How do we Remember Bill Cosby's Legacy

We are currently grieving the former Mr. Cosby and left to clumsily piece together our new image of him. How do we venerate a man that is beloved as America’s father figure and moral compass while taking into account the numerous accounts of him being a sexual predator? The Bill Cosby most people in our generation know is a role model who wears goofy sweaters and makes pudding. His large puppy dog eyes, graying beard, and patriarchal wisdom equates to an unthreatening, peaceful man whose past we’ve chronicled through The Cosby Show and his old standup material. However, for years, there have been murmurs within the entertainment industry about Bill Cosby sexually assaulting women and settling the cases hidden from the public eye. These rumors only came to the public’s attention when male comedian Hannibal Burress challenged Bill’s stellar reputation by bluntly addressing the previous rape allegations against him in a standup routine and when the internet responded with memes that also addressed his reputation for being a rapist (Cosby asked his fans to “meme him” while promoting a new show). Shortly after the memes and male confirmation of the validity of multiple accusations, more women began to come out with their own allegations of sexual assault ranging from being “forcibly kissed by Mr. Cosby” to being date-raped by him during the 1960s- early 2000s. Most recently, Janice Dickinson, known to many as the world’s first supermodel, has come forward with her own accounts of being date-raped by Mr. Cosby in the 1980s.

In many cases of sexual assault, the accusers go on trial before the accused. Men and women are willing to ignore a person’s account of being sexually assaulted to protect their image of the accused. It is easier to believe that these faceless and nameless women are the wrong-doers, fame-hungry, opportunists seeking the next exclusive interview with a major media outlet, secretly plotting to take down a living legend with their evil tales than it is to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not uncommon- it happens on college campuses every day, in office spaces and literally anywhere that is structurally male-dominated. Many sexual assaults go unreported for years because of the backlash felt and potential danger received by the accuser. What we are seeing happen with Bill Cosby is a national issue.  

The problem is finding a way to respect both the victim and the accuser when accusations are being made- especially if there is a lack of physical evidence or if years have passed since said assault(s) happened. In doing so, the question becomes, does the perpetrator’s point of view deserve respect or privacy given the sensitivity and severity of the crimes they are being accused of. As fans, we were deluded into believing Bill Cosby was and is an upstanding man. We innocently followed his career without ever questioning his past. As we mourn the loss of our innocence, we must now collectively decide how to remember one of America’s father figures.