Simply put, it’s really hard to make an argument that Bill Cosby is innocent or doesn’t deserve to be in jail.
The disgraced comedian remains accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women days after he was sentenced this week for committing the act at least once. He has even admitted to drugging women for sex. Even if two percent of Cosby’s accusers are fabricating the accusations – as roughly two percent of sexual assault accusations are false – that still leaves more than 30 women who claim Cosby assaulted them.
But there’s a desire among society as a whole, including, sadly black folks, to react to Tuesday’s sentencing by pointing out the fact that white men in power aren’t going to jail despite the multiple accusations against them; that somehow this should impact Cosby’s sentencing.
Let’s be real: This support for Cosby under the guise of racial injustice are simply thinly veiled defenses of rape; and an endorsement of violence against women.
I get it. I do. I promise I do.
Black people are disproportionately incarcerated compared to their white counterparts. I understand that there are thousands of Black men and women in jail right now who don’t deserve to be there. I know that there are thousands of white Americans who have committed worse crimes than the Black men and women in jail and are not locked up at all.
I also know about the long, long American history of false allegations laid down by white women against Black men, that led to incarceration and deaths of countless African-Americans. I know about Emmitt Till. I know that Donald Trump has been accused of more than a dozen acts of sexual assault that didn’t stop him from being elected President. I know that Brett Kavanaugh is facing at least three accusations of sexual assault and will still most likely be on the Supreme Court in a week.
I know all of this. And it has nothing to do with Bill Cosby.
Bill Cosby is not a victim of the system of mass incarceration that claims the lives of so many Black people. The man is facing a handful of years in jail after getting away with crimes against women for most of his life. That’s not what persecution looks like. And, yes, it is wrong that Donald Trump could be elected president with so many accusations on his record. But what do you propose that means we do about Cosby? Should we demand that he be free to rape until a powerful, rich, white man goes to jail? Do we want Cosby out of jail until Ben Roethlisberger is arrested?
Yes, the criminal justice system in America needs to be turned on its head until justice is doled out with equality. However, Bill Cosby is not the hill to die on. Bill Cosby is not an example of racial injustice. He’s not an example of the government trying to take down a powerful black man. Cosby is someone who committed at least one heinous act of sexual violence and has been sent to jail for it.
In fact, the entire practice of comparing sexual assault cases as experienced by white men to what Black people face in the justice system is a failed exercise. I’ve seen plenty of people compare Brett Kavanaugh, for instance, to the hundreds of thousands of black men in jail for nonviolent offenses like selling weed. But that isn’t a fair comparison because if those black men in jail had themselves committed sexual assault instead of, say, possessing a few grams of marijuana, they’d most likely be free. After all, 994 out of every 1,000 cases of sexual assault go unpunished.
This is all once again an example of a society that places all of its empathy on the perpetrator of crimes at the expense of victims. Especially if the victims are women. Double especially if the victims are Black women.
So, yes, it is right to see white people face the same level of consequences Black people face. This is a noncontroversial idea. However, using the fact that inequalities exist to defend Bill Cosby is nothing more than exposing one’s own proclivities to forgive — or even defend — rapists. Such a practice is terrifying. And telling.