Cosby represents a Black American political right wing whose views of the Black poor are just as crude and dehumanizing as their white counterparts.
“Cosby slandered poor Black people in terms the worst white supremacist would admire.”
Bill Cosby is still getting settled into his new home at Pennsylvania's State Correctional Institute at Phoenix, a huge, 3,830-bed facility not far from the suburban Philadelphia courtroom where Judge Steven O’Neill sentenced the 81-year old comedian to serve “no less than 3 years and no more than 10 years" for aggravated sexual assault against Andrea Constand, in 2004. That was the same year Cosby delivered his infamous “pound cake” rant at an NAACP awards ceremony, in Washington DC, marking the 50th anniversary of the Brown school desegregation decision. Cosby’s contempt for the Black poor and their propensity to wind up in prison was on shameless display.
"These are not political criminals,” Cosby told the tuxedoed celebrants. “These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"
“Cosby’s contempt for the Black poor was on shameless display.”
Cosby, who was once wealthy enough to daydream out loud about buying NBC, the network where The Cosby Show aired from 1984 to 1992, will find that safeguarding the few personal items allowed to inmates is problematic at the newly-constructed Phoenix facility, many of whose inhabitants are, like Cosby, just moving in. Prisoners complain that staff destroyed or vandalized prized photographs of loved ones or dumped paint on personal effects, religious objects and legal documents. "We were dehumanized. Our property was … treated as trash," inmate Steven Reph told a Philadelphia newspaper. "One elderly gentleman had his dentures taken or misplaced. How is this man supposed to eat now?"
The Pennsylvania prison system has been under extended lockdown, imposed after guards complained that something on the job was making them sick. The presence of synthetic marijuana was blamed -- which was sufficient excuse to disrupt inmates’ showers, phone privileges and email access, in the short term, and to totally revamp other aspects of prison life. The local newspaper reports:
“Inmate mail will be processed outside of the prisons, except legal mail, which will be copied by staff with the inmates present. The plan also calls for expanded detection of drones and use of body scanners.
“Visiting room staff will be doubled. Photos and vending machines will not be allowed for 90 days. A hotline for tips about drug smuggling or possession by inmates, staff or visitors was also organized.”
“Cosby will feel the eyes of white people glaring at him the whole time he is incarcerated.”
This is the life Cosby will share with an inmate population that is 46 percent Black, although Blacks make up only eleven percent of Pennsylvania’s general population. Most are from the same neighborhoods of Philadelphia that people “with names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed, and all that crap” come from, “and all of them are in jail,” in Cosby’s “pound cake” parlance.
Unlike most of the other Black inmates, Cosby will feel the eyes of white people glaring at him the whole time he is incarcerated – not just the white guards, but “the white man” in general. For Negroes of Cosby’s stunted and warped worldview, the “white man’s” opinion is paramount, and he sees everything. The greatest crime that poor Black people can commit is to embarrass and drag down the “better elements” of the Black community -- people like Cosby, or like Cosby was thought to be, before he got caught. “That white man, he's laughing,” said The Cos. “He's got to be laughing: Fifty percent drop out, the rest of them are in prison." And now, so are you, Bill.
“For Negroes of Cosby’s stunted and warped worldview, the ‘white man’s’ opinion is paramount, and he sees everything.”
Does Cosby regret that he failed to live up to his part of the agreement that he imagines was struck between the Black poor and the respectable Negro elite -- a deal that he once said the Shaniquas and their children “are not holding up their end” of? If so, the new facility at Phoenix provides sex offender counseling, as the judge mandated for Cosby’s lifetime, as well as classes on violence prevention and recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.
Andrew Wyatt, Cosby’s publicist, seems not to have come to grips with his client’s new status as embarrassment-to-the-race, as opposed to credit-to-the-race. (You are one or the other, in Cosby’s world, with the laughing “white man” as the eternal arbiter.) As of Tuesday, Wyatt was still lauding Cosby as one of the “greatest civil rights leaders” in history and one of the “greatest educators of men and boys” of all time.
Cosby’s wife, Camille, wasn’t at the sentencing hearing, but had earlier compared her husband to Emmet Till, the 14-year-old Black boy murdered in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly leering at a white woman. Publicist Wyatt provides a more contemporary comparison: Cosby, like Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court -- and accused rapist -- Brett Kavanaugh, is the victim of a “sex war.” “What is going on in Washington today with Judge Kavanaugh is part of that sex war that Judge [Steven] O’Neill and his wife are a part of,” said Wyatt, conflating the Cosby trial judge with Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.
“Cosby is the victim of a ‘sex war.’”
But, maybe Wyatt has a point. Cosby’s mouth is as crude, ugly and dehumanizing as Kavanaugh’s alleged teenage crime. Back in 2004, The Cos slandered poor Black women in terms the worst white supremacist would admire:
"Five, six children -- same woman -- eight, 10 different husbands or whatever. Pretty soon you are going to have DNA cards to tell who you are making love to. You don't know who this is. It might be your grandmother. I am telling you, they're young enough! Hey, you have a baby when you are 12; your baby turns 13 and has a baby. How old are you? Huh? Grandmother! By the time you are 12 you can have sex with your grandmother, you keep those numbers coming. I'm just predicting."
The Black right wing, of which Cosby was a celebrity spokesman, holds the same opinion of lower income Black people as do white supremacists like the celebrity racist in the White House. They both pine for an era before the country was ruined by all sorts of “liberations.”
Whose taking bets that Trump will pardon Cosby?
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].