Indulge me while I bring you back to one average evening in the McLeod household circa 1985. Actually, I can say with relative confidence that it was February 6, 1985. I was four years old, and I had an epic meltdown that night. Many of you are probably shocked that I can remember the exact day I had this meltdown, but I was able to narrow into the date because it was the night former President Ronald Regan gave his State of the Union address that year.
Normally, four year olds have meltdowns about regular four year old things like not getting that piece of candy they wanted, not wanting to go to bed, etc. Four- year old Cappuccino Queen, however, was having a meltdown because the Cosby Show was being bumped from Primetime lineup because of this State of the Union Address. When I realized that no amount of crying and screaming could bring Bill Cosby back to my screen, I sat imagining that President Regan could see the terrible stink eye I was giving him.
I know this is a long- winded intro, but I can’t really begin to describe how much I loved the Cosby Show. To a four -year old brown girl, who lived in a neighborhood and went to a school where she was the only person of color, I loved watching a black family on television. I loved that Mr. Bill Cosby looked like my Dad (well, only in color really), and that Rudy was roughly my age. The Cosby show was the one show that everyone in my family seemed to enjoy, and we would all gather to watch it.
Fast- forward nearly 31 years, and these are the headlines that I am seeing come across my news feed:
After reading these most recent allegations that Cosby sexually assaulted over 14 women, that rosy childhood image that I had of him wilted on the spot. It felt similar to the time I was told that Santa Claus didn’t really exist, but much worse because it tarnished what was a positive image of the black family. Sure, I know the character in the show wasn’t really the man in real life, but I still wanted to believe that this man who played such an important character for the times was also a good man in real life.
After reading through some of the stories and comments from Cosby’s victims, I felt continued disgust for our flawed legal system. I also felt a connection with these women who have been fighting against a system that doesn’t want to believe that some men (especially financially powerful ones) are capable of rape. One of the most high-profile accusers, Barbara Bowman, a married mother of two, claims Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her beginning in 1985 when she was a 17-year old aspiring actress. She has continued to tell her story over and over for the last decade. The Washington Post published an essay by Bowman with the explosive headline: “Bill Cosby raped me. Why did it take 30 years for people to believe my story?”
Bowman wrote that she was emboldened to tell her story after Constand went public with her accusations:
“When Constand brought her lawsuit, I found renewed confidence. I was determined to not be silent any more. In 2006, I was interviewed by Robert Huber for Philadelphia Magazine, and Alycia Lane for KYW-TV news in Philadelphia. A reporter wrote about my experience in the December 2006 issue of People Magazine. And last February, Katie Baker interviewed me for Newsweek. Bloggers and columnists wrote about that story for several months after it was published. Still, my complaint didn’t seem to take hold.
“Only after a man, Hannibal Buress, called Bill Cosby a rapist in a comedy act last month did the public outcry begin in earnest. The original video of Buress’s performance went viral. This week, Twitter turned against him, too, with a meme that emblazoned rape scenarios across pictures of his face.”
While Cosby maintains that he is innocent, and claims that he has never been in trouble with the law, these countless allegations seem to paint a different picture. To me, one of the most disturbing parts of this story is the fact that this allegedly began over 30 years ago, yet Cosby remains a free man never having had to account for his behavior. Only now, is he really receiving any amount of public shame. I speak a lot about how our justice system has a way of failing its victims, but this is a very clear example of how when prosecutors turn their backs on these types of cases, it only emboldens criminals into continuing to commit vile acts.
If someone had listened to Bowman 30 years ago, how many women could have been sparred the emotional and physical scars? It is high time that we (as Americans) start taking a stand against this type of behavior. Women and men need to start taking this more seriously. 14 women shouldn’t have to come forward pointing their finger at a high profile celebrity before people start to believe that he could be a vile rapist.
Despite the realization that Cosby is not the man 4-year old Cappuccino Queen wanted him to be, I am still thankful for the producers who chose to show a black family during those times. That said, I will no longer show my support for a man who is clearly not deserving of the pedestal that so many of us placed him on.
Mr. Bill Cosby, I am ashamed of you. I hope and pray that you get exactly what you deserve, and that justice finally catches up with you.