Bill Cosby and the conundrum his problems pose for black men

Watching the stories about Bill Cosby’s alleged sexual exploitations unfold is disturbing on all levels. Here is a man who has presented himself as a pillar of African American sensibilities, an intelligent humane father and a voice of reason in racial politics. In my High School years, he was an example of what I could potentially achieve. But as late, the weight of allegations against him has challenged my sense of fairness, not wanting to convict him without due process or over arching proof.

The latest video circulating the internet is of a December 1991 interview with Larry King where Bill Cosby glorified putting “Spanish Fly” in women’s drinks to induce them into have sex. “Spanish Fly” is a code word for a sex-stimulating drug. CNN’s Dr. Drew brought the video to light.

 

To be fair, Cosby used the Spanish Fly idea in his stand up routines going back to when he was acting on I-Spy in a 1969. 

But after a spate of cancellations state side, Bill Cosby has resumed the concert tour. He is scheduled to perform back-to-back standup comedy shows at Denver’s Buell Theater on Saturday, his first on U.S. soil this year. He reached out to his fans in advance thanking them for their support:

“Dear Fans: I have thousands of loyal, patient and courageous fans that are going to leave their homes to enjoy an evening of laughter and return home feeling wonderful. I’m ready! … I thank you, the theatre staff, the event organizers and the Colorado Community for your continued support and coming to experience family, fun entertainment. Hey, hey, hey, I’m far from finished!”

Last week he launched three shows in Ontario, Canada. The first night went somewhat smoothly with just a handful of protestors outside the theater. The second show was met with an awkward joke when a woman got up to get a drink. After asking Cosby if he wanted one he said, “You have to be careful about drinking around me!” The crowd gasped followed by some cheering according to members of the press who were present. So joking about drugging drinks is not new to Cosby’s humor. However, within this context the joke was awkward and not necessarily innocent.

Also in that second show two hecklers were ejected. One of them got up and called the aging comedian a ‘rapist!’

The third and last night in Ontario, Cosby was confronted by a group of approximately 30 hecklers who stood up inside the auditorium and chanted, “We believe the women!” and, “Rape is no joke!” They voluntarily left the theater without further incident.

But in all, 29 women since 1965 have charged Cosby with rape or attempted rape by drugging and attacking them while incapacitated. Super models Janice Dickerson and Beverly Johnson are among the most high profile of the accusers. Cosby has not been charged with any crimes stemming from any allegations. But the sheer volume of accusations leaves people who had held him in high regard literally speechless.

It appears as though Cosby’s declarations of innocence and his dogged determination not to address the latest round of allegations directly have created a dilemma of sorts to those who have supported and admired him for decades. This is true especially among black men.

Cee Lo Green, who pled ‘no contest’ to his own allegations that he drugged and assaulted a woman in 2012, said the allegations against Cosby were unfair. He told TMZ that people should back off Cosby … at least for now … because it’s not fair to convict him on social media — especially when Cosby’s been reluctant to publicly react to his accusers.

In December, Cosby told the New York Post “I only expect the black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism, and when you do that, you have to go in with a neutral mind.” In response, National Association of Black Journalists President Bob Butler said, “You don’t go easier on a person of color. It’s wrong for journalism period.” Butler added, “This not a color issue, this is a journalism issue, black people happen to be reporters.”

Black media reporting not withstanding, voices of support among Cosby’s black peers, men of influence in his age group and even followers who had credited him for their own success have been relatively silent. But Twitter is alive with varying degrees of comments from a younger generation of bloggers.

Phylicia Rashad who played Cosby’s TV wife as Claire Huxtable for more than a decade broke her silence last week saying that she never saw behavior that could lead her to believe the attempted rape and rape allegations that began re-surfacing earlier this year after laying dormant for over a decade. Camille Cosby, his wife for 50 years came out in support of her husband. She called him a kind man, a wonderful father and a friend. She said the media appears to be reluctant to vet Cosby’s accusers before publishing their allegations.

In the past two months, Whoppi Goldberg and Jill Scott came out in support of Cosby questioning why the alleged victims did not go to the police at the time of their alleged attacks. Goldberg said she had a lot of questions about the claims and would reserve judgment. Scott posted tweets asking for concrete evidence saying the ‘victims” had not supplied any evidence to support their claims, “We will respectfully have to agree to disagree,” she tweeted. “Rape is a despicable, cowardly crime. If you’ve been raped-pls do not shower, go to the police IMMEDIATELY, have rap (sic) kit done”, GET EVIDENCE.”

But as time marches on, Cosby’s public fortunes sink lower and lower. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey made him the butt of jokes at this year’s Golden Globes. The man who once channeled his inner Malcolm X on civil rights issues, criticized youth for sagging pants, took a stand against profanity in comedy and inspired African American men for generations, is facing a cultural shift of his own that he can’t joke his way out of. It is hard to stand up for this man in light of the sheer weight of the unanswered allegations, and there in lies the conundrum.

 

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