Three weeks into this Bill Cosby rape scandal and we decided it was time for #TeamBeautiful to have a sit down. Sure we’ve been reporting the story, but we haven’t actually said anything. Of course, we’re rumbling and chatting at our desks in the office, but as a site that is dedicated to uplifting women, we’ve been quiet. I would say curiously so, and honestly, it’s because we’re conflicted. What are we supposed to say? What do we offer our audience that is insightful and substantive? Hell, do we have to stop watching “The Cosby Show?” The #TeamBeautiful staff is composed of six Black women who grew up watching “The Cosby Show,” and “A Different World.” Our identities have been largely influenced by the creativity of Bill Cosby. The process of separating ourselves from those memories to accurately cover this story has proven to be much harder than we would have thought. So we decided we should get together and have a real honest chat and share with our readers how the editorial team is feeling about the story. We hope you’ll join in the discussion in the comments.
Participating in the chat are myself, Leigh Davenport, Editorial Director; Danielle Young, Lifestyle Editor; Shamika Sanders, Entertainment Editor, Shardae Jobson, Staff Writer, Veronica Hilbring, Editorial Fellow.
Leigh: Ok, so, why are we having such a hard time talking about the rape allegations against Bill Cosby?
Danielle Young: No one wants to talk about Bill Cosby because he’s our hero. He’s our dad. And honestly, he’s old. No one wants to see an elderly man get raked through the coals.
Shardae Jobson: It’s uncomfortable considering how much effort he’s made to educate and motivate the black community to do better, on top of being a legend and “The Cosby Show” being such a great moment for black America. Its place in history will still hold true but all these allegations will taint it a bit, including Cosby’s legacy.
Danielle Young: The AP interview was tough to watch. I 100% believe the allegations are true, but to watch him be under a spotlight and asked about his actions, I don’t know, it’s just not something I want to see. But I do want him to pay for what he’s done… if he did it.
Shamika Sanders: The public is judging him based off of this facade instead of a multifaceted human being — who is very capable of living two lives…which is what entertainers do–
Veronica: He put a lot of effort into building that facade too… like 50 years into it.
Leigh: Is it possible to want him to be brought to justice and still be a fan of “The Cosby Show?”
Shardae Jobson: Yes, but I think one would feel incredibly awkward laughing along with Cosby when he was convicted of sexual assaults
Veronica: Yes. When I heard the multiple accounts of the same story, it was disappointing. But I’m able to separate Bill Cosby from Cliff Huxtable.
Leigh: TV Land has already pulled the show. I want him to be brought to justice, but I really don’t want to stop watching “The Cosby Show.” It makes me happy and I love the cast and it is so much a part of my childhood.
Shamika Sanders: It is very possible to want him to be brought to justice and be a fan of what “The Cosby Show” represents. It’s just going to be tough getting through an episode without thinking about the allegations
Veronica: It will be hard though to completely stop watching. Just like I haven’t stopped listening to R. Kelly, I won’t be able to just stop watching Cosby.
Leigh: I hear you Veronica. You can’t take “The Cosby Show” from me.
Danielle Young: It’s tough to separate the art from the artist, but in this case, you’d just have to realize that entertainment is only that. But “The Cosby Show” did more than entertain… it taught lessons and created a platform for him to the consummate father–the archetype. And it’s that image that we hold on to and that’s what makes it tough to continue to watch. Because you’re like, sheesh, I’m watching a rapist.
Shardae Jobson: That’s tough. I want to lean towards, yes, but then I think, “Damn…”
Danielle Young: It’s the same with listening to R. Kelly. I still enjoy it, but the backdrop is, damn…I’m listening to a rapist and I like it.
Shardae Jobson: What TV Land did was classic of scandals like this, but I’m sure it’ll return.
Danielle Young: And pulling the show does more than just say, hey, we don’t condone rape. It’s taking money out of the pockets of the others who worked so hard to make The Cosby Show a thing.
Leigh: Bill Cosby is nearing the end of his life, is there something about his age that makes this whole thing more complicated?
Veronica: I don’t think so. He’s been old for the last 30 years. It just makes its gross when you think about it.
Shamika Sanders: I think his age is irrelevant. I give him no passes because he is old.
Veronica: Me either, if anything, it makes it worse. He should know better.
Danielle Young: Yes, there is something about Cosby’s age that makes it more complicated. As I said earlier, no one wants to see an old man be raked through the coals. It’s uncomfortable. But, we all have to pay for our actions. It’s the way the world works…karma is real.
Shardae Jobson: I haven’t thought much about his age since he’s still actively working. If at all, he’s going to use that as an excuse to not respond, like I’m old as f*ck, I don’t have time for this…
Shamika Sanders: I’d respect him more if he came out and said he did it and is getting help in the last years of his life…like a redemption kind of thing.
Veronica: Is there redemption for a rapist?
Danielle Young: He wasn’t “old” when he started raping these women. He just got old and then got caught. You have to pay for your wrongdoings. Somehow, some way, you always pay. It’s sad that it’s happening to him now in such a fragile time, but you have to face what you’ve done.
Veronica: A serial rapist?
Danielle Young: There’s redemption for everyone.
Shamika Sanders: Sometimes victims only want to hear “sorry,” it doesn’t solve everything but it helps. Like closure. That person knows what they did is wrong and that you didn’t deserve it. It’s very selfish of him to not acknowledge what he did.
