We live in an unfortunate time for many reasons. We are oft too invested in things that are none of our business. That’s not to say that when our cohabitants on this planet are in need we turn a blind eye to their problems, but at what point does it become a bit much? It’s cool to be on the side of righteousness, but not so cool to assassinate people’s character based on what you see on TV or read on Facebook or Twitter.
First off, the Bill Cosby rape allegations are none of my business. And unless you are Bill Cosby, those who are making the rape allegations, or family of Cosby or the allegers, it’s not your business either. But most of us have an opinion. Why? If you weren’t there, why should what you think about any of it matter? I’m all for talking about the larger issues of rape culture or violence in our society, but why must these discussions always have to be framed in such a way that it seeks to attack an individual rather than absolve the injustice at large? Banning Donald Sterling for making bigoted statements does not make racism go away. Suspending Ray Rice for cold cocking his wife in an elevator does nothing to diminish domestic violence. So other than satisfying some sick need people have for the fantastical voyeuristic fulfillment and vindication of the ills done to them in their lives by watching someone else be crucified by the media, what does it serve?
I can’t speak to if what these women say Cosby did to them is true. I will say that his silence on the matter doesn’t bode well for him. I will not stoop to blaming these women if they are in fact victims, but I will say that the public spectacle they are making of their alleged trauma doesn’t help their case. As human beings, we tend to judge others on the basis of what we would do in a given situation. However, that is not always a reliable means of ascertaining the truth of a situation. For instance, there’s no way 20 women could come forth and accuse me of drugging and raping them when I didn’t do it and I say nothing about it. I don’t care what my attorneys advised me to do. I would feel compelled to defend my honor. On the flip, if I were drugged and raped by anyone, I can’t imagine I’d let it happen repeatedly, wait 10, 20, 30 years to say something about it, and then talk to Don Lemon of CNN as a means of catharsis. But just because I wouldn’t handle it the way Cosby is doesn’t mean he did it, and just because I wouldn’t deal with it in the same manner his allegers are doesn’t mean what they say isn’t true.
Sadly we live in a world that devalues the female perspective. Women with the same qualifications as male workers are systematically paid less. Women are constantly told they are to be the caregivers of society, but who takes care of them? Women are subject to objectifications of all sorts in their daily lives at home, at school, on the job, on television, and on social media. Without having done anything, the very act of being born a female is to be at a disadvantage by the ways of this world. At the same token, there is an unparalleled power and beauty in womanhood. Yet the message women are fed from the cradle is that they are utterly worthless unless they are subservient to a man. And when it appears at any point that women might be moving ahead, the media uses the worst examples of femininity as a means of discrediting women as a whole.
Rape is one of the most heinous crimes one can commit against another. I think that anytime someone says they’ve been a victim of such abuse it should be taken seriously. But what exactly does coming forth with rape allegations look like? Given what we know about how dismissive law enforcement can be when handling rape cases, it’s understandable why many rape victims don’t feel confident going to the police. Add to that what we know about the cases in which many perpetrators of rape are the police themselves only adds to the uncertainty. Who do you go to? God? Many people feel if God cared, God wouldn’t allow such grave atrocities to happen to good people. Do you go to your priest when many priests are alleged or convicted rapists? And the media doesn’t care about you. They only want to use your story to boost their ratings. And when the very foundation of your country’s legal system is predicated and sustained through the rape and abuse of power over others to maintain its status, justice of any sort from the top down seems unlikely. So where does the healing begin?
Meanwhile, you have thousands upon thousands in the streets protesting for the same rights Martin Luther King Jr. died for almost 50 years ago. And whereas this may be a form of release for some, where is the list of demands? Who are you demanding it from? What is the collective missive? At least during the Civil Rights Movement there was an objective. There were representatives of the movement on the inside meeting with high-ranking government officials to get a change in policy. The marches and sit-ins were symbolic demonstrations geared towards creating the illusion that the public was “forcing” America to change its ways while the real work was happening behind closed doors. And even still, what good did that do? Not only are folks still marching for the same shit, but the government is repealing the amendments that were supposed to prevent what’s going on now.
Furthermore, our allegiances towards those who look like us constantly get in our own way. Our cultural and communal biases distort the truth and prevent us from looking objectively at any situation. As a result, Bill Cosby gets contextualized in the larger picture of America’s favorite dad being an alleged serial rapist. What do we take from that? If America’s favorite dad is a rapist, then all dads are no good. If America’s favorite Black man is a rapist, all Black men are rapists, so when you choke Eric Garner or shoot Mike Brown it is justified. What happens when one of the Cosby allegers gets a book deal or made-for-TV movie? All women who say they have been raped are just in it for the attention and money. So a story about sexual assault becomes a narrative that is an assault on the family unit, fatherhood, Black men, and womanhood. It reduces everyone to a meme and the process of dehumanization continues.
The thread through all of this is that I think people rely entirely too much on external forces to resolve inner turmoil. I don’t pretend to know everything or to have The Answer in this case. And for fear of adding yet another empty slogan to the cesspool of those that already exist, I’ll just say this: Sometimes the best thing to do is to sit still and do nothing. It is there in that quiet void that some of the most valuable solutions reside. We will never be able to change the world, but as long as we are of stable mental and spiritual health we have an opportunity to evolve. All it takes is the discipline to work hard, the resolve to be better, and the refusal to accept what is in front of you as all there is to be had.
#BAM — Nicholas Payton aka The Savior of Archaic Pop