Bill Cosby: A Race Issue or Women's Issue?

It was 2015 when the first woman came forward accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault. Following the first accuser, came more women revealing they had similar stories and were also assaulted by Cosby. This was a shock to many being as most of us grew up seeing him as Mr. Huxtable on The Cosby Show. He was the typical goofy dad everyone could relate to. This perception slowly began to crumble as more than 60 women came out accusing him of sexual assault.

On Tuesday, Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. Of course, the sentencing brought about mixed emotions. While many were happy to see the victims receive proper justice, others felt the sentencing was unfair and racially motivated. It’s easy to understand why people are looking at this from a racial standpoint first. In a society where black people aren’t meant to succeed, we cherish those who do. Bill Cosby represents so much to people in the black community. Many feel Cosby has become another victim of the system.

These reactions aren’t surprising to me. I actually expected them. Throughout this whole trial, I’ve seen people focusing on the racial issues in this case rather than the women’s issues. A lot of people were still unsure if he did it or not. And even people who did believe he’d done it, made excuses for him. Some saying he’d done so much for the community, questioning why incidents from 30 years ago were just now resurfacing, and saying he’s old now and should be left alone.

I remember how irritated I was when I heard people making these remarks. I was even more irritated to see them coming from women. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising to hear this type of stuff from men, but to see other women thinking this way is disappointing. I couldn’t (and still can’t) understand why other women would turn a blind eye to the fact that he raped these women. One would think that other women would be sympathetic to the victims in this situation being as it could easily be them. Sadly, this is not the case.

I understand the frustration from a racial perspective, but it’s extremely dangerous to ignore the fact that Cosby blatantly assaulted these women. People passing judgement about how long the victims took to come out about these incidents, is the very reason victims of sexual assault stay silent for so long. Millions of women are raped every year and most of the rape cases that are reported go unsolved. For decades now, victims have been shown that they are not safe. This has sent the message that rape is excusable. Women aren’t protected in this country and people wonder why many victims go decades without saying a word.

After the ruling, Cosby’s publicist, Andrew Wyatt, claimed that this case was the most racist and sexist he'd ever seen. He compared Cosby to Jesus Christ and went on about how Cosby has been a prominent figure in the Civil Rights movement for years. In all of this, I found it funny how Wyatt left out the classist remarks Cosby has made about his own people in the past, saying some black people are responsible for the oppression they face. Yet, the same black people he looks down on are breaking their backs to defend him in the face of oppression.

I find this whole situation ironic for two reasons. One, there are black people defending Bill Cosby when Cosby, himself, wouldn’t do the same for them and, two, Bill Cosby is, now, another statistic and has become the black man that he once judged. I am well aware of the racial inequalities in our society, but we can’t allow this to go unpunished. Allowing a known rapist to walk free puts out the idea that the voices of rape victims hold no power. It gives off the message that every woman is susceptible to being sexually assaulted, which is a message that we can't tolerate. From a racial standpoint this can be seen as a heartbreak, but from a women’s standpoint, this is a victory.

Side Note: I chose to make an image of Bill Cosby's accusers the cover photo rather than Bill Cosby because they are who we should be focusing on concerning this issue. Also, note that this is only half of his accusers...

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