Danielle Young: This is just a personal belief, growing up as a Christian, it’s tough because the foundation is set on love and forgiveness. I believe heavily in forgiveness. Redemption for all is possible, but it depends on the person who committed the sin. If there’s a true sense of remorse and an actual admittance of his wrongdoing and admission that he’s getting help or wants to change that about himself…
Leigh: Obviously we empathize with the victims, but somehow I feel bad for everyone involved in this. His wife and family, his cast mates, producers, his legacy involves so many people. It’s like watching a dynasty tumble.
Shardae Jobson: I think on a personal level, it’s the legacy that’s making me sad because while I always found Bill Cosby to be this grumpy old men post “The Cosby Show” and his speeches somewhat condescending, I always respected his career as an observer.
Shamika Sanders: I want to know what his wife thinks about this, presuming their marriage is even real because the way she sat in the AP interview all smiles while the reporter asked about rape allegations.
Shardae Jobson: That’s true. Cosby hasn’t shown signs of remorse and that’s bad. Yeah that AP interview made their marriage look like a business deal once it hit a certain amount of years.
Shamika Sanders: As a woman, I innately side with the women in this situation. I understand sticking by my man but to be sitting there while he vehemently avoids taking responsibility is just ridiculous.
Leigh Davenport: In some ways I feel like his inability to say sorry is linked to his concept of his own power and influence. People were once able to make things like this disappear. With the internet and social media, it’s not like that anymore. The times have literally changed the game and he doesn’t seem to grasp that.
Danielle Young: YES! Leigh Davenport! But to just say sorry and expect the world to forgive, that’s not redeeming.
Shamika Sanders: Well no, I don’t think the world will forgive based on a sorry. I was referring to the victims. I’m sure they want him to apologize of some sort for the healing process.
Danielle Young: The money that he’s allegedly given to victims to keep quiet all shows the power of the dollar. The power that he thinks he has. I think it’s a delusion that most people with power have…money can solve any issue. And in this case, it hasn’t. It’s been a band-aid, but that wound has become far too large.
Leigh Davenport: This story has been around for YEARS actually…
Veronica: I think another reason I was able to be more sympathetic to the victims was because for the last 10+ years, Cosby has been on a world tour of telling black folks on how they should be acting.
Danielle Young: Yeah, it’s been longer than months. And honestly, women have come out, but their voices were squashed and by who and what, we don’t know. But thankfully someone like Hannibal Burress had a platform and brought it back again.
Shamika Sanders: He isn’t actually getting in trouble. The public’s opinion of him has changed but I doubt he cares — he’s a celebrity so disconnected from the real world. He could care less what anyone has to say.
Leigh Davenport: People like him ALWAYS care what people think of him. He has spent all of this time telling people what to do because he sees himself as a model. This whole story is destroying his legacy. He’s very Bill Clintonesque in that way. But unlike Clinton, rape isn’t something people will get over after 10 years out of the spotlight.
Veronica: I think he does care a little. He knows his place in history. Now he sees his legacy getting tarnished.
Leigh Davenport: Okay, so, as a women’s site, what are we supposed to say about this story as it continues to dominate… well… everything?
Veronica: I think we should continue to report the developments that apparently are growing and not just look at him as Cliff Huxtable but as man facing serious allegations.
Shamika Sanders: As a woman’s site, I think we should be honest in whatever our take is. The truth is, we are conflicted — we’re human. There’s this grey area no one wants to play in.
Danielle Young: This story is a testament to our culture. It’s tragic, involves a huge name, so it’s viral. The thing about viral is that it’s often a trend with an expiration date. While the stories will fade, the memory of Cosby is now and will forever be a rapist. He’s a joke now. He’s been a joke since he started telling Black folks how to act, but now, there’s memes to attach to it. The desensitization is real and disappointing. His entire career is moot.
Shamika Sanders: It’s like the Ray Rice/Janay Palmer situation. When she came out and defended her husband, she mentioned how hard he worked to be in the NFL, etc. Does one part of your life determine the next?
Veronica: It’s also sad for fans. we really held Bill Cosby in high regard. Now we can’t even look at him the same.
Danielle Young: At some point, we’re going to have to stop jumping on every little detail that emerges, but there’s nothing we can say or do that’s going to rid the world of men with power who use it for evil.
Shardae Jobson: I think staying sensitive to the situation will work well for us, and when it’s appropriate to, look at how the media is responding to it, like Don Lemon’s terrible advice, then we can be snarky because Lemon wasn’t doing his part in handling this situation with care.
Leigh Davenport: I think admitting we’re conflicted instead of just pretending we’re totally solid in hating the man is far more responsible. It’s more complicated than that. I’m not non-supportive to the victims because I can admit that Bill Cosby and his work has a very special place in my heart. Because of him, I grew up sure that there were Black people who were like me, and my family, and I took refuge that I could be confident when people challenged my identity. I wrote about The Cosby Show when I applied to grad school and I am to this day called a “Cosby kid”. Those very personal affiliations don’t just disappear because I hate what he’s done to these women.
Shamika Sanders: My thoughts exactly.
Leigh Davenport: Thanks ladies. I hope our readers will chime in on their feelings about this.