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Who gets lionized, who gets eaten by the lions: Cosby conviction evokes strong emotions on social media | Think Piece

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Post-Bill Cosby guilty verdict shows polarized views as people work through disappointment, betrayal and a sense of inequities in justice.

After Bill Cosby was convicted  of three counts of aggravated indecent assault on April 26, social media quickly heated up as people either roasted the verdict, citing a range of incendiary reactions from white privilege and frame conspiracies, or strongly objected those who would dare to defend a man convicted of sexual assault.

I am reminded of a saying often associated with Maya Angelou that says, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This sentiment perfectly sums up the emotions felt in the aftermath of Bill Cosby’s conviction.

Many of us struggle with the conviction because of how Cosby made us feel. He got his start as a stand-up comedian and went on to win 15 Grammys for his comedy albums. He was the first Black man to star in a drama on network television with I Spy in 1965. Then came movies, the cartoon Fat Albert, Jell-O commercials, and finally, The Cosby Show.

We all loved The Cosby Show. White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, it didn’t matter. If you were around in the 1980’s and watched television, you knew who Bill Cosby was because he was in your home, either on his number one television show or in a pudding pop commercial. For many of us growing up in the 80’s, he was as much of a staple to our childhood as pancakes and parachute pants.

He was also admirable  and gave people hope. Because of The Cosby Show, I felt like regardless of all the racism and discrimination in this world, I could still do whatever I wanted to do because Heathcliff Huxtable had become a doctor and Claire Huxtable had become a lawyer. I believed I could do those things even though I grew up in a family full of White folks, some of whom genuinely seemed quietly surprised that I had potential.

But when I was with my friends or other family members, I felt validated. My hair was beautiful and not ridiculed. I could watch The Cosby Show and feel validated in my blackness. Its spin-off A Different World was the reason I attended college. I could be a doctor or a lawyer, or an actor or a writer, shit.

To many Black Americans, Cosby was not only an icon, he was an inspiration. You just knew if he accomplished all those things in America during the 1960’s, you could do something important, too. Cosby also made Black people acceptable to White folks, helping race relations, not a small feat, indeed. He also donated millions of dollars to colleges for scholarships. Evvvvvvvvvvverybody loved Bill Cosby.

Then we learned that he had been doping and molesting woman almost as long as he had been making us laugh. Cosby has been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting more than 60 women and was recently convicted of assaulting Andrea Constand back in 2004.

Feelings were intense on social media as people expressed their feelings about the verdict. As debates continued, one thing many folks repeatedly asked is the same question many inquiring minds want to know : will the White men accused of sex crimes during the #metoo era also be going to jail, or will a Black face serve as scapegoat per usual?

White privilege

Regardless of guilt, many people want to know why Cosby was charged so many years after his crimes, while the more recent crimes of Harvey Weinstein go unpunished.

Sure, the guy’s a pariah, but so far, he hasn’t been charged with a crime though he has been accused of sexually assaulting more than 70 women. Since there have been no charges produced, it is starting to look like Cosby will be sent up the river courtesy of #metoo and #timesup, while Weinstein goes to sex rehab and remains a free man.

White people do often get away with things that Black people do not. The ACLU reports that Black people are almost 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, and according to the NAACP, Black people make up 34 percent of the total prison population and are incarcerated at 5 times the rate of Caucasians.

Frame conspiracies

Cosby supporters say that he was either framed for money or as a means to stop him from acquiring a powerful media company. According to the New York Times, Cosby once tried to buy NBC in the 1990’s from General Electric, but the offer was turned down because it was not for sale at the time. NBC was the same network that aired I Spy and The Cosby Show.

He was reportedly interested in buying the network again before it was sold to Comcast years later. Comcast bought 51 percent of NBC in 2011 and the remaining 49 percent equity stake in 2013 for $16.7 billion.

Many supporters of Cosby suspected that someone was trying to prevent the comedian from buying the network by ruining his legacy. His co-star on The Cosby Show,  Phylicia Rashad said in January of 2015 that she believed there to be a conspiracy to ruin his legacy simply because of racism and white supremacy, according to ABC News. However, she has not made any additional comments since the verdict.

Some credence was given to the rumors that he was framed for a payday due to the defense’s main witness, Marguerite Jackson, a Temple University adviser who testified at Cosby’s trial that Constand had set up Cosby for financial gain.

