Pretty much every journalistic outlet agreed that comedian Damon Wayans said some truculent things last week during his appearance on Power 105’s The Breakfast Club, regarding the rape charges against Bill Cosby.
The relevant portion of the interview in the above video begins at 26:12.
If you opted to skip watching this diatribe altogether, which I’m in full sympathy with (I damn near did), here’s a distillation: Bill Cosby’s accusers are “unrappeable bitches” and “money hustlers,” seeking vengeance on a powerful, internationally beloved idol, after he ended “relationships” with them because quaaludes-as-aphrodisiac, by the end of the seventies, were fastly going out of style.
Don’t bother pricking through the holes in Wayans’ reasoning. Holes such as, for example: surmising how unattractive women are suddenly attractive (i.e. “rapeable”) enough to be offered quaaludes from Mr. Cosby, who presumably only initiates “relationships” and sleeps with “rapeable” looking women.
I apologize. I can’t give you those brain cells back.
Besides, The Roots’ Kirsten West Savali, in her “Dear Damon Wayans: How Attractive Must A Woman Be To Be Rapeable,” has pricked for us — effectively deflating the ridiculous logic behind a washed-up clowns’ absurdist rationalizing of rape culture. In one damning, characteristic paragraph, she rips through the misogyny underlining inversion of the legal dictum “innocent until guilty” applied by Cosby apologist against his accusers:
All of a sudden, when it comes to women being raped, black men like Wayans have insurmountable faith in the judicial system. The same judicial system that found three police officers not guilty in the shooting death of Sean Bell. The same judicial system that cleared George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The same judicial system that declined to charge Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Mike Brown. The same judicial system that said it wouldn’t retry Randall Kerrick for the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell. The same judicial system that declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the choke hold death of Eric Garner. The same judicial system that has taken over a year to decide if it wants to indict Timothy Loehmann, the cop caught on video executing 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
Hear the air seeping out? The entire piece is profound and one I highly recommend you take the time to read, debunking the comedian’s mansplanations.
Crude and stupid as Wayans “unrapeable” comment is, what I found most peculiar and baseless is his rationale for why, or rather, the origins of the hell Bill Cosby is catching these days. Toward the end of his rant, Wayans says, “You know what Bill Cosby did wrong? Criticize Black men.” Huh?
He went on to suggest that Black people were so infuriated with Mr. Cosby that they hatched a plan to take him down, destroy his legacy.
Really? Well, that’s certainly an interesting claim. Bogus and bonkers, to be sure. But, interesting.
It should be pointed out that the key assumption of this argument of an intraracial conspiracy to ruin Bill Cosby is that all Black people disagreed with his pound cake-thesis, his spiel on black progress where he takes the opportunity to harangue on respectability this and respectability that. It assumes that, historically, the Black community has always been a homogeneous entity.
This most certainly isn’t true.
In fact, I suspect that if you spoke with a good percentage of Black folks — women and men — you’d find that many are in complete agreement with Cosby and view his cross-regional exploits — condemning the “cultural suicide” of African Americans (absentee fathers, black-on-black crime, wilful anti-intellectualism, hip hop, and welfare dependence) — as tough love.
The Atlantic author Ta-Nehisi Coates has this intraracial divide in mind on the question of Cosby. His piece alone, I feel, is sufficient and representative enough to make the case that, when it comes to Bill Cosby, Black folks do not see eye-to-eye. He writes:
Cosby’s rhetoric played well in black barbershops, churches, and backyard barbecues, where a unique brand of conservatism still runs strong. Outsiders may have heard haranguing in Cosby’s language and tone. But much of black America heard instead the possibility of changing their communities without having to wait on the consciences and attention spans of policy makers who might not have their interests at heart.
Even Coates’ father, a former Black panther, disagreed with cultural backlash flung at “America’s Favorite Dad”:
Shortly after Cosby took his Pound Cake message on the road, I wrote an article denouncing him as an elitist. When my father, a former Black Panther, read it, he upbraided me for attacking what he saw as a message of black empowerment. Cosby’s argument has resonated with the black mainstream for just that reason.
Thus, a significant strand of Blacks view Cosby’s message as motivation for Blacks to rely on no one but themselves.
Coates also points out what, to me, is a home run rebuttal of all-black-eyes on Cosby:
The split between Cosby and critics […] mirrors not only America’s broader conservative/liberal split but black America’s own historic intellectual divide. Cosby’s most obvious antecedent is Booker T. Washington. At the turn of the 20th century, Washington married a defense of the white South with a call for black self-reliance and became the most prominent black leader of his day. He argued that southern whites should be given time to adjust to emancipation; in the meantime, blacks should advance themselves not by voting and running for office but by working, and ultimately owning, the land.
W. E. B. Du Bois, the integrationist model for the Dysons of our day, saw Washington as an apologist for white racism and thought that his willingness to sacrifice the black vote was heretical. History ultimately rendered half of Washington’s argument moot. His famous Atlanta Compromise—in which he endorsed segregation as a temporary means of making peace with southerners—was answered by lynchings, land theft, and general racial terrorism. But Washington’s appeal to black self-sufficiency endured.
Precisely! Reactions to Mr. Cosby is consistent with the intellectual and emotional response to previous, well-known indictments of poor blacks, accused of harboring low values and bad manners. Like any other subject in Black America pertaining to black progress, there is a split.
What this means is the Black community is heterogeneous, and arguments abound within it. Ample room exist for scores of Blacks to enthusiastically cheer-lead and defend Mr. Cosby’s pro-bootstrap analysis of black stagnation. Whether self-sufficiency as understood by Cosby works or not is besides the point (My money is on it doesn’t and never has, but that’s another story).
Each event hosting Mr. Cosby’s verbal beatings castigating black pathology likely features the same response pattern — some black people exit the venue, some remain. Some translate his message as black empowerment, others compute demonizing the poor.
There is no absolute absence of support for Bill Cosby in these crowds. As such, no one should attribute his sinking star to this.
Even less likely is it that all black men turned their back on Mr. Cosby as retribution for his unapologetic criticism of Black masculinity. Quite the contrary. Plenty of Black men, like Damon Wayans, believe that the women, or “bitches”, accusing Cosby of rape are “guilty until proven innocent.”
So, no, Damon Wayans. Black people are not conspiring to ruin Bill Cosby. That honor goes to a national culture characterized by celebrity worship, which enabled the inimitable hubris, hypocritical moralizing, flawed self-righteousness, and misogynistic predilections of Mr. Cosby himself.