In Re: Bill Cosby

Having been a Bill Cosby fan since I first heard the punch line, “Noah—how long can you tread water?” as a kid, the charges piling up against him are sickening. Whether or not they can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, his career appears to be over and his reputation will be forever in disgrace..

Equally sickening is how the left is already exploiting Cosby’s downfall as a means of implicitly telling other blacks not to depart from the party line that white racist oppression explains everything. As is well known, Cosby provoked a firestorm on the left with his self-critical comments on contemporary black culture before the NAACP and other audiences a few years back, and it was these heterodox comments that the comedian Hannibal Buress had in mind with his viral standup act last month:

Cosby is “the f–king smuggest old black man public persona that I hate. He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up, black people. I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches.”

I’m skeptical this came out of nowhere, and it would be interesting to find out with whom Burress discussed this subject prior to including it in his act.

Writing in The New Republic yesterday, Rebecca Traister says the charges against Cosby, though previously reported, were willfully disregarded because Cosby made white people feel just too good about themselves:

One reason that we have collectively plugged our ears against a decade of dismal revelations about Bill Cosby is that he made lots of Americans feel good about two things we rarely have reason to feel good about: race and gender. . .

White people loved “The Cosby Show,” especially liberal white people. . . Any suggestion that white people were culpable in the history of racism that the show addressed mostly through reference to mid-twentieth-century activism. White audiences were never made to feel bad about themselves or confront any hard questions about how they had benefitted from American systems from which black Americans had not benefitted. .

But when Cosby began to do his moralizing on race and responsibility, some of the cracks in the show’s gender politics were exposed. It became clear that he placed a lot of blame for racial inequality not just on black people, but on black women who were not like Clair Huxtable. . . This was a brutal language of misogyny, blaming women—women unattached to men—for the social disintegration of the family.

Message received and understood: depart from the liberal party line at your peril.

Actually I think the whole racial angle on Cosby should be turned on its head: How come Roman Polanski’s film career wasn’t ended after a conviction for rape? Or Woody Allen’s career after the facts of his behavior emerged? And if we’re now going to end careers over old charges, can Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey now get their due against Bill Clinton, whose sexual assaults didn’t end his career. To the contrary, he is honored as if he were the Dr. Huxtable of politics. The double standard here is obvious: if you’re a powerful (liberal) white man, you can survive being a rapist. Maybe the liberals are ironically right for a change.

Responses