Bill Cosby, American comedian and actor, is currently knee-deep in sexual assault allegations. Approximately 56 women have come forward claiming that Cosby raped or sexually assaulted them a few decades ago. The trial is due to begin June 2017, and as of now, Cosby has denied all allegations. The trial specifically regards the alleged drugging and raping of Andrea Constand in 2004, one of many accusations against Cosby.
A few days ago on September 6, one of Cosby’s lawyers, Brian McMonagle, stated, “Mr. Cosby is no stranger to discrimination and racial hatred, and throughout his career Mr. Cosby has always used his voice and his celebrity to highlight the commonalities and has portrayed the differences that are not negative, no matter the race, gender and religion of a person.” McMonagle also said of lawyer Gloria Allred, who is representing many of the women who have accused Cosby as of this time, “[Allred] calls herself a civil rights attorney, but her campaign against Mr. Cosby builds on racial bias and prejudice that can pollute the court of public opinion.” He further stated, “And when the media repeats her accusations—with no evidence, no trial and no jury — we are moved backwards as a country and away from the America that our civil rights leaders sacrificed so much to create.” These statements were made to reporters outside the courthouse. It is not known whether the defense will use racial bias as a defense tactic during the official trial.Despite the defense’s recent argument of a racial bias against the comedian, Cosby in the past has spoken openly about racism not being a legitimate reason for many disadvantages African Americans face. In a 2004 NAACP speech, Cosby said, “These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake. Then we all run out and are outraged: ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?”
Though racial bias is truthfully seen in many trials, Cosby’s trial is not one where racism can be used as a tactic in his defense. An incredible amount of women have spoken out about being victims, and even if half of the allegations were untrue, Cosby would still have approximately thirty accusations against him. These are colossal numbers and it is difficult to imagine that these women are behind a racist conspiracy with the goal to tear down one of the most esteemed African-American actors of our time.
For me, these recent statements by his defense team remind me of the OJ Simpson trial, where despite overwhelming evidence against Simpson, he was declared innocent by the jury after a long and grueling trial which was characterized by arguments of racial bias during a time of much racial unrest in America. What makes Cosby’s trial even more similar to Simpson’s is the fact that Simpson, like Cosby, never spoke out about experiencing racism in their lives. In fact, Simpson was considered “whitewashed” by many African Americans, because he never played a part or showed support for the civil rights movement despite his wide public appeal. At a time when racism was blatantly rampant, the African-American community relied on famous African Americans because of their influence on the public opinion. Simpson avoided the subject of racism until the time his trial rolled around, in which he was accused of murdering his wife. His defense utilized the current racial unrest in America to claim unfair judgment against Simpson, and that he was simply being accused due to the color of his skin. Simpson was a beloved athlete and celebrity, and the defense easily resonated with the public and jury. Once the trial was over, Simpson for the first time immersed himself into the African American culture in which he was never involved.
The defense team has made only mere statements to the press regarding racial bias against Cosby, but these claims of racism — despite Cosby’s dismissal of racism as a cause for injustices against blacks — is all too familiar to those who are knowledgeable about the undertones of the OJ Simpson trial. Whether or not the defense uses racial bias as an argument for Cosby’s innocence during the actual trial (especially considering the overwhelming evidence against Cosby), it is important to realize that the vital subject of racism should not be tainted and undermined by utilizing it to defend a man who has likely committed unspeakable crimes against numerous women.