Brittney Cooper has an excellent analysis of the effect Bill Cosby is having on the consciousness of Black Americans. This comes days before Camille Cosby’s public excuse-making for her husband in which she claims his victims were willing participants in their own rape, and therefore weren’t raped.
Mrs. Cosby’s defense of Bill is Stockholm Syndrome (or whatever the correct term is) at its worst. Even when caught lying about his rape of women over the course of his career by drugging and bullying them, even when the judge in the rape case releases his ten-year-old testimony that he had, in fact, bought Quaaludes with which to incapacitate his victims, Camille insists those victims were willing participants in what her husband did to them.
The worse alternative explanation to her denial of reality is that she might be acting of her own accord for whatever reason (as his wife, Camille’s finances are tied up with Bill’s, and a settlement or guilty verdict would have great impact on them). It’s easy, I think, for people to write off behavior like this as not being done under a person’s own free will, when in fact said person is acting as the conscious driver of his or her actions. But I want to give Mrs. Cosby the benefit of a doubt in thinking she’s still in denial, specifically, the excuse-making, or rationalization, stage—they have, after all, been married for fifty-one years. When you have over five decades of marital history and children and grandchildren together, it’s naturally going to be difficult to accept the truth and not look the other way. Of course, it’s all too possible that Camille is both in denial and an active accessory after the fact in her husband’s crimes. I shudder to think what it means if that third possibility is the reality.
I remember attending a discussion at Cuyahoga Community College, on assignment for the campus newspaper, with writer, professor, and activist Jimi Izrael, one of Cosby’s earlier Black critics, some years ago. Back in 2004, when he voiced his opinion on Cosby’s shallow and destructive remarks to Black folk over their general behavior, Izrael was blasted for not being on the Jell-O Pudding Pop Bandwagon. He and other critics have now been vindicated.
As one of the elites of what Glen Ford and his compatriots at Black Agenda Report describe as the “Black Misleadership Class”, Cosby represents everything wrong with it: abusive of the power he gained from cozying up to the White Establishment and repeating its racist rhetoric to Black audiences, in order to shame them into submission. We now know that Cosby is and always was a fraud, that he was simply projecting his own evil onto the masses of Black folk he sought to brainwash with classic White ‘blame the victims’ preaching.
It is true that under white presidents in the 20th century, Blacks have gained some concessions while losing much, much more. It was Bill Clinton, however, who arguably did the most damage, gutting Welfare, public education, and slashing food assistance, while passing so-called free trade agreements that put millions out of work and jump-starting the mass incarceration policy that continues to this day to imprison a disproportionate number of Blacks and Hispanics. Without Clinton’s contributions to the systemic devastation of Black and Brown communities, America arguably wouldn’t have remained nearly as unequal and racist as it does today.
But while we should acknowledge the very real devastation visited upon Black folk by the likes of Bill Clinton, we should also acknowledge that for people like Bill Cosby and Barry Obama, the destruction is both amplified and dismissed because they happen to be nominally Black. They help their White bosses continue the narrative of the Plantation in return for permission to feed from the same trough as the very wealthy. But make no mistake: even Cosby and Obama are tolerated only so long as they are useful. Cosby is no longer useful, and so he is being allowed to “suffer” the inevitable consequences of his crimes. He has become a liability, and his former patrons and protectors are now hurriedly throwing him under the bus.