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Opinion: Celebrity, charisma shouldn’t be a crutch in Bill Cosby allegations

Comedian Bill Cosby speaks during the celebration of the 55th anniversary of a Washington institution Ben's Chili Bowl on August 22, 2013 in Washington, DC.  Credit:  Courtesy of TNS.

Comedian Bill Cosby speaks during the celebration of the 55th anniversary of a Washington institution Ben’s Chili Bowl on Aug. 22, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Credit: Courtesy of TNS

A video of comedian Hannibal Buress went viral of his Oct. 16 set in Philadelphia during which he reminded everyone of the rape allegations against the beloved Bill Cosby. Since the incident, Cosby has canceled multiple appearances, but surfaced finally on NPR’s Weekend Edition on Saturday with his wife, Camille.

Cosby was there to discuss the pieces he lent to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, but that didn’t stop the interviewer, Scott Simon, from raising questions about the allegations against Cosby. Given a platform to address the resurfacing sexual assault allegations, Cosby instead remained completely silent, shaking his head. His lawyer later released a statement which said “Mr. Cosby does not intend to dignify these allegations with any comment.”

Apparently, starring in an ‘80s sitcom absolves you of any decency or moral compass.

Well, the silence speaks volumes. The continuing refusal to even acknowledge the situation says more about Cosby’s character than any response he could have provided. For as long as he’s been in show business, he can’t even afford a politician’s non-answer? His silence is indicative of stupidity or arrogance, either believing that a national news program wouldn’t ask the question or that no one had the gall to do so.

As arrogant as I believe Cosby to be, this approach has proven successful for him in the past — but it’s the age of the Internet. Not only can an individual research the four women who have put their names on such allegations (not to mention the civil suit, consisting of 13 women total), but Cosby’s legacy seems more and more distant to each coming generation. His endearing grandpa persona doesn’t hold the same weight with us that it does with our parents, a sentiment that came to fruition when Cosby took to Twitter to ask people to meme him.

The only things more frustrating than his silence (and his smugness and hypocrisy) is the fact that it took more than a decade for these allegations to gain traction in the media and to tarnish his reputation. I am aware of the strides that Cosby and “The Cosby Show” made in the quest to recognize black families, showcasing black people outside of scenarios of as poverty and violence, but that doesn’t exempt him from conducting himself within the law.

Brittney Cooper of Salon wrote, “Far too often, racism becomes an excuse for us not to confront sexism.” Cosby’s accomplishments have extended to and resonated with black people and despite the cognitive dissonance, we often turn a blind eye to his actions. I do not mean to say that race is the only concept working to his benefit. Celebrity obviously plays a heavier hand, granting him the option of operating outside of societal expectations. The two factors together have enabled him to endure minimal ramifications career wise, in spite of the many allegations against him, but the violations of these women should not be overlooked.

The Monday statement by Cosby’s lawyer, John Schmitt, said that the “discredited allegations,” no matter how many times repeated, are not true. The assumption drawn here being that because previous allegations were settled in a civil suit, the allegations held no truth at all.

As more victims come forward and tell their stories, I hope that we can acknowledge the injustices caused by this man instead of championing what we perceived him to be.

One comment

  1. Congrats on automatically assuming he is guilty due to silence. Please never serve on jury. Where is the proof?

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