hue.
When women step forward to accuse men of rape, they must endure an invasive physical exam, are compelled to divulge their sexual history (which is often exploited to soil their reputations), and are further traumatized by having to relive their assault in court. And, more often than not, their rapists are not convicted; in 2013, a Department of Justice study found that only one in 20 rape cases lead to a felony conviction. All of it prompts the question of whether coming forward about a rape and enduring even more suffering is worth it at all.
The justice system is not fair to black people collectively, but in terms of sexual assault, our present system is set up far more favorably for men accused of rape than women who have been raped. In the case of Bill Cosby, a man of great wealth and influence, it is even more favorable. The jurors may have deliberated for 50 hours before ending in deadlock and subsequent mistrial, but the story of how we got here tells us all how easy it was to end this way.
Cosby was sued more than a decade ago by Andrea Constand, and although it did generate headlines like “Bill Cosby Under Fire” at the time, Cosby’s public image took no real damage. Of course, this is not long after Cosby started touring the country and condemning poor black people for not living up to the promise of the civil rights movement. This man was lecturing folks about their apparent bad behavior before going on to settle a suit over allegedly slipping women quaaludes before sexually assaulting them.
He got away with that, too, because he gained monumental fame and wealth selling America a squeaky-clean image of a black man and his perfect nuclear family. So, with respect to power, who really lost theirs? The rich black man who’s been accused of rape by 60 women who just managed to score a mistrial with a deadlocked jury—or one of his victims who took decades to seek justice, and unfortunately, may never see it?
It’s widely agreed upon that this trial likely happened because a black male comedian named Hannibal Burress called Cosby a rapist during a comedy routine and social media users amplified the message, spurring more women to come forward and create demand for a criminal trial. But while the Montgomery County DA has already tweeted that Cosby will face another trial, it’s hard to have hopes for a conviction given the circumstances.
This news comes less than a day after a jury acquitted Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez of all charges in the shooting death of Philando Castile. Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, infamously live-streamed the aftermath of her boyfriend’s death and was a key witness for the prosecution. Yet, despite video evidence and an eyewitness testimony, which described Yanez killing Castile in front of her and her four-year-old daughter, the jury cleared the cop of manslaughter charges.
Castile’s mother, Valerie, said after the trial: “The system continues to fail black people.”
When Cosby, Cosby’s spokesman, Cosby’s lawyer, and Cosby’s daughter speak about racism and the power stripped from black people as a result of it, I think of Philando Castile, not Bill Cosby. Castile was slaughtered in front of two people he loved, but his killer will face no consequences. It is another instance of state-sanctioned violence and another name added to a long list of black people wronged by law enforcement and the justice system.
It is enraging to hear Cosby and his supporters speak about his lack of power because it reeks of delusion and desperation. Philando Castile is a victim. Bill Cosby is not. Their strategy may have swayed the mind’s of some black misogynists, but rational people know better.
For those who would dare suggest that Cosby is a black man wronged by the system in the same way Philando Castile has been, I beg of you to not only listen to reason but recall Bill Cosby’s “Pound Cake” speech.
Using the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision, Cosby said:
Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! Then we all run out and are outraged, “The cops shouldn’t have shot him” What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? (laughter and clapping). I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else (laughter) And I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said if get caught with it you’re going to embarrass your mother. Not you’re going to get your butt kicked. No. You’re going to embarrass your mother. You’re going to embarrass your family.
In the years following these remarks, black men, women, and children have been shot and killed by law enforcement officials for lesser offenses than stealing pound cake, and an overwhelming majority of them have not faced any consequences for their actions. Even so, many of these people—including Castile—committed no crime other than being black. Their sin was provoking a cop’s anti-blackness, and each of their murderer’s exonerations were byproducts of a white supremacist power structure.
That is not a broken justice system; it’s working as it was designed. It was always a system created to uphold white male power at everyone else’s expense, but often makes allowances for men in general—only if it is rooted in the victimizing of women. There are black men who seek equality for all and righteously speak out against racism, and then there are black men who only speak about racism in the name of self-preservation. The latter group of black men don’t care so much about equality as they covet the power and privilege that belong to white men. Bill Cosby is that sort of man.
To defend Bill Cosby now is to defend the right for any kind of man to have their way with any kind of woman. That would include his wife, Camille Cosby, who released a fiery statement describing her husband’s accusers as “totally unethical” and the media “as blatantly vicious entities that continually disseminated intentional omissions of truth for the primary purpose of greedily selling sensationalism at the expense of human life.” She is an enabler, and her invocation of what some are willing to do at the expense of human life is the saddest bit of irony.
Philando Castile has been failed by our justice system because of his race. Bill Cosby is someone who managed to cash into its benefits in spite of it. Rest in peace to Philando, and fuck Bill Cosby and his pathetic exploitation of racism to excuse his own accused predatory behavior.