Dear Hannibal Buress,
The push back from your recent comments regarding Bill Cosby continue to reverberate throughout the Internet atmosphere as people on every digital communications medium and social network have all come out on one side or another on the subject of Bill Cosby. To be certain, Bill Cosby has been talking out the side of his neck at poor, young and working class African Americans for well over 20 years. For the most part, we just take it. After all, Bill Cosby’s family friendly brand of comedy helped formulate many of our ideas regarding what family life should look like for Black people in America. But every time you turn around, Bill Cosby would rub salt in the wounds of the African American experience in the United States with insults such as referring to Black Americans as “No-groes” and pointing to African Americans as complainers and whiners. Maybe he sees it as some draconian form of tough love, but it just comes off as disrespectful to me.
To be certain, no celebrity of African descent has ever said such incendiary things about the Black experience in America without risk to their careers and livelihood. Traditionally, African American celebrities have relied heavily on Black dollars to maintain; however, Mr. Cosby has been untouchable in that regard for at least 35 years. He is so entrenched in the American cultural lexicon that everything he says and does, or is said about him, makes the news.
With your recently publicized stand-up act in which you called Cosby onto the carpet, you now realize how true the words ring. Some news organizations called your act a rant and a diatribe, but I don’t see it like that. I see a comedy act with a razor edge of reality. It’s not like you lied on anybody, yet the outrage continues to unfurl as the Cosby Crusaders ride in on ebon horses to carry your career off to the nearest tree to hang it by its neck until it’s lifeless.
Almost immediately the blogosphere was filled with comments that questioned your motivations for coming out and calling Cosby a rapist. Some, as you stated in your standup routine, even believed you completely made the whole thing up. But history tells a different story.
In 2006, Cosby settled a case of sexual assault lawsuit from a Canadian woman who claimed he drugged and raped her. She initially tried to get criminal charges filed against Bill Cosby but the Montgomery County (PA) prosecutorial office refused to file charges. In her deposition, the unnamed plaintiff also had the names of 13 other individuals who claim Cosby violated them in a similar matter. Some of the accusations date back to the 70s. Details given in the deposition were grizzly to say the least.
So, I can’t help but wonder why all of the shock and awe regarding your act? Why all the alleged consternation over a joke that you have told on several different occasions in the past? Maybe it had something to do with his standing as an elder statesman or maybe it was just too hard for some to imagine the Brown Hornet as a booty bandit. Please, don’t get me started on the thousands of pudding pop jokes that flooded my mind in the brief moments that I have been penning this letter to you.
No one, not even Bill Cosby, should have the free reign to rail on and speak to an entire generation of people like their vision of the world and society should take a back seat to his, an aging generation which grew in an economic, educational and societal soil that is far different than those of the individuals he so frequently likes to hurl his pointed, seemingly heartless comments towards.
Should you have called him a rapist? Welllll…I wouldn’t have taken that route, but there is some truth there. So much truth that it screams to be heard, but no one will ever know for sure. Only Bill and the 14 individuals who claim he violated them know the entire truth. Public figures have been fodder for comedians since ancient times. They joked about Jesus, joked about Caeser and joke about President Obama.
So who says Cosby is off limits? He certainly doesn’t think talking crazy to Black people in the presence of white folks is off limits, neither should his shortcomings be placed in a social lockbox, never to be discussed again. So from that aspect, I think you were spot on. No one is such a monolith as to be above having his or her dirt dragged into the light, especially not someone who has repeatedly taken it upon himself to shame and castigate poor, young and Black individuals with his antiquated viewpoints whenever listeners and audience members appear to be at their whitest. This gives the impression that he’s not talking to the people he claims he’s trying to help, but rather talking about them.
There are many different people who feel as you do, but never had the platform or the guts to just come out and say it. Now that you have, there are some who have predicted a premature end to your career.
I don’t believe that. You're just too talented.
So while Philadelphia nightclubs might not come knocking down your door for appearances, I believe you can hold it down and make it out of the storm.