Choosing Teams for America's Dad
It’s been quite some time since I produced a blog post so I want to thank all three of my supporters for sticking with me. There are two big reasons that I came out of my mini retirement. The first is that I have a shiny new website courtesy of CSquared Creative Consulting. The second reason is that Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial concluded and forced some issues that I think about quite often into mainstream water cooler talk.
For the last few weeks, I have been watching familiar teams steadily battle over what we are supposed to make of the Cosby trial. There are no formal teams of course; but I see the same themes repeatedly voiced and fit most of the commentators into one of three broad categories.
The first team reminds us that sexual violence is rampant in America with many studies affirming that as many as one in four women have survived a rape or sexual assault. This team puts the blame for this violence partially on a culture that doesn’t believe survivors when they step forward, even when dozens of survivors come forward with a similar story.
A second team reminds us that institutional racism has yet to be cleansed from America. It sees nothing coincidental in one of Black America’s most prominent champions of family and community uplift finding himself on the receiving end of accusations that have denigrated his reputation. Gone are the days where accusations of sexual violence could be used to simply kill outspoken Black men but they still have great effectiveness in destroying the livelihoods of Black men.
A third team reminds us of how easily the media and criminal justice system can be manipulated to maliciously ruin a man’s life. Sexual assault accusations almost always come down to one person’s testimony against another person’s testimony because they are very rarely settled through examination of physical evidence. Cosby’s brand is forever tarnished whether or not he is actually guilty of the actions that he is accused of committing.
And such are the teams. In the Cosby trial, each finds the latest instance of what they believe to be an age-old issue. It is then rather fitting that Cosby’s trial should end in a mistrial. If media reports are to believed, then a majority of jurists were unable to convince a couple of holdouts to seek a conviction. Like the broader country from which they were pulled, the jurists heard the exact same fact pattern and walked away with conflicting and intractable conclusions. They were unable to provide a consistent position on what to make of men who behave like Cosby.
It sounds like the jury pool consisted of the same mishmash of teams that are so vocal outside of the courtroom. These teams bother me because I don’t identify with any of them. Or rather I identify with all of them? The realities of interpersonal violence are generally more nuanced than these teams let on. I fully believe that sexual violence is unfortunately a normative experience for women, that racism is alive and well in America, and that the media and criminal justice system are often unequipped or unwilling to treat sexual assault cases with the impartiality that they deserve. These beliefs are not mutually exclusive in my mind. For example, I would not find it at all surprising if Cosby has engaged in behaviors that were not mutually consensual, that the media and public were way too overzealous in pronouncing his judgment, and that his fate was decided by a jury that included both folks that harbor some real prejudices against alleged victims and folks that harbor some real prejudices against alleged perpetrators.
Unfortunately, the team that allows for real world complexities isn’t as vocal as the teams that I mentioned earlier. Its silence leads boys into accepting black-and-white worldviews such as those where alleged victims are always hoes seeking fame and money. Its silence allows the airspace of many boys to be filled up almost exclusively with fear of false accusations during sexual encounters at the expense of fear of harming other people. Cosby himself has now stated that he will be engaging in a public speaking tour to warn young people about the dangers of false accusations and this is dominating the news cycle partially because the team that I identify with sits silently on the sidelines. However, my team is bigger. And boys will come to recognize that they have a choice as to what they should believe once they realize that we are out here.
Gordon B (@GordonBraxton)