“WHAT BILL COSBY TAUGHT ME ABOUT SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND FLYING”

“It wasn’t only that the Cosbys were never broke, or in need of money, or that none of their black family members and friends were ever in material need of anything important: it was the complete lack of structural, interpersonal or psychological violence in the world that Bill Cosby created. Only in science fiction could a black man doctor who delivered mostly white babies, and a black woman lawyer who worked at a white law firm, come home and never once talk mess about the heartbreaking, violent machinations of white folks at both of their jobs, and the harassing, low down, predictable advances of men at Claire’s office. I remember telling Annie Glover that never in the history of real black folks could black life as depicted on The Cosby Show ever exist. And it only existed on Cosby’s show because Bill Cosby seemed obsessed with how white folks watched black folks watch ourselves watch him…
I’ve felt like a special black man these past two years for never thinking about drugging a woman, never initiating sex with a woman who had anything to drink, and not knowing what a Quaalude was. Every time I’ve seen Cosby’s droopy face, or his name in a headline, I’ve shaken my head, sucked my teeth, whispered “this nigga again” and sketched a not so fine line between the alleged sexual violence of a monster like Cosby and the lies and emotional abusiveness of a special black man like me.
I’m wondering today, though, if making Bill Cosby the face, and really the mascot, of rape and sexual violence in this nation, without reckoning with our own experiences with sexual violence, abuse and gendered deception, makes sexual violence, and other forms of emotional abuse more pervasive…
Calling out Cosby and his enablers is important, but it, in and of itself, is not the work of justice.”

There is still a lot of processing to be done here. There is a lot about rape culture that is being processed; but there is also a lot about the danger of such spare representation. This is what happens with tokenism: When a group of people only really has one or two people who are visible and have power, their personal flaws have an enormous impact.

Related: “What Should We Say About David Bowie and Lori Maddox?”; “WHY WE NEED TO GET OVER CLAIR HUXTABLE” (this essay is from before Bill Cosby came back into the news, and it’s more thought about what the show meant and what that limited representation means)

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