by Torraine Walker
There’s a lot of anger over Bill Cosby.
The sheer number of his accusers, his criminal conviction, the overturning of that conviction due to procedural errors, and his previous controversial statements about Black culture and Black-on-Black crime that many African-Americans felt were condescending and victim blaming, have destroyed his reputation and taken America on an emotional rollercoaster.
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 former industry colleagues, 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 as misogynists and rape apologists but 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 of the 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, 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 who have sons that everyone knows is the neighborhood terror. 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? People like Roman Polanski, Vince Neil from Motley Crue and Mark Wahlberg, are all guilty of reprehensible acts yet celebrated for their talent. Of course, none of them reached the level of trust and warmth that Bill Cosby’s 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 unfortunately happens in abusive homes every day. Even in the aftermath of trauma, some people will always love their father figure.
Torraine Walker is the Founder and Editor of Context Media Group.