On September 26th, 2018, Actor, Comedian and former entertainment icon Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years, after being found guilty for assault charges relating to his sexual involvement with a woman named Andrea Constand. Although many of us have very strong opinions on the particulars of this case, and whether Mr. Cosby should have been convicted of wrongdoing or not, I will not use this space to debate the specific details of this case, or to voice my opinion on the outcome, or what I may believe should have been the outcome. But regardless of what I feel or do not feel about this case, I cannot deny that the photo that I have used for the main image of this article is an extremely striking image that drives home a certain simple point more than any words can. Here is Mr. Cosby, who came from a particularly rough section of my hometown, Philadelphia, PA, to first become a wildly successful stage comedian and television and film actor. He was once dubbed as “America’s Dad” for his role on the legendary, iconic series The Cosby Show, and he is responsible for so many constructive, life affirming images of people classified as Black in the field of entertainment. He amassed a tremendous amount of money and acquired a lot of perceived power within the field of entertainment, as well as what is described as the Black community. He goes from those lofty heights to being labeled as a “violent sexual predator” by the suspected racist judge Steven O’Neill, being led away in handcuffs, just like some of the Black men and women that he once wagged his finger at and chastised in public, with his head down, looking about as distraught as one can possibly look, into a maximum security prison, which houses violent criminals, to serve a 3 to 10 year sentence at 81 years of age.
The case of Bill Cosby’s alleged sexual assaults teaches so many lessons about power, sexual responsibility (for Black men especially), and on what to do and more importantly what not to do under the system of racism/white supremacy. But this turn of events in general, and this photo specifically, is symbolic of one truth that is very difficult for many people to accept, especially those classified as Black who have acquired a lot of money and/or who have been put into position by the white supremacists as “showcase Blacks”; under the system of racism/white supremacy, all of those who are classified as Black are all equal victims. They are no less victims of white supremacy than the “Pookie’s and Ray Ray’s”. They simply play a different role as victims, since they serve a different utility to the white supremacists. Nothing more. The money, perceived power and status are nice, if that is something that one desires. But these things are completely illusory and could be taken away if and when those in power, those who practice, promote and maintain racism/white supremacy want to do so. Whenever they want to, and can get an opening to do so, you can be demoted to the status of the common street thug, being treated exactly the same way, at any moment.
At one time, Mr. Cosby was the ultimate “showcase Black”, i.e., a Black person, who usually has some utility to the white supremacists, most visibly within the fields of entertainment, politics and sometimes religion (but they can be anywhere, even within our day jobs), who is perceived to have been elevated above the status of “regular Black folks”, and has been given some marker of success to signify their elevation (money, perceived power, etc.). But for all his philanthropic efforts and tendency to feature Black people in uplifting roles, presenting very positive images of Black people within the media, Mr. Cosby’s popularity and esteem took a sharp hit in the early 2000’s. Mr. Cosby leveled criticism on other, poorer, Black victims of white supremacy, seemingly without accurately acknowledging racism/white supremacy as the root cause of the dysfunction. He would present this criticism in ways that could easily be taken as an attack on those who occupy the same streets that he used to run, which led to charges of elitism and anti-Blackness. In 2004, at the NAACP awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., Mr. Cosby went on a diatribe which deeply hurt many of the same Black people who once were fans and supporters of his work. In an infamous speech, which has now been dubbed the “Pound Cake Speech”, Mr. Cosby harshly criticized the poor, disenfranchised Black society that he came from and was once a part of. Here are a few excerpts of the speech, as well as other things he said around that same time:
On Black incarceration:
“But these people, the ones up here in the balcony fought so hard. Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! And then we all run out and are outraged, ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else, and I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said, ‘If you get caught with it you’re going to embarrass your mother.’ Not ‘You’re going to get your butt kicked.’ No. ‘You’re going to embarrass your family.'”
On Black Parenting:
“In the neighborhood that most of us grew up in, parenting is not going on. In the old days, you couldn’t hooky school because every drawn shade was an eye. And before your mother got off the bus and to the house, she knew exactly where you had gone, who had gone into the house, and where you got on whatever you had on and where you got it from. Parents don’t know that today.”
On Black people’s names:
“We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans; they don’t know a damned thing about Africa. With names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap and all of them are in jail.”
On “the white man”:
“That white man, he’s laughing…He’s got to be laughing: Fifty percent drop out, the rest of them are in prison.”
On poor Black people’s mating choices:
“Five, six children — same woman — eight, 10 different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you are going to have DNA cards to tell who you are making love to. You don’t know who this is. It might be your grandmother. I am telling you, they’re young enough! Hey, you have a baby when you are 12; your baby turns 13 and has a baby. How old are you? Huh? Grandmother! By the time you are 12 you can have sex with your grandmother, you keep those numbers coming. I’m just predicting.”
Of course, these words look absolutely terrible. It has been said that when a Black person goes in public to take other victims of white supremacy to task, that it is a way to signal their willingness to throw other Black people “under the bus” to keep their “showcase Black” position. But in my personal opinion, I do not believe that Mr. Cosby said these things coming from a place of pure anti-Blackness. In fact, I have heard a few Black people of his generation say many of the same things that Mr. Cosby said in this speech (of course not in public, or in front of white people). I also, around that time, attended a speech sponsored by a Black Men’s community group in Philadelphia, in which Mr. Cosby attempted to clarify his remarks. I honestly think that he said these things out of frustration with the pitiful condition that Black people are in today under the system of racism/white supremacy. But a man of Mr. Cosby’s considerable financial standing at that time was absolutely able to do more than to simply crucify the “Shaniqua’s, Shaligua’s and Mohammed’s”. Rather than to crucify poor Black people in public, Mr. Cosby was a rare Black person with the financial means to make a dent in the system of racism/white supremacy, that is if he correctly identified racism/white supremacy as the root cause of Black American dysfunction. This lack of recognition of the system of racism/white supremacy as the root cause of Black dysfunction, his perceived lack of actually doing anything but to harshly criticize fellow victims of said system rather than to use his acquired resources to help solve the problem constructively, as well as the very public forum in which he chose to launch this diatribe left a very bad taste in the mouths of many of the same Black people that once looked up to him as a “role model”, and even a “father figure” for Black society.
This was a terrible mistake, especially considering all of the apparent skeletons in his closet, so to speak. Because 2004, the year in which he made the infamous “pound cake” speech where he was perceived as haughtily wagging his finger at Black society, was the same year in which the incident for which he was accused of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman by the name of Andrea Constand was supposed to have taken place. The fact that Mr. Cosby can be so unconstructively critical of the society which produced him, while apparently having all sorts of extra-marital sex with women, white women at that (that is a part of the story which cannot ever be minimized), while providing illegal party drugs to top it off, was a grave miscalculation of the part of Mr. Cosby. He essentially destroyed much of the Black goodwill that he had built up over the years, while at the same time, systematic white supremacy was now sharpening the knives to shove into his back.
He was no longer insulated from the attacks of systematic racism/white supremacy by the support of Black people due to his harsh, stinging, inaccurate criticism in the “Pound Cake speech”. He also had no systematic protection, since he failed to adequately assist to create any with his once considerable financial fortune. His lack of providing substantial, serious, Black First, counter-racist institutions while he had the chance, rather than partying with and having sex with sketchy white women came back to haunt him. Now Mr. Cosby languishes in jail, right next to “the kid who stole the Coca-Cola and pound cake”. The kid who stole the treats, and Mr. Cosby are now housed in the same facility, both with numbers to identify them rather than names, both equally victimized by the system of racism/white supremacy. Let this be a lesson to all who are classified as Black, who think that they have carved out a space as an “other” in the system of racism/white supremacy. There are no “others”. And although you may play a different role within your victimization than other Black people, you are still a victim nonetheless. The point has been made, and with the case, has yet again been driven home with force.
Osei, 21st Century Race Man