I have things I want to say about Bill Cosby. They are this, in order:
- I believe he is a rapist.* He is clearly a rapist.
- I think The Cosby Show and his contributions to the collecting and documenting Black-American and African Art are unparalleled in their impact.
- I know, for a fact, that terrible people can make beautiful things.
If there is a way to create retribution for the women he hurt, I am in full support of it. However, I wish to stop short of destroying or removing his artistic legacy. Because that legacy showcased the work of artists and performers of colors on a massive scale. That complicated legacy also allowed us to turn a blind eye when people we collectively deemed unworthy tried to point fingers.
We are all implicated. Heroes don't actually exist.
That is to say every person we deify without accountability gets bolder, abuses more, believes themselves more powerful until they are committing atrocities with impunity. In creating "heroes" we remove humanity, and actually create monsters.
And every time we get comfortable victim-blaming, we create space for these monsters to create more victims. We create Daniel Holtzclaw. We create Darren Wilsons and George Zimmermans and Daniel Pantaleos. We create Mark Wahlberg. We create Eldridge Cleaver. We create Bill Cosby.
Every time we collectively create blind spots, we reinforce power imbalances. We let white men kill black men; we let men rape women; we let rich plunder poor. All of us.
"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."
The snowflakes are all of us as individuals bound together by the momentum of racism, sexism, patriarchy and their brethren. Racism punishes the Black and Brown monsters we've created more harshly and wholly than their white counterparts. Racism brings a man back from the grave to admonish his unfaithful son while laughing at the boys-will-be-boys antics of Charlie Sheen. It is removing the statue of a great entertainer who is the worst kind of person from a park named after a great visionary who is also the worst kind of person.
Our hypocrisy is showing.
As we righteously tear down a terrible man who used every resource at his disposal to prey on women solely because he had so many resources at his disposal, I would like us to not celebrate too much in the task. We have literally built mountains to men capable of much of the same evil and greatness so we are not the impartial arbiters of morality we seem to wish we were.
We create monsters then selectively choose which to capture: we are both Dr. Frankenstein and the pitchfork-wielding mob. As our actions continue to cycle from deifying to vilifying, I ask that we pause to consider what systems we're reinforcing. Let's ask ourselves:
- Are we attempting to erase his impact on popular culture as a gesture to override our conscious discounting of the women who accused him in the first place?
- Are we really okay with removing Cosby's statue from a space which was made to recognize entertainers while we send our children to schools named after Confederate leaders and slave owners?
- Does punishing Bill Cosby make you feel better?
How can it when there's so much left to do?
*I originally started this post months ago, when the allegations surrounding Bill Cosby resurfaced. The revelation of his own admission and the sheer amount of life that has happened between last October and today has prompted me to revisit it.
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COURTNEY HARGE is a producer, director, and professional arts administrator originally from Saginaw, MI. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of Colloquy Collective, a theater company based out of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Her credo (#HustlingKeepsYouSexy) is not merely a hashtag; it’s a [...]