Black people and their celebrities are a funny combination. They have to really do something that we can’t look away from to make us go in hard on them.
But I think it’s time to give up the ghost on Bill Cosby. And it’s time to stop hiding the dirty little secrets we are willing to live with.
It doesn’t take the NBC Dateline story tonight with 27 of Cosby’s accusers, or 35 women in 35 chairs for a New York Magazine to see Cosby’s long coming fall from grace.
I was one of the last hold-outs on the Bill Cosby story. In the early days I too thought Poor Bill, women are falling from the accuser sky on him, looking for the Benjamins. Such a nice old man who has done so much to lift up the black community. Enter thirsty Janice Dickinson, who has been on every reality show except the Real Housewives of Not Ever!
I had every excuse in the book for him. But in truth, Bill Cosby didn’t make any excuses for himself. America’s dad has always been clear that he didn’t have any apologies to make because he did nothing wrong.
Right in our own families, our communities, our high schools and college campuses, why don’t we protect and stand?
I don’t know how many people with checkbooks were able to keep his secrets from the public, but in the underbelly of the network of female reporters who cover entertainment, almost everybody that met him has a Bill Cosby story. So why was this a stretch to think he could have done what 35 plus women say he did? Are we all complicit?
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I think his bad boy reputation is what kept so many people, even celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg in the cheerleader corner. I personally believed that it was plausible that he had sex with all those women, but rape? If you know anything about the rich and famous, or for that matter, the broke and infamous, there is never a shortage of willing, available participants.
Somehow, it made sense that he might have been a serial philanderer, but a rapist? Nope.
The Dateline interview will still be hard to watch. Calling someone a rapist in our community is a low-down dirty thing. In fact, I have been shocked and fascinated over the years to learn how many people that I knew as young children had been sexually-assaulted and abused. Nobody held them down at knifepoint. No stranger snatched them. In fact, all of them knew and trusted the person.
When women and girls in our community tell, they are usually not believed. Their character and sexual history gets laid bare. It is pretty nasty business for victims, not so much for the predator. If you believe the women who accused him, Bill Cosby is no different, as it turns out, than the uncles, fathers and family friends who have taken advantage of the trust of young women for years.
It took the standup act of comedian Hannibal Burress, to pull at the thread that unraveled Bill Cosby’s squeaky clean spin.
I dare say that for every one alleged victim that we know about from the New York Magazine story, or the Dateline interview, there are probably more that never came forward. And then there is a black woman who is one of the alleged victims featured in the New York Magazine story, who says in her interview that she never said anything for many reasons, including not taking a black man down.
We do this all the time. A friend reminded me that back in the day “everybody knew Ike Turner beat Tina. ” And yes, we kind of knew that but years later in a movie it becomes a truth you can see. If everybody knew, why didn’t someone somebody stand in the gap for her?
More important, right in our own families, our communities, our high schools and college campuses, why don’t we protect and stand? I sometimes think that’s why Tyler Perry’s plays and movies are so popular. No matter what you think of his work, he tells the stories we refuse to tell.
I saw commentary from one of the alleged victims who said that she is appalled that the women who came forward over the years were never believed or heard. But it took the standup act of comedian Hannibal Burress, to pull at the thread that unraveled Bill Cosby’s squeaky clean spin.
Bill Cosby is legendary for another thing—he has been hard as nails on the younger black comics. One comedian I talked to said, “out of the blue, you get a call, and it is Cosby. But you find it hard to believe that it is him. You think your boys are playing a joke on you,” he said. “But it is like really him, and he is calling you to tell you to clean up your act.”
The killer is that many of the comedians he called knew the rumors too. But being a black comedian who is glad to be on the come up, dropping a dime on the Cos was like playing career Russian Roulette. Even several of the alleged victims told New York Magazine their fears that he would ended their careers before they got started.
These women are someone’s daughters. They are people that someone loves. They have been damaged by another person’s demons. And there are thousands of women who have been damaged in the same way.
We have to stop looking away to protect legacy, whether it is an individual or the community. We have to take the blinders off. We have to do better.
Andrea King Collier
Andrea King Collier is a multimedia health journalist and the lead author of the Black Woman's Guide to Black Men's Health. She is also the author of Still With Me... A Daughter's Journey of Love and Loss. Her work has appeared in Essence, O the Oprah Magazine, More Magazine and others. Follow her on Twitter @andreacollier.