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Is it Finally Time to Turn Our Backs on Bill Cosby?



Talk about a slow fall from grace. Two decades ago, The Cosby Show debuted on national TV, vaulting its star, Bill Cosby, into the role of America’s most lovable dad. But look at him now.

The 77-year-old comedian, who performs this Saturday at Carnegie Hall as part of the New York Comedy Festival, is enduring a heated backlash, ignited in part by one of comedy’s brightest lights, Hannibal Buress. Chicago-native Buress, 31, known for his meandering story-telling filled with non-sequiturs and sharp social commentary, performed a standup routine early this month, referencing Cosby’s rich history of rape allegations.

The accusations date back almost a decade, to accusations levied against the comedian in 2005 by a Temple University student who said Cosby drugged her and raped her in his mansion. The woman’s lawyers were able to find 13 other women willing to testify under oath that they suffered similar abuse. [Cosby denied any wrongdoing and the case was settled out of court]. Then, earlier this year, yet another woman told Newsweek magazine that Cosby had assaulted her on numerous occasions when she was a teenager.

In his routine, Buress pointed out Cosby’s apparent hypocrisy: “Bill Cosby has the fu**ing smuggest old Black man persona that I hate. He gets on TV,  ‘Pull your pants up Black people …’  Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple of notches.” The YouTube video of that performance has since gone viral.

For years, the rape accusations against Cosby lay dormant, seemingly destined to become a he-said she-said footnote to his career. Then Buress stepped to the mic and pointed out the obvious. In a way, the swift response to Buress’s mere mention of rape only underscores how difficult it is for women, especially Black women, to be heard when they accuse a powerful man of sexual violence.

As the Washington Post notes, “It wasn’t enough that 13 different women accused Cosby of drugging, raping and violently assaulting them. It was only after a famous man, Burress, called him out that the possibility of Cosby becoming a television pariah became real.”

Of course, Black audiences have long had a strained relationship with Cosby. In the beginning, we applauded him as a trailblazer — Cliff Huxtable offered an image of Black middle-class domesticity never before seen on network TV — but even then there were critics. Social activists charged Cosby with presenting a false vision of a color-blind America:  How can we fight systemic racism if you keep acting like it doesn’t exist? And then came the rape allegations, followed quickly by Cosby taking up the crusade of respectability, admonishing young Black men to stop complaining and pull up their pants, even as they were being shot dead in the streets.

In the wake of Buress’s pointed critique, Cosby’s appearance on the Queen Latifah Show was cancelled (reps from the show were quick to point out that it was the comedian who backed out of the engagement).  Some question whether NBC will move forward with the Cosby-helmed sitcom they have slated to hit the airwaves later this year.

A lot has changed in the decade since Cosby was first accused of rape. Social media now allows regular people to hold even the most powerful celebrities accountable for dirt a good lawyer used to make disappear. Buress may have intended to call out Cosby for being a hypocrite, but he’s ignited a conversation that’s long overdue: If a celebrated cultural icon is not what he appears, should we still love him or leave him alone?

What people are saying

12 thoughts on “Is it Finally Time to Turn Our Backs on Bill Cosby?

  1. Mickey MenKauren says:

    I'm not a Cosby fan, but why does it have to be another coon to throw Cosby under the bus. I never heard of Hannibal Buress before this skit, but I bet this will do wonders for his career. Funny, I but you couldn't pay this Gee Chi to talk about a proven child molester such as Woody Allen. His career would be over. I never cared for Mr. Cosby's humor, but a lot of Blacks are working because of him. & no you don't have to be a sellout sack of jew trash like Samuel L. to make in in Hollywood. Say nigga one million times, & you become Hollywood's nigga of the moment. Sellout coon!

  2. Parris Lane says:

    Did I miss something? Was he found guilty?

  3. No it's time to stop killing the messenger and acting like he's revealing some big secret about the black community that no one knows. Sports. Race. Controversy.

  4. Paul Johns says:

    I'm white, but I'm going to pull my pants up too, just to be safe.

  5. Ruththella White says:

    years ago I wrote to cosby's manager when cosby first started attacking black americans and I told him that he was using us as a smoke screen to hide his "dirty skirts". now the truth is out. you cannot hide forever. the women that testified received no compensation because the statute of limitations prevented any redress. it is fact that black americans are no more dysfunctional than white americans.

  6. 13 rape allegations don't phase you one bit. How many before you believe them? 31? 300?

  7. Mel Gibbs-Squires says:

    Bill Cosby – RAPE and stolen art…I've litigated against Cosby and "his" art gang for 20 years. I met better people on "death row!"…see,

  8. Mel Gibbs-Squires says:

    YES, Cosby is also the center of the largest theft of Black art in American history – $50 Billion,,,Cosby hasn't been tried or convicted because he is protected by the Justice Department. If Cosby goes to jail, "They all fall down!" …see,

  9. Mel Gibbs-Squires says:

    …see,…Cosby: RAPE of women and stolen art

  10. Look who is talking white folk, clean up your dirt before you say anything about anyone. How many black woman have white folk raped. You are so evil you have stole a whole nation of people. You are the real devil.

  11. Violet Weed says:

    I don't believe the accusations. It's like when a woman in Hawai'i accused Senator Inouye of raping her. The fact is that powerful men who have fame AND/or fortune are often accused by opportunistic people of all kinds of crimes. When it comes to rape why would a celebrated, famous guy like Bill Cosby NEED to rape ANYONE? If he has or had fantasies about overpowering a woman, he could easily find a professional S&M female to let him have his way for money. He is not an ugly, bummy guy with no money, who can't get a woman. He most certainly can get all the pretty young girls he wants, and he won't have to force them. As for Senator Inouye, HE HAS ONE ARM, try to picture a one-armed guy CATCHING and then HOLDING DOWN a woman so he can 'have his way'. Sheesh. You people just don't like to see other black people being SUCCESSFUL because then it negates your own 'sad tale of woe' because how can you succeed when 'whitie' keeps you enslaved? Right? Well, get this. I'm a WOMAN, and it doesn't matter WHAT color I am. I became successful for the same reason Bill Cosby and Senator Inouye did…. by virtue of HARD WORK, SELF-DISCIPLINE and not faltering or using excuses. GROW THE EFF UP.

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