by Torraine Walker
There's a lot of anger over Bill Cosby. Women are angry that it took an admission from him in a deposition that he used Quaaludes to help facilitate sex with women for the allegations against him to seem credible. Diehard Cosby fans are upset that so many women are out to crucify an iconic figure of Black comedy and entertainment. His criminal conviction, the sheer number of women who accused him, coupled with his statements about Black crime that many felt were condescending and victim blaming, have destroyed his reputation. It's tragic for the damage done to the women involved, and tragic for the stain on a decades-long career. Still, he has support, from people who think the women are lying opportunists, and from those who think his downfall is part of a carefully planned conspiracy. His supporters have been attacked on social media as misogynists and while that may be true, I think the reason for that support is far more primal.
Bill Cosby was a father figure to a generation of kids who had no father, to those watching the Cosby Show and to many actors who idolized him and that goes a long way towards explaining why no one wanted to believe the worst. Kids love their fathers. They revere them, they depend on them for life lessons and most importantly, they see them as protectors, incapable of harming them, even when they do. Children defend their parents. People defend their families, even in the face of irrefutable evidence of guilt. It's the same thing you see with mothers in the hood who have sons that everyone knows has terrorized the neighborhood for years. He may be a killer, but she still loves her son, and she will support him regardless. That dynamic is at play here. Nobody wants to admit that their father figure has deep personal issues and may have willfully harmed others.
There's also the history of false rape accusations that have caused the lynching and incarceration of countless numbers of African-American men. It's a fear that many Black men carry because we know how easy it is to have your life and freedom taken from you with no proof heavier than innuendo. No one wants to see their father suffer. But there comes a time when you must face the flaws in your hero's character.
Can you separate art from the artist, and the artist's worst personality traits? R. Kelly, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, Vince Neil from Motley Crue, Mark Wahlberg, all these entertainers are guilty of reprehensible acts yet are celebrated for their talent. Of course, none of them reached the level of trust and warmth that Bill Cosby fans bestowed on him and none of them had his type of power.
Loyalty can be used to hide a multitude of sins. So can idolization of a human being. It happens in abusive homes every day. It's a mindset that silenced women who tried to speak out about Bill Cosby for decades. Even in the aftermath of them telling their stories, some people will always love their father figure.
Torraine Walker is a writer, independent journalist, and content creator for digital media. His work has appeared in publications including the Huffington Post, Fusion, Abernathy, and Brain Mill Press. In 2015, his blog SUMCity won WordPress' Freshly Pressed Award for best new blogs.