How I am managing toxic relationships with Bill Cosby rape apologists
I’m sure my relationship to Bill Cosby and his brand is similar to that of millions of other people. Before I reached adolescence, he’d already taught me weekly life lessons as Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show and made me laugh with his G-rated comedy routines. To show how deep my family’s appreciation of the Cosby brand goes, my grandfather even has two cats named Rudy and Bud. However, I’ve taken many steps back in my support – for obvious reasons.
After spending years condemning my generation for sagging pants, using profanity, and getting in our own way, I started taking pretty much everything Cosby-related with a grain of salt. Little did I know, Cosby had already been to court for being a sexual predator and settled in 2006. I was far from the only person unaware, as this fact was treated as new information when brought to the spotlight in 2014.
I’ve learned that it’s best to trust survivors of sexual violence when they find the courage to call out a predator. Especially given how drastically the cards are stacked against them when they do. Unfortunately, a lot of people haven’t gotten to that point yet. Many of them fall into the same practices that created the flawed system in the first place: victim blaming, deflection and even painting Cosby as the saint he never really was.
So I was initially on the radical side of most of my social media feeds when the first wave of accusations came out against Cosby. It made too much sense. No one that works that hard to uphold respectability politics doesn’t have a pile of skeletons in their closet.
While some supporters immediately chose to defend their favorite TV dad, most chose to sit on their hands and try to wait the scandal out. Again, innocent until proven guilty, right? [read: sarcasm] I didn’t bother trying to educate anyone over Twitter outbursts or lengthy Facebook responses. But then more details and dozens of more accusers emerged and the responses made me sick.
“Why did they wait so long to come out?”
“Why did she go to the hotel room?”
“Man, they’re just trying to get paid…”
Cosby’s loyal supporters became even more stubborn and defensive as the evidence against him grew.
They clearly had no understanding of how rape culture works on multiple levels, both socially and psychologically. The scrutiny that Andrea Constand lived through thus far should be enough proof, but alas.
I convinced myself that those defending Cosby were stuck in a state of delusion. Nostalgia can have that effect if gone unchecked.
After a while, there were nearly 60 accusations, decades of rumors and a released testimony from Cosby himself admitting that he would give women drugs in attempts to “have sex” with them. In case you aren’t aware of how consent works, like members of the jury in his trial, that’s rape. Basically the definition of it to be honest. There’s really no other way to look at it.
Despite all of this, the shrinking pool of Cosby defenders only got louder as time went on and their ranks shrunk.
I eventually tuned them out because most of the static came from a phone or computer screen or strangers in barbershops I would only see once a month, if that. But the story got so large and all-encompassing that it started to come up in places I didn’t expect it. Especially once the trial started.
Coworkers asked my thoughts and I’d question whether they were testing me or genuinely interested in my opinion. Regardless, I stuck to the facts. To [poorly] paraphrase BYP deputy editor Hari Ziyad, in these situations I choose to only offer up a quarter of what I think and half of what I know. It’s likely best for all involved parties.
I still haven’t even gotten past the first five minutes of the Dear White People Netflix series because the characters doubled-down on Cosby rape jokes in record time. No, I don’t care how much I liked the movie or Logan Browning. I cannot and will not fold on this.
What do I do when I realize some of the people that I care about the most, who are the closest to me, are Cosby apologists? What do I say when my loved ones champion Cosby’s mistrial as a victory both for him and Black people? Do I email them links to Cosby’s testimony and Frank Scotti’s detailed account of paying women off on Cosby’s behalf after he’d stand guard at his dressing room door? Do I continue to have difficult discussions that always leave me wanting to take a shower?
I haven’t quite decided yet.
I’ve put a little more distance between us for now. They may not have even realized that I did and likely don’t know why. I don’t think this makes them bad people, per se. Could they be? Sure, but not solely for this.
I just think they’re lacking some key understanding and empathy. I’m convinced that their strong emotions are either the result of blind optimism or an inability to fact check. I especially hope they aren’t due to their own investments in rape culture.
Either way, their support for him is toxic. I want no parts of it. If there’s no sign of them coming around, I’ll probably want no parts of them after a while too.