Cosby Verdict Historic for Women, People of Color, Diversity - Higher Education
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Cosby Verdict Historic for Women, People of Color, Diversity

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Words of contrition? Bill Cosby’s lawyer says he’ll appeal the comedian’s convictions.

But in these dark hours after the verdict, alone in his Pennsylvania residence, his tracking device on, do you think the man formerly known as “America’s Dad,” now shamed as America’s pre-eminent rich and famous convicted predator, is really re-examining the questionable moves he’s made in life?

Do you see him ruminating on whether he should have given alcohol and Quaaludes to all those women before dropping his pants?

Or is it possible he’s just kicking himself for opening his mouth as the scold of African-American family life and publicly shaming young African-Americans by saying, “Pick-up your pants.”

You’ll recall that 2013 is when the unravelling began. Cosby took on the challenge of being African-American role model and found himself to be the darling of folks like then-Fox host Bill O’Reilly.

Cosby’s critical voice lent credibility to O’Reilly’s rant that the community’s problems were due to the “disintegration of the African-American family,” drugs and the entertainment community’s embrace of gangsta culture.

Even CNN’s Don Lemon agreed.

“He’s got a point; in fact, he’s got more than a point,” Lemon said of O’Reilly, saying the Fox commentator didn’t go far enough.

“Black people, if you really want to fix the problem, here’s just five things that you should think about doing,” Lemon proclaimed.

Lemon’s five: hike up your pants, finish school, don’t use the N-word, take care of communities (like not litter) and don’t have children out of wedlock.

The list sounds sensible, and may even have a ring of truth — for a second.

Yes, you can pick up your pants, dress up better. You can wear a tie (just a fancified corporate noose for some). Essentially, you can clean up your act.

Yes, all that helps.

And then what?

If most people just stop there, all you’ve done is scratch the surface. Picking up your pants, ditching the hoody for the J. Crew skinny suit, is all just show biz.

You’ve literally cleaned up. But you’re still who you are on the inside, and you’re still the color you are.

That’s what racists really react to.

You want to get to the core problems of the Black community, it seems to me there’s heavier work to do than picking up your pants.

That doesn’t address real issues, things like the massive incarceration of Black men in the U.S., chronic underemployment, and access to education – not just higher education.

That’s the heavy stuff. That’s what the discussion was about in 2013.

Cosby was weighing in as the pre-eminent scholar-comedian beginning with the pants thing.

And then someone called B.S. on Cosby and it all turned around.

The someone was comedian Hannibal Buress, who in performance called Cosby a hypocrite and a rapist.

Did we know? The rape part? Is it true? “Google Bill Cosby and rape,” Buress said.

And people did.

Little by little, the world soon discovered Cosby’s hypocrisy. But first we had to understand why we didn’t believe his female accusers when it was their word versus a man of stature and power.

If we didn’t believe one woman, would we believe five? 10? 50?

All that from 2013.

Cosby was pretty much living off his laurels, seen as the esteemed storyteller-entertainer-educator. That last distinction gave him cred in higher ed, perhaps more than he deserved.

But when an iconic figure has transferred wealth to your school, well, who can afford to complain if you’re a beneficiary like any number of schools that had relationships with Cosby?

Still, one by one, those connections were severed – sometimes grudgingly, other times willfully – during this long process.

The evolution from total trust to total betrayal has been about five years.

Only one thing kept the scorn from rising higher: Donald Trump.

When the second trial started, there was barely any news time for Cosby. Some may have felt it was destined to repeat the first failed attempt to return a conviction.

But with the news cycles all trumped up, justice was allowed to do its thing without the overharsh light of the media.

And when the right verdict was reached this past week, it was truly historic. For women, for people of color, for diversity, for anyone who doubts the system to get it right, this is what justice look likes in a changing America.

It was enough to briefly push Trump, another powerful man with harassment issues, out of the news, and give a bit of time to the first conviction of the #MeToo era.

Too bad it was Cosby, the one-time funny fellow, now felon. Right.

But as he left the court, I don’t know if Cosby gets it.

The jury may have been convinced. But was Cosby?

He was convicted, but as I saw him on the news walking out of the court, I’m just not sure Cosby didn’t believe he was entitled to better.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator who writes for http://www.aaldef.org/blog.

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