cosby

On Cosby, Rape Culture, and Accountability: Change Is My Responsibility

anacronAnacron is a singer, rapper, and multi-instrumentalist with two decades professional experience in the recording industry. When he’s not performing on tour or delivering University-level music business lectures, he’s an experiential educator in his hometown of Los Angeles, specializing in facilitating progressions for team building and leadership programming. http://anacron.LA

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TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL VIOLENCE

A few days ago, several of my closest homies and I were conversing and clowning as we typically do, delving through discussion of recent news and happenings as it relates to and affects us; a group of almost-young, artistic, educated, cultured, and employed Black-American men.

After an in-depth and deeply involved interaction on the unsurprising indictment dismissals for police that murder men like us, we then tap-danced hurriedly through a brief discussion around the other “hot button” issue concerning and creating an uninvited and often counter-productive buzz around people of Color in the media right now.
cosbyWe hit the topic with vigor, via the naturally obvious segue of differential treatment and judgement from both media and public. We noted that as with those lost indictment opportunities, blatant racism was an obvious source for the unfair treatment of, and response to allegations made against, the popular Black figurehead at the center of this traveling media circus.  We spoke, of course, of the Bill Cosby rape scandal.

Back In The Day

I grew up in a Black middle-class home during the 80’s. My father was a superstar sociologist at one of the top universities in the country, while my mother was the director of public health for an entire city, inciting progress in leaps and bounds. I had two beautiful, intelligent, and charismatic sisters, and I was the artsy and outgoing baby of our socially atypical Black family.

For all intents and purposes, we were the real-life Huxtables, a fact that many of my friends from single parent homes would jokingly poke fun at by calling my mom “Claire” at any chance they could. My experience, in many ways, brought me much closer than the casual viewer to the Huxtable family and their clever, funny-face making father.

Maybe it was the nostalgic memories of this reality that prompted my own initial and immediate “yeah, right” upon hearing about the resurfacing and new accusations of rape made against Bill Cosby. Maybe it was the image of a frozen-treat loving funny guy that had been established and developed over the course of 5 decades that sparked insensitive comments like “those chicks weren’t even cute” from voices in conversation with my pals.

Maybe it was the impending media-wide attack on one of Hollywood’s limited representations of intelligent and successful Black men that cued the colorful conspiracy theory one of my buddies offered up, which was too far-fetched for me to even consider. Maybe.

Then again, maybe it was something more, something rooted in the rape culture deeply ingrained into the American society that I am regularly, regrettably, influenced by and contributing to.

Not more than several days following that inappropriately humorous group chat, something caught my eye while surfing the web. Beverly Johnson’s first-hand account of her encounter with Cosby had apparently become the rage of the day, and suddenly I was interested. Why in the world would this successful celebrity, someone who had nothing to gain by becoming a part of this media whirlwind, forgo her privacy at risk of judgment and scrutiny?

I stopped everything and took the time to read her account, linking through accordingly to a related article detailing Janice Dickinson’s similar brush with Bill. I marveled at the fact that these women, with whom I was only connected through their appearances as guest judges on America’s Next Top Model, had instantly validated the collective attempted/completed rape claims for me.

A Shared Moment of Shame

It took no more that a moment to realize that I’d just participated in something that I generally pride myself on being well removed from: the great American pastime of succumbing to celebrity influence. A spark of clarity flashed somewhere in my mind, and I regrettably recognized that I’d also leaned into something far worse; the pattern of dismissal, disbelief, and victim-blaming that perpetuate and enable the cycle of rape culture that exists in our society.

As any well-behaved and civilized social networker would do, I promptly emblazoned my artist pages with this moment of self-critique, in hopes that it might cue similar realization for others:

Not sure what to say about this #BillCosby drama… Other than I’m terribly ashamed I didn’t pay attention and doubted there was any validity to any of the stories until “relevant” or “familiar” celebrities like Beverly Johnson and Janice Dickinson got involved. How embarrassingly pathetic and terribly pop-culture-consumer-American of me.

