To be certain, the court of public opinion is a monstrous way to be persecuted or prosecuted. The court of public opinion is a ferocious arena in which facts are often ignored and personal beliefs reign supreme. The catalyst for a mob mentality is as varied as there are humans to imagine them. One of the frustrating things about trying to be an objective person who takes up the cause of rational thought and critical thinking is the manner in which being human means we rarely can agree to disagree.
It is to that end that The Shadow League wades into the deep crater that has resulted from renewed claims that our former favorite television Dad and family friendly comedian Bill Cosby is being called a serial rapist. The very idea is troubling to some, and to this writer, borders on depressing.
Once the pinnacle of celebrity and philanthropy, Bill Cosby’s name might as well be mud today. There are reports that the Cos allegedly drugged multiple women and sexually violated them for over 40 years. The very idea is mind-numbing. To think that one of America’s favorite people may have been behaving like an unchecked predator for decades is indeed sobering and alarming. But that’s exactly what many are alleging has occurred. We were totally unaware of what was going on behind closed doors as we watched him on The Cosby Show, taking pictures with Kodak Polaroid Cameras, feasting on Jell-O Pudding Pops and talking to kids that were saying the darnest things.
I remember when Ennis Cosby was murdered in Los Angeles, CA back in 1997. It was another very good brother that was gone too soon. I empathized with Cosby and felt his pain. Later that year when August Jackson, daughter of former lover Shawn Upshaw, was convicted for attempting to extort $40 million from Bill my initial response was the same as many others of my ilk “That’s good for her ass. They always tryna' keep a good brother down”, ignoring the fact that while the extortion plot may have been real Cosby did admit to paying her mother about $100,000 to keep their former affair a secret.
This fact poked a small pinhole into the life of Cosby. Not to say anyone is above making mistakes, but not the Cos, a man who held himself up as the example of virtue and responsibility among African Americans. Oh, heavens no.
Following that point, there were continuous whispers and persistent rumors regarding Bill’s sexual appetites and private perversions that were belied by the picture perfect public imagery that he had created over the years.
On January 28, 2000 actress Lachelle Covington alleged in a police report filed on February 1st that Cosby groped her in his apartment. No charges were filed. January 2004, former Arizona University women’s basketball player and Temple University assistant basketball coach Andrea Constand brought accusations against Cosby but authorities refused to file charges based on “insufficient credible and inadmissible evidence.” The alleged victim then filed a civil claim in March 2005 and thirteen other women came forward with similar allegations and offered to testify as witnesses on her behalf when the case went to court. But they never had their chance as Cosby and Constand would eventually settle out of court in November 2006. One cannot help but wonder what type of hell would have ensued for Cosby had these women been allowed to tell their stories before a judge. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that he paid this woman off to prevent that. California attorney Tamara Lucier Green then came forward with allegations that Cosby drugged and raped her in back in 1969. Green came forward in 2005 following the realization that prosecutors were unlikely to pursue charges against the comedian. As expected, Cosby’s lawyers denied the accusation and said he doesn’t even know this woman. Later that same year, Beth Ferrier alleged that Cosby drugged her coffee and took advantage of her in 1984 during a 2005 interview in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Despite all of these accusations, people seemed to just sweep them under the rug of their conscious mind as if none of it ever happened, until comedian Hannibal Burress stirred the pot with his standup routine by taking Cosby to task for being hypocritical for his smug and seemingly disrespectful approach toward reprimanding poor Blacks’ parenting and decision-making practices in light of his sordid past filled with a deluge of allegations.
Since that time four other women have come forward claiming that he did similar things to them over the years. The modus operandi is always the same; drugs are slipped into drinks and the victims then wake up, their clothing disheveled, feeling violated. Artist Barbara Bowman, Therese Serginese of Boca Raton, Florida, former model Janice Dickerson (who initially made these claims in an interview back in 2002) and writer Joan Tarshis all made statements against Cosby. And now Carla Ferrigno, wife of one-time actor and body builder Lou Ferrigno, claims Cosby tried to force himself on her at a party back in the day.
As a man in America, I know that we all make mistakes. As a Black man in America I know that often times there are unseen forces operating behind the scenes to exploit certain situations. Black men are targets, yes. But not this Black man. Not the man who made NBC the place to be on Thursday nights in the 80s and 90s.
But critical thinking and reasoning appear to be the last thing on the minds of Cosby apologists.
The hurried manner in which some wish to dismiss these women as money-grubbing opportunists with their eyes on Bill Cosby’s wealth is a slap in the face to women everywhere. There may be a few in this lot who are lying, but to say they’re all lying on Bill is misogyny personified. And what about his standup act back in 1969 in which he spoke of slipping women mickeys? While not incriminating in and of itself, it does create pause for cause. At least in my mind.
For those who are stating “Why is all of this coming out now?”, you have not been paying attention at all. These allegations have been a part of the public record in some way, shape or form for almost 20 years. Instead of asking why the allegations are being made now perhaps you should be asking yourself why you so readily forgot them in the first place. The conspiracy theories being brandished by Cosby apologists run the gamut from comically irrelevant to mindlessly inconsequential to just plain ol’ stupid.
Reminds me of when Black people were so quick to defend O.J. Simpson during his infamous trial only to fall silent regarding his weird behavior, such as releasing a book titled “If I Did It” regarding the death of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson. Creeeeeepy!
Some are saying it’s a conspiracy theory to get America’s mind of what’s going in Ferguson. Really? So, Hannibal Burress wanted to get America’s mind off Ferguson thus stirred the pot? Really? That’s your final answer?
These women have nothing to gain from coming out publically in light of Burress’ claims right now. Many of them occurred decades ago and are impossible to prosecute. Additionally, even if money was their ultimate goal, speaking to the media instead of legal counsel would make winning any planned settlement attempt down the road nearly impossible as well.
That’s simply not how these things work, but people are going to believe what they’re going to believe. There have been many times in this country’s history in which Black men have been wrongfully imprisoned and persecuted.
However, this is not one of those instances.
Where there’s smoke, there’s often fire. Even if you pour water on the fames, the acrid byproduct is still thick enough to burn the eyes, irritate the throat and blacken the skin. Even though these fires have long been extinguished, it seems the after effects will stain the once pristine legacy of Bill Cosby forever more.
I wanted to believe in the positive things that Bill Cosby espoused then, and I still believe in them now. However, that doesn't mean I will allow my affinity for the image he portrayed to cloud my reasoning on this matter.