Why Aren’t We Asking More Questions of Bill Cosby’s Accusers

Two more women have come forward accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault, so I have a few concerns. What are the criteria the media use to publish these rape allegations? Can any woman who was around in the 1970s just say Bill Cosby raped her and it is automatically accepted and published as a news story? Women get raped every day across America. Their stories are never told. But here we have women coming forward every day about Bill Cosby, and all they have is their word, and all Bill Cosby has is his word, and all these women have is that they speak with the tongues of a large number of women, and all Bill Cosby has is that he speaks alone, and all these women have is their innocence, and all Cosby has is his innocence—but the media keep on publishing their stories without questions.

So yes, observers, who look at the numbers of women as evidence for us to pause and seriously evaluate whether Bill Cosby is guilty, have a point. But I cannot convict someone without evidence. I cannot be the court of law when the media has not even grilled these women about their stories. They get platforms to speak. We listen. We condemn Bill Cosby. But nobody interrogates the women because interrogation of rape victims is tabooed.

This whole issue troubles me. Because it seems it is merely the weapons of the majority against the minority: many women’s word against one man’s word. As a man, I am worried that any woman can say I raped her and I will automatically be convicted in a court of public opinion.

Now over 30 women have said Bill Cosby raped them. Not one of them got pregnant. And I’m wondering how a black man was able to commit such evil in the 1970s when black folks were getting chewed up all across America—a black man of the 1970s raped so many women, the majority of whom are white, and not one of these white women had the power of credibility over this black man! Not one of these women had some form of connection that would have given their story light and credibility.

Why was the 1970s so much different from the 1700s and the 1800s when all a white woman needed to have said was that a black man sexually assaulted her and the black man was automatically punished with death? What was so different in the 1970s? Did women acquire more rights or less rights when compared to the 1800s? If we are going to talk about rape and women invisibility in the 1970s, we also have to talk about race in the 1970s, given Cosby’s race.

Indeed social media commentaries have already racialized the issue. Even Bill Cosby has racialized the issue with his misguided assertion that he only expects the black media to uphold the standards of journalistic excellence. Furthermore, no one can look at the overwhelming whiteness of Cosby’s accusers and not think race. But is it racism that led these women to come forward? I don’t think so. But I do believe the way in which race and gender perform in the 1970s should be a factor in the questions we use to evaluate Cosby’s and the women’s credibility.

I wish to emphasize that I’m not denying that these women were in fact raped. I’m only asking the questions the media hasn’t asked or answered. And I particularly feel compelled to ask them because it seems tabooed to defend Bill Cosby and more progressive to chew him up and call him a sexual predator. Furthermore, I am sick and tired of seeing people imprisoned because public opinion is stacked against them.

I’ve read people attacking people left, right, and center for asking critical questions. And the most compelling argument most people make in defense of the women is that the women couldn’t have spoken up then. That defense is a good one. But it is not enough to make a judgment that has destroyed a man’s reputation.

Additionally, how do you know that all thirty women couldn’t have spoken up then? Are you considering the thirty women as having the same speaking potentials then, the same economic backgrounds, the same mental health conditions, the same community and family support systems? Are you lumping them under a singular rubric called women? If you consider the experience of the thirty women to be the same, then that in no way empowers women as you hope it will do. Instead, it considers all women as having the same potentials, capabilities, responses, and developmental timelines in which they recognized their need to speak to power and fear.

What about evidence? What about innocence until proven guilty? Isn’t that the very issue—evidence of innocence and evidence of guilt—that has pit America into two camps at the moment: pro-black-life matters & pro-police are innocent in what they are doing? How have we been taking a position on these two camps? Are we using the evidence—or are we using gut feelings? Why shouldn’t we look at the rape allegations against Bill Cosby in the same way?

Posted in Politics Education, Race Matters

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