Let’s ‘talk about Cosby’ and due process

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When I saw the title of W. Kamau Bell’s new docuseries “We Need To Talk About Cosby,” I laughed to myself. That’s all we’ve been doing for over 60 years, although the way we’ve talked about him has shifted dramatically in the past decade.

Personally, I still love Bill Cosby, regardless of the things that are now being said, but have never been proven in a court of law. And that’s the problem with “talking about Cosby” these days, because the only two words we seem to forget in these conversations about value, honor, crime, drugs, suspicions, victims, victimizers, wrong and right, are the most important ones: Due process.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had the courage to do what several juries, a few other judges, many journalists, and the vast majority of the bystanders watching the mess from the sidelines didn’t: Apply the law to the facts, and come up with an acquittal.

It doesn’t matter what you “think” an accused defendant has done. What matters is what you can prove within the limits of the law. In Cosby’s case, they didn’t do it, even though they twisted the Constitution into a pretzel to find him “guilty,” and then shoved him in prison for almost three years, an 83-year-old man. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court couldn’t give him back those stolen years, but it did give him justice.

Whenever I’ve written about these decades-old allegations of harassment and abuse, I get letters from people telling me I don’t understand the psyche of an abused woman. I’m told that if I were more empathetic, or more educated, or kinder, or smarter, or lots of other things that I clearly am not, I would never question a woman when she says that she was abused.

But these people usually forget that I don’t just write columns with uncomfortable opinions. I’m also a lawyer, and I’ve studied the legal system. And no matter how upsetting it might be to think that a woman who was abused is going to have to move on, because it’s just too late to bring her claims, that’s often the price we must pay for living in a system that keeps us from turning into an Arthur Miller play, where a pointed finger and an accusation of “witch!” is enough to get you locked up for the rest of your life. Or worse.

Bill Cosby was deprived of due process, and that’s a fact. W. Kamau Bell can “talk about Cosby” all he wants, but unless he makes that the primary and focal point of his series, it’s really worthless.

And another thing. There should be no color divide in this discussion. I had a hard time when O.J. Simpson tried to make it all about being a Black man caught up in the system, but Cosby is different. And here’s why.

The reason that so many people were willing to jump on the “I Hate Cosby” bandwagon is because he had the temerity to preach self-determination, self-respect, self-awareness, and pull your damn pants up. Over the years, he has shown the beauty of being an educated, accomplished, truly happy Black man, and he brought it mainstream with his depiction of a family that we all wanted to belong to.

And he was accused of being “white,” which is a bit rich because that insults people of color who reached the pinnacle. Why is being accomplished “white?” What does that say about our society, particularly our liberal friends who seem to be overly-sensitive about labels?

Cosby enraged people from so many quarters, including newly “empowered” women, Black men like comic Hannibal Burress who didn’t like being criticized, liberals who are squeamish about criticizing anyone except conservatives, and-let’s be honest-people who still harbor that “Black men are dangerous” prejudice, a lot of whom come from my side of the political and philosophical aisle.

So let’s “talk about Cosby,” and when we do, let’s remember that a man who was convicted of nothing spent almost three years of his life serving time to fulfill a promise made by Montco D.A. Kevin Steele on the campaign trail. When we “talk about Cosby,” let’s make sure we point out that he likely gave more in philanthropy than every single person who has sat in judgment of him, combined. When we “talk about Cosby,” let’s discuss how social movements can swiftly become witch hunts. When we “talk about Cosby,” let’s remind ourselves that we rightly criticize Jan. 6 but that some of the loudest critics endorse another sort of mob violence, the kind that dispenses with due process.

I don’t think we need to talk about Cosby, anymore. But if we do, let’s tell some truths.

Copyright 2022 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected]