VOICES-It was as predictable as the sun rising in the Sahara desert in July. A celebrated black entertainer, athlete, or official comes under withering fire for getting caught in a personal and or criminal indiscretion, wrong doing, or malfeasance, and they scream race. Now it’s Bill Cosby’s turn to flip the race card. And he wasted no time in flipping it when he pleaded in the New York Post for the black media to remain “neutral” in the mounting furor and outrage over his alleged rapes of 20 plus and still counting women.
Cosby quickly walked down this tired, well-worn path for a good reason; in fact several good reasons and none of them are any good. Others have done it before him. The litany of names from O.J. Simpson to Tiger Woods to Clarence Thomas is well known. They all had some things in common . They were wildly lionized as pillars of society. They said or did little or nothing about racial issues. And they were likely guilty when dumped on the legal and public scrutiny hot seat.
They had one more thing in common. They knew that by screaming that they were victims of a long standing diabolical plot to demean, malign, pillory, and dehumanize black men, especially wealthy, prominent black icons, they could get a ready, sympathetic ear, and even circle the wagons push back by many African-Americans. Some black personalities have raised this ploy to a state-of-the-art enterprise when they are accused of, or nailed for, sexual hijinks, bribery, corruption, drug dealing and possibly even murder.
The wrong-headed misplay of the race card to cover or absolve blacks of abhorrent even criminal behavior and actions was on sorry display a few years ago during the rash of burnings of black churches. Nearly one-third of the more than 100 people arrested by FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents in the burning of over 200 churches were black. In some cases there was strong evidence of a loose conspiracy by a disjointed group of racist whites to burn these churches. But this obscured the fact that the blacks that burned their own churches got a pass.
There was hardly any claim or case to be made of anything racial about their motives. They burned their churches out of revenge, anger, to conceal thefts, or to perpetuate insurance fraud. They were criminals and no one should try to excuse or justify their shameful acts. Despite the damning evidence, many blacks still clung to the racist conspiracy theory about the church burnings. Their blindness to reality was the ultimate in collective racial denial.
Cosby is in a sense a special case. During his heyday, he worked both sides of the racial street. He broke racial barriers in his dramatic and family comedy series. Though he did not make a public crusade out of his smashing racial barriers, he did not explicitly reject his blackness. His successes in the then supremely hostile medium of TV that had either ignored or viciously stereotyped blacks for decades were regarded as a singular triumph for blacks. This firmly plopped him on the reveled icon pedestal. He solidified his place there when he doled out tens of millions to Spellman and other historically Black colleges.
But then there was a grim, dark, and ugly side to race that Cosby in time pandered too and made a signature racial name on. That was his pull up your pants, stop cursing, committing crime, and being derelict fathers blame the victim tirades against black males. He became the darling of conservative whites, and some blacks, who touted Cosby and his message as the second coming of prophecy. Either way, Cosby was firmly identified with racial politics and controversy.
The nagging rumors, lawsuits, and settlements for and about Cosby’s sexual romps and abuses were chalked off, even sneered, at as part of the supposedly well-designed template to wreck another black man. The mounting accusations of serial rape, drugging, violence, manipulation, physical and mental abuse of dozens of women ran off of him with many blacks like water off a duck’s back. Cosby’s weak and self-serving denials were more than enough to cancel out the charges and accusations of his voluminous alleged victims.
Beverly Johnson, a well-respected African-American model-actress, who accused Cosby of drugging her too could not be waved off as the ravings of a tramp, druggie, or gold-digger. This set the stage for Cosby to play his ultimate trump card when he made his race pitch to not the New York Times but the black media calling on it in effect to rally to his side.
When blacks reflexively fall for this ploy they lay themselves wide open to the charge that they are more interested in playing racial one-upmanship than in getting to and exposing lies, deceit, and abuse no matter what the race of the malefactor. Cosby banks on getting just that blindness to the colossal damage that his alleged acts did to multiple women when he flipped the race card.
(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is President of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)
Vol 12 Issue 101
Pub: Dec 16, 2014