Cosby did pay Constand $3.4 million in 2006 to settle a civil lawsuit. He admitted in a deposition to giving other women quaaludes before sex in the past, but denied Constand’s claims despite the settlement.

Comedian Faizon Love also believed someone was trying to diminish the comedian, calling the women “liars” and “funky bitches” when the allegations first become public.

It would appear that Love hasn’t changed his opinion after the conviction and posted a tweet saying, “Well America you finally got what you wanted A Black Face for Rape this is truly a fucked up day…. @BillCosby you should of ran for president.” It is hard not to notice the fact that a white celebrity accused of sex crimes is the President and the Black celebrity accused of the same is going to prison.

Perhaps, Mr. Cosby’s closeted ally is his wife Camille, who has stood by her husband since the beginning and released a three-page statement just days after the verdict stating that the lynch mob mentality of the media and their biased, frenzied coverage, is responsible for his conviction.

She also blamed the accusers, citing Emmet Till and other Black men falsely accused of assaulting white woman, as well as the Philadelphia district attorney’s office for both the trial and conviction. She said that she is asking for a criminal investigation into the district attorney’s office, claiming that the DA aims to advance his career at Bill Cosby’s expense and knowingly allowed false testimony.

Anger about the tear-a-Black-man-down rhetoric

Those who criticized the verdict with conspiracy cries and frame claims prompted angry responses from many claiming justice was served with the conviction. An article appeared in The Root commending the verdict and schooling anyone angry at the women instead of Cosby. The article noted that the comedian has ruined his own legacy by his actions. Cosby did publicly admit to giving women drugs before having sex with them, but said any sex was consensual.  

Author Terri McMillian tweeted her relief at the verdict on Twitter. “Hallelujah. It’s about damn time,” said McMillian.

Founder of the #metoo movement Tarana Burke said after the verdict, “I am so happy for those survivors, these women that came forward. I just keep thinking how well they are going to sleep tonight.”

Rose McGowan, one of the women at the center of the #metoo movement and alleged rape victim of shamed movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, also tweeted her reaction after the verdict. “Cosby is guilty. I’m sorry if you loved a lie. His victims can now exhale. Thank you judge and jury. Thank you society for waking up.”

Legacy

A sad mix of hypocrisy and karma seem to be the end of Cosby’s legacy now. Once a patriarch of the community, Cosby created controversy during the speech when he lectured Black youth and parents in the community. Perhaps his 2004 pound cake speech at Rutgers University for the 50th Anniversary of the Brown vs Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court Decision was a bit of foreshadowing of his demise in relevant Black popular culture.;

“Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! Then we all run out and are outraged, ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?” He went on to say to the parents, “Are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up?”

Comedian Michael Che from Saturday Night Live had a retort for Cosby’s pound cake speech after the accusations were revealed, “Hey, Bill Cosby, pull your damn pants up.” If only someone had told him sooner, hell”.

The legacy Cosby built is quickly diminishing as organizations continue to revoke honorary degrees given to him. For the first time in its history, Yale University revoked an honorary degree when they rescinded Cosby’s on May 2. His alma mater, Temple University, also voided  an honorary degree, as did Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins University. Spelman College ended The William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship scholarship in 2015.

According to Variety, the Television Academy removed his name from the online list of Hall of Fame names, but has not removed him from the academy’s Television Hall of Fame. The academy said that they have no plans to invalidate  his 4 Emmy awards.

The comedian had also partnered with NBC for another sitcom, but the project was canceled in 2014 after multiple rape allegations surfaced in the media.

Cosby talked about the accusations with a reporter in 2017. “When there was talk of a plea bargain, I said no,” Cosby told Page Six last year. “I just refused to plead guilty to something that just didn’t happen. It didn’t happen, and Andrea knows that, and I think prosecutors know that.”

The deal offered in 2017 would have required Cosby to serve under house arrest, register as a sex offender and be on probation for an undisclosed period, according to Page Six.

“Why take a deal?” he said. “Not when they want me to say that I’m a sex offender. I didn’t do what they said I did “So, if they send me to that place, then that’s what they will do, and I will have to go there.”

Some are thrilled and feel that justice has been served, while some feel that an injustice has been served, and others just can’t help, but to feel sad about the whole damn thing.

¦The Ark welcomes opinions from different angles and in various complexities. Though, we might not agree with them all, and that is even the case amongst staff, we stand by our commitment of providing and engaging in productive conversations.¦

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Niko Mann is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. Just the facts, Jack.

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