Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Bill Cosby admitted in a sworn deposition that he drugged and raped women. He watched as legions of women came forth and reported that he drugged, raped, and waged a legal vendetta against them when they dared open their mouths about his crimes. He was charged with sexual assault in one case. He was tried once on the charge and had a hung jury. There was enough evidence against him to try him again and this time he was convicted.
All of his legal motions to evade punishment have flopped. He will serve a sentence. Despite all that, the one man who still doesn’t get it that he royally screwed up his lasting legacy, professional reputation and the lives of countless other women, is Cosby.
The reasons aren’t hard to find. Start with celebrity entitlement. Cosby hit big at a time when there were few black mega stars in the entertainment business. He quickly became one of the few. His stardom coincided with a point in time when the public suddenly became enthralled with the novelty of a celebrity black man appearing on their living room TV in a non-stereotypical role.
Cosby’s elevated celebrity platform seemingly gave him a pass from the tightly racially regimented conduct and behavior required and expected of black men. He didn’t have to know his place, because his place suddenly was not that of the average black man. The inevitable happened with super celebrities. Women flocked to him in droves. More than a few were giddy at the thought of being in the presence of a black celebrity and had their own dreams of striking it rich in the entertainment industry. Cosby had virtual license to do what he pleased and how he pleased with many of them. A few did say no to his advances and fought him off. Some actually did scream about his sexual rapaciousness and even tried to bring charges.
But in that era, who believed them? In any case, there was always the ready and willing enabler, be it an agent, an attorney, or industry honcho, who would facilitate a quiet settlement for the complainant to keep their mouth shut. They took the money and ran and kept quiet.
Then there was the wealth and allure of power. He had both. That was more than enough to assure that any woman who crossed him up after his sexual assault would pay a dear price. The price being permanently banned in Boston from any shot at a promising career in the entertainment business.
Above all, there towered the Cosby image. The minute he became America’s favorite and beloved TV Dad the deal was sealed. Cosby was now not just a privileged celebrity, but an enshrined icon. His pedestal grew loftier and more secure. Few in their wildest dreams could ever imagine their wholesome, loving family, TV dad sneaking around groping, drugging, and sexually assaulting women.
Cosby further sealed the image deal for himself when he went on a self-righteous, holier than thou rampage against blacks for allegedly being sloven, lazy, crime prone, and dysfunctional. He now became not only the nation’s darling TV dad, but the darling of conservatives. His blame blacks message fit neatly in with what they claimed for eons. That is that the cause of black poverty, is not racial discrimination, injustice, and systemic economic disparities, but blacks own slothfulness. The embrace by the right of Cosby further seemed to insulate him from any prying eyes into his sexual dalliances.
Cosby had one more ace card to play to keep a cover on his behavior. That was the race card. He could count on many blacks to rush to the barricades to defend any high-profile black man under attack. With them, it would always be another case of jealous, vindictive whites trying to bring down a wealthy, successful brother. When the damn finally broke around Cosby, and he was hauled into a court docket, sure enough, more than a few blacks jumped out of the woodwork to angrily assail the women who accused him of drugging and rape, and loudly declare that Cosby was the victim of their maliciousness.
Cosby for his part lashed out bullying, intimidating, and harassing his accusers with a blizzard of defamation lawsuits. This created even more doubt about their claims and his alleged victimhood. Even when the evidence was overwhelming that he did some, most or all of what dozens of women accused him of, he still continued to flail away at them as liars and schemers out to wreck him. Given the endless layers of protection that enveloped Cosby for so many years, it is no wonder that it’s impossible for him to face up to his grotesque acts. Instead Cosby will continue to exhaust every legal avenue to undue the monstrous wrong he’ll continue to shout to the world that was done to him. There’ll still be enough Cosby boosters to cheer him on and convince him that he, not the women he victimized, is the real victim. His conviction and sentencing won’t change anything. He still doesn’t get it.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.