It sucks to come to an internal realization that my own reaction to these accusations mirrors the typical response that most abuse victims face; “whatever,” “you’re just looking for attention,” or “she’s just making it up.” Normally, I speak out against this type of persecution and vilification of a potential victim; but today, it’s been both confusing and disappointing to find myself falling into the exact same pattern of behavior that not only perpetuates, but enables the rape culture that exists within our modern society.

This has been for me what my good friend & amazing experiential education facilitator Michelle would refer to as a “learning opportunity”, and I’m only sharing in hopes that my own experience might serve as such for others as well.

When Rape Hits Close To Home

Only a couple days after this moment of introspection, I became absolutely infuriated as one of my closest, strongest female friends revealed to me that she had recently been raped. It was painfully obvious through our discussion that the emotional and psychological scars left behind from her horrifying experience with a man she was dating, a man she had trusted, were rightfully still very fresh.

As the society defined and assigned “Man” in me wanted to vindicate her, seek revenge, be the aggressor and protector; I found myself almost on autopilot, asking why she hadn’t told me about it sooner. The reasoning in her answer, much like my ultimately unimportant question, was almost textbook in relation to the patterns that we’ve established as a norm in our society when dealing with rape.

She was afraid. She was confused. She blamed herself. She didn’t want to create a “scene” in the circle to which she and this predator both belonged. All of these things that had seemed so unrealistic when expressed by complete strangers in regards to a rich and famous man became autonomously valid when coming from a directly valued and loved personal connection.

My experiences and relationships have inserted a constant state of hypocrisy into my life, an ongoing internal battle to find balance between right and wrong, fair or unjust. My parents raised me to be respectful and understanding towards women, no matter what. The hip hop and gang cultures that I chose to be a part of while growing up taught me that it’s okay to disregard and dehumanize women.

As my daughter has matured, I’ve become increasingly aware of and intent on changing the messages regarding women that I convey through my own music. I’m a man that can admit to having objectified, womanized, disrespected, and otherwise abused the rights and liberties of women. I’m the son, brother, father, and friend that desperately hopes the women in my life will never have and/or have had to experience what those at the center of the Cosby saga have been challenged to endure, both at the hands of a predator and the public.

Ending Rape Culture is Up to Me

I’m not proud of the ways I’ve mistreated women and overlooked their rights over the course of my life, nor do I seek to justify my actions by rattling off a list of societal and environmental influences as to why I’ve made the choices to do so. At the same time, I refuse to beat myself up for my transgressions against the fair and just treatment of women, because I don’t see that as either constructive or productive.

The question then, is simple: How do I become more understanding of and empathetic to the experience of female rape victims?

How will I help to write the guidelines that lead current and future generations of men and boys to dispel the stigmas associated with rape survivors and victims?

How can I, a man, proactively fight the patterns that normalize misogynistic practices and desensitize all of us to the horror and severity of rape?

The notion of even asking these questions aloud makes me scoff, reminding me too much of the ironic absurdity behind a White liberal asking Blacks what they can do to help fight racism.

I believe that as with many of the major changes that need to happen in our modern society, the change needs to begin within each individual. It has nothing to do with creating awareness, blogging, posting, sharing, or tweeting. It has nothing to do with protesting, fighting, marching, or inciting revolutions.

I Am A Work In Progress

Sometimes the answer is as simple as saying, “I am responsible for ME.” I don’t identify myself as a male feminist, a female rights activist, or some kind of superhero here to save all women. I’m an imperfect guy with many of the same faults and flaws as the next man struggling to live within the bounds of what’s fair and good. However, instead of making excuses, self-deprecating, or asking questions, I try my best to focus on making progress, initiating self-realization and improvement, and sharing the answers and insights that I discover through my own journey towards getting right.

I continually try to make conscious efforts to identify and acknowledge the moments at which I fail to give women the equal and appropriate respect that they deserve. I often strive to consider the impact of my actions, and attempt to appropriately assume responsibility for the ideas that my choices might relay to others. I regularly work to reassess, learn, change, and grow every day. First and above all else, and possibly the most effective step that every man can make towards abolishing our global culture of sexual violence and the victimization, objectification, domination, and oppression of women and their bodies: I don’t rape.

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