I don’t think America is going to get much benefit from the Bill Cosby release because the subject is so polarizing people close their ears, open their mouths and both sides of the debate go back to their corners declaring their view was “right.” With so much black support for Bill Cosby, much of America wonders how could black people support a man with such serious allegations against him supported by so much testimony? I, as a supporter of last week’s decision to overturn his conviction, will explain how one could both think it strongly possible that Bill Cosby did some of those horrible things to those women and support the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to release him.
The first thing to consider is that we black people do not feel we have any command over America’s institutions. We are simply subject to the American legal system’s will and can only affect it by compelling it to change itself. Most of the time this happens by way of us emphasizing its hypocrisy and pointing out the duality of its logic; the charge of racism can sometimes compel the American system to align two conflicting decisions where in similar circumstances a black person receives a negative and the white person receives a positive decision. Our support for Cosby’s release doesn’t necessarily represent our ideal for how to handle these accusations either; rather we feel the outcome demonstrated a fairness and consistency uncharacteristic of the Americans system. We are not proud of this system or think that we wielded it effectively to gain the freedom of one of our own.
White supremacists often refer to black men as “dindus” (Din-du). This is short for “Dindunuffin,” or “didn’t do nothing.” The saying comes from the countless videos of police arresting black men and those black men trying to proclaim their innocence. While police arrest them, they constantly exclaim, “I didn’t do nothing,” or I, “dindunuffin.” This dynamic illustrates the Bill Cosby situation exactly and can give those opposed to his release some insight as to the mindset of those advocating his release. Supposing they are actually innocent, when police arrest innocent black men who proclaim their innocence (dindunuffin) during the arrest, there are two things at play, truth, and society’s means for interfacing with that truth. America’s legal system is society’s means of engaging actuality and that legal system says that regardless of how innocent you may be, you are obligated to defer to it and receive its legal determination. So because of the way the American system works, someone who has committed no crime is obligated to face arrest, criminal prosecution and possible conviction despite their real life innocence; society has sidestepped reality and implemented itself as the arbiter of truth. This isn’t necessarily wrong. In fact, it is the best Western method of dealing with right and wrong to date. With Bill Cosby the same applies. Many point to the allegations from countless women, most of which I view as sincere and containing elements of truth, as a reason to convict him of a crime. They also point to Cosby’s statement that he provided drugs to women during these encounters. These are both truths. Sadly, truth doesn’t reign in Western society just like black male innocence doesn’t reign in the fictional arrest scenario above; law does, and unless the law supports a conviction, Cosby doesn’t deserve to be and shouldn’t have been convicted in the first place. One more personal note, in the 90s and 2000s I got pulled over countless times and made to sit on the curb while police searched my car looking for drugs and weapons. Not once did they ever find anything, which means they were wrong 100% of the time. This means that truth and law were at odds yet society supported deferring to law (reasonable suspicion) in lieu of reality, prioritizing law over truth and never implemented consequences for the countless cops who got it wrong. Society never felt compelled to recon truth with law by penalizing officers for pulling innocent people over and, without a realistically valid reason, invalidating their 4th Amendment right (right to privacy). So why bring on the reckoning now and why Bill Cosby?
For black people, we are used to America’s legal dual mindedness and Cosby’s conviction was no exception. The DA made a deal with him, which eliminated the criminal jeopardy which upholds Mr. Cosby’s 5th Amendment right; with no criminal prosecution to protect himself from he was compelled to speak truthfully. Otherwise the testimony people find so compelling, where he admits to supplying drugs to women, wouldn’t exist and there would be even less indication that Cosby did those bad things. But the system works within the confines of the Constitution when dealing with rich people and if the system wants to operate beyond those limitations in a rich person’s case, it must make concessions. In this case it waived its ability to criminally prosecute Mr. Cosby. So in 2018 when we saw the system beginning to make headway in pursuing criminal charges, we thought “here we go again.” America was doing what it did best, not keeping its word in order to hurt a black person then rationalizing it with more and more words; this all occurring with the approval of white America at large. It also bears worth mentioning that at the time of Bill Cosby’s conviction, Harvey Weinstein had been accused of similar crimes yet was free and putting up a vigorous defense. To see the system jail a rich prominent black man while the other was free impacted black public opinion greatly.
