The Cosby Conviction – No tolerance of abuse
In what is yet another sad chapter in the ongoing saga of the rise and fall of prominent Black achievers, the famed African-American comedian, actor and educator Bill Cosby was jailed for three to 10 years on Tuesday for sexual assault.
The 81-year-old film and television star received the sentence after being found guilty of drugging and molesting a former female administrator at Temple University where he was a member of the Board of Trustees.
Her allegations of sexual assault were among a string of such allegations by over a dozen women who made similar claims. In the case just concluded, Cosby was described by a psychologist
as a “predator with uncontrollable urges” and he has been categorised as a “sexually violent predator” meaning that he must undergo counselling for life and be listed on the sex offenders’ registry.
It is a tragic end to a stellar career which led to Cosby being considered a father figure, so much so that he was called “America’s Dad”. He won numerous awards for his achievements on stage, in movies and on television including Golden Globes, Emmys and Grammys. Most of his awards have now been stripped from him and he has gone to jail in shame and humiliation.
How did this all happen? What can we learn from his degrading experience?
Bill Cosby had risen to become an icon of the black community, someone to be emulated, even a promoter of moral education for children. His was a friendly household name to whom all generations could relate. He was seen as a success story for black people the world over.
But apparently, behind it all there were serious personal weaknesses. However in a world, especially that of show business, where power and prestige often result in personal transgressions being ignored, particularly those against women, these alleged misdeeds remained hidden from the public glare, and safe from prosecution, for a long time.
Today, however, victims of sexual assault are speaking out, confronting their abusers. Like other prominent men in the world of show business, Mr Cosby was finally called to account. As the judge is quoted as saying after the sentencing, “Mr Cosby, this has all circled back to you. The day has come, the time has come”.
While his conviction and imprisonment are welcomed as a stern warning to other sexual predators, it is also another setback for the cause of African Americans. Given the challenges of racism and discrimination they face, having black father-figures like Cosby was, provides an important source of inspiration for young black people. Now that image has been badly tarnished.
As much as we are disappointed at the fall of such a former icon, his conviction must be seen as another victory in the fight against abuse, particularly sexual abuse, of women by men in positions of power and influence. This goes right across the board, spanning the world of business, politics, show business and even sport.
The message must be heard loud and clear: No tolerance of abuse; no cover-up; the guilty must pay!