So, yesterday, a jury found veteran comedian and black education advocate Bill Cosby guilty of sexual crimes against women, represented by a single woman in court whose statute of limitations had not yet expired (unlike those of the twenty-plus others who have stepped up to accuse Cosby of similar crimes).
Whether or not the verdict or the sentence (ten years for each of three guilty verdicts, probably to be served concurrently given the octogenarian’s age) is correct or appropriate is not the point of this essay. I have no idea. I wasn’t there, I haven’t seen the evidence, and I only know of the rumors.
But maybe THAT’S the point. That’s all you know, too. And that’s all 99.9% of people following the case know.
And yet, everywhere I’ve seen, the verdict has been met with near-universal applause. As if the world had already determined his guilt, and were pleased that the court had correctly found in concordance with it.
Regardless of the court’s findings. Bill Cosby had long ago been convicted of being a rapist and a dirty old man in the court of public opinion. Even if there had been some revelation in the courtroom which exonerated the pudding pusher, it would have been well-nigh impossible to have convinced the “public” of his innocence.
And that seems to contradict the American founding principle of “innocent until proven guilty”.
At what point have we evolved into a society where we believe that our police and investigators do such a thorough job that whenever a person is brought to trial, they’re almost certainly guilty? And how do we justify that thought in the same world where we kneel during the anthem to protest the unacceptable abuse of black citizens stopped or arrested by white police officers? Did we assume that despite the color of Mr. Cosby’s skin, no such mistreatment took place in his case? Or is there something about the #metoo movement that supersedes that abuse?
I don’t know the answer. But there are three social justice issues all wrapped up together in the Cosby case – the wave of female empowerment embodied in the #metoo movement, the mistreatment of black men by white police, and the public opinion conviction of high profile defendants regardless of actual evidence – and it’s impossible for me to feel comfortable about the situation regardless of the outcome.