Emotion = Truth
In many debates about the Cosby Release I see people referring to those who refuse to recognize the legal aspect of his release as “emotional.” Emotions are high on both sides of this issue so I want to put this in perspective. The West’s and White Supremacists pride themselves on being impartial, objective and capable of making decisions exclusive of emotion. A quote by a white supremacist named John Burgess, one of the founders of political science, and Columbia University alum, that guided my development was, “black skin means membership in a race of men which has never of itself succeeded in subjecting passion to reason, has never, therefore, created any civilization of any kind.” White Supremacists prided themselves on side-stepping emotion, which is a helpful quality under Western circumstances. When people live in bad faith with one another the last thing anyone wants factoring into decision-making is genuine emotion. Therefore Western society decided to do without it and opted for rigid written references (written law). These references come under stress due to various parties exploiting them for their individual interests and the result is these references’ nuances’ being codified and the laws becoming wordier. The end result is what we have today; endlessly wordy laws that society as a whole doesn’t understand. The legal profession arose to exploit this confusion and although it is normal today in Western society, its true origin is bad faith societies that achieve stability by citizens working against one another. However in good faith societies, although no society has ever been conflict free, citizens are on the same page and rules like “thou shalt no kill” can rest unmolested because everyone is on the same page as to what that means and the nuances within. The point is this: America is not an emotion-driven society, rather it is, ostensively, a stolid nation of laws. We can’t switch to emotion to put someone in jail because we feel he did something wrong. Many black people are happy to tell those opposed to Cosby’s release, “it’s the law;” it’s the response we get when truth and law appear to be at odds and people like George Zimmerman get off Scott free or when a Grand Jury refused to charge Darren Wilson with the murder of Michael Brown. I too am guilty of emotional decision-making; I didn’t think twice when the legal system rescinded Jeffrey Epstein’s deal and rearrested him. So I’m showing duality too. I recognize this.
To be clear, for me, Bill Cosby’s initial accusations should have limited his stardom and society should have prevented his prosperity back then. This in turn would have made fewer victims available to him. Support from society would have caused the early victims to come forward with the confidence that the matter would be addressed, if not by our system, by men. Having victims spanning over decades says a lot about society’s disposition towards women and how much command of it women feel they have.
Although our legal system need a grand overhaul, I do have an immediate solution that I feel would have prevented both Cosby’s and Epstein’s favorable legal situations. This solution would also help with what commonly happens to black men accused of crimes. That solution is to put prosecutorial power in check. I learned that prosecutors didn’t even consult Andrea Constand when agreeing not to prosecute Bill Cosby. THIS SHOULD BE CRIMINAL! This behavior demonstrates a disregard for women and their plight. It also shows that prosecutors were exploiting the fact of crime rather than addressing it. The same holds true with Jeffrey Epstein. It should be illegal to make a deal with the accused without it being signed off on by the victim. Both Bruce Castor and Alex Acosta (prosecutors in the Cosby and Epstein cases, respectively) victimized the victims when their positions are designed specifically for the protection of Americans of both genders. Prosecutors have too much power. It is also standard for them to overcharge black men with crimes in order to compel them to plea guilty to lesser ones. For instance, police plant drugs on and arrest a completely innocent man. Prosecutors, relying on evidence, charge the man with trafficking but offer him a plea deal for simple possession. Having no money to mount a defense, the accused man gets a Public Defender (which we call “Public Pretenders” in the ‘hood) and that attorney works with the prosecutor to scare him into taking the plea deal. In this scenario, excessive prosecutorial power allows prosecutors to use their position to bolster their record at the expense of vulnerble Americans. The lack of any checks to that power causes society to live a lie. Criminal consequences for reckless prosecutors would introduce truth into our legal system, thereby bringing truth and law closer together.
These are my thoughts on the Bill Cosby situation. Perhaps it adds some insight into the thoughts of black people. Many feel we are supporting him just because he’s black; in some cases this is true but I should add that many black people feel the system stepped outside of its initial deal with Cosby to convict him because he is black. The fact that there’s a moral issue at play sways a lot of black people to the opposite side and I think this influenced the prosecutor’s decision to go forward. This was wrong and if the system made a deal it has to stick with it. If law is relative and based on the emotional winds of the public, what’s the point of law? And more importantly, why have they been telling us, “it’s the law” the whole time when the legal misfortunes of countless black people was really just cloaked emotional decision-making?