Yesterday, when I read about the prison sentence for once-comedy-icon Bill Cosby, I sent myself a note with the words “Bill Cosby and Suge Knight”. I had planned on writing a blog piece on a subject I’d touched upon before: What do we do about the art, when the artist is problematic? Or, to be more concrete: What should I do with my Bill Cosby comedy albums (I’ve always loved “Chicken Heart”) now? Did folks stop listening to rap artists when the artist or the artist label committed murder?
But then, during my shower, an interesting contrast hit me: We have a black man attempting and committing sexual assault, who gets those charges investigated, and gets convicted and sent to jail. We have a white man, Brett Kavanaugh, who also has charges made against him from multiple women for sexual assault, and we can’t even get those charges a proper investigation, and the white man will likely go to the Supreme Court as a justice. He was nominated by another white man who has also assaulted women, and those charges were never formally investigated. All three are men of power. So what are the differences? Why do the white guys dodge responsibility? What does this say about our attitudes?
I’m not trying to defend Bill Cosby — far from it. Rather, I’m disturbed by the fact that when the person who has allegations of sexual shenanigans is black and/or an entertainer, we get investigations and prosecutions. When it is a white politician — especially a politician from the party in power — we get … excuses. Oh, why didn’t she bring this up earlier (note: she did). Oh, these charges are politically motivated. Oh, the woman is lying. Oh, she can’t remember every detail, so it must not be true. Oh, he has friends that vouch for him — he couldn’t have done it. The Cos had friends that vouched for him as well. He still did it. Oh, he was drunk, so it shouldn’t count.
What message are we sending to our daughters and sons?
In an interesting bit of parallelism, the LA Times has an article on the impact of the #metoo movement and its connection with both Cosby and Kavanaugh. Interesting reading. These are very different times than the days of Anita Hill, or the days when Bill Clinton was being impeached for lying about an affair. Today, Clarence Thomas might not be on the Supreme Court, and Bill Clinton might have been charged with sexual harassment, abusing a position of power. It is completely wrong that a man with multiple allegations of sexual misconduct is not having those charges seriously investigated, even if he is from the party in power. Political affiliations does not make it right. The Republican members of the Senate Judiciary committee, and the politicians that support them, are sending a message to the women of this country (and the men that stand with the women).
I’m not sure they will want to hear the reply in November.