Dear Mrs. Camille Cosby:
Please, for the love of God and all things good, just be quiet.
Your dear husband — and to be quite honest, one of my first celebrity idols — was convicted last week of three counts of sexual assault.
I know that seems unfair to you, especially in a world where disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and President Trump, who have both been accused of similar acts, still roam free. So I can only imagine that Bill Cosby’s possible jail time seems particularly egregious to you. You pledged to love Bill till death do you part. Separation by a 30-year prison term was not part of the deal.
But, Mrs. Cosby, to compare your husband’s trial and conviction to a lynching and use the case of Emmett Till as a metaphor, as you did Thursday morning in a three-page statement, is not just outrageous, it’s a fallacy. It’s right up there with Kanye West’s Tuesday afternoon dumb-dumb talk that included the tweet, “slavery was a choice.”
This kind of gross exaggeration only serves to distort the painful legacy of African American men: Those powerless brothers of yesteryear who were killed for the minor infractions of not lowering their eyes or clearing the sidewalk when a white woman crossed their path. Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, and Sandra Bland also come to mind.
So how can you — a race woman from the 1960s era — even fix your mouth to make that statement?
Till was just a 14-year-old boy when he was lynched and beaten to a pulp in 1955 for what turned out to be false accusations by Carolyn Bryant Donham. But even if Till had grabbed Donham and made lewd comments, the ghastly punishment would in no way fit the crime. To use your words, Till’s death was truly a “paradigm of evilness.”
Your husband, on the other hand, was one of Hollywood’s most powerful men, known for his Quaaludes game. He invited women to his room despite the vows he took. And more than 60 women — not all of whom were white, by the way — told similar stories involving drugs and sexual assault. To draw on the history of violence against black men just for being black, and to compare it to Bill’s perverted behavior, is vicious.
It’s par for the course for public officials — or anyone else under scrutiny — to blame the media for their troubles. That tactic would probably be the number-one tool for deflection in a How to Be a Ride or Die Wife Handbook that I suspect you could write easily. “The media ensured the dissemination of that propaganda by establishing barricades, preventing the dissemination of truth in violation of the protection of the First Amendment,” you wrote in your searing statement. “Are the media now the people’s judge and juries?”
No, we are not.
But it is our job to shine a light on some of our darkest corners. These corners are particularly hard to get at because those closest to them refuse to see it, enable it, or turn a blind eye.
Mrs. Cosby, you have done all three.
On some level, I can’t blame you. At a time when the black family was struggling to exist, you and Mr. Cosby were one of Jet Magazine’s most upstanding black couples. Together you embodied upward mobility. And as Mr. Cosby’s wife, you sat on the highest pedestal.
And in public, Mr. Cosby held you there. He based the perfect Clair Huxtable on you, your mannerisms, how you raised your five children. In hindsight, that public coddling was just a beard. A mask. He used you to cover up the way he treated women behind closed doors. Because these women weren’t you — not his perfect wife — they didn’t deserve his respect. And if these women didn’t have your husband’s respect, why should they have yours?
We see this dynamic all the time. In fact, it’s the center of hip hop culture your husband so despises: the wifey vs. the jump off. This kind of thinking and behavior sustains a rape culture that is free to grow. Every time the wife, or the woman in the on-high role, defends her husband’s lascivious acts and fails to label him the predator, this garden of evil is fertilized. Victims bloom like black roses.
So, Mrs. Cosby. Please just stop.
I would never silence a fellow black woman. Too many people do that, especially when we are fighting for a good cause. But Mrs. Cosby, your cause is not noble. Unfortunately, the Cosby legacy is in tatters, so you might as well let that go. But worse, comparing Emmett Till’s death to your husband’s conviction serves no one except those who still long for the era that would allow such a lynching to take place, or perhaps even darker times.