As the world watched Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford testify in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this week, another major Me Too moment was happening: Bill Cosby was sentenced Tuesday to three to 10 years in state prison for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home 14 years ago. Though this enormous cultural moment was years in the making, the sentencing seemed to pass under the radar in much of the news coverage this week. Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio to unpack the case.
MARGERY: Bill Cosby went to jail and practically no one noticed.
EMMETT: Bill Cosby is still a polarizing figure within the African American community, the Black community, because some people still aren’t on board with the Me Too movement. Some people still think that as an iconic status as he had, he got the “shaft job” if I can use that metaphor.
JIM: Are there really people other than his spokesperson who believe that?
IRENE: [Emmett] is talking about it generationally.
EMMETT: If we’re talking about what [President Donald] Trump does, and he’s talking to his base, his spokesperson, publicist Andrew Wyatt was speaking to Cosby’s base, making a parallel to Jesus Christ, accusing the court system of being sexist and racist, oh yeah.
IRENE: The thing is, a lot of that is generational. It’s the whole notion that when a Black man ascends to a certain level within white society, there’s always some sort of bogus claim to bring him down. Examples of that, certainly they would say was Michael Jackson… no matter what we think, and we know O.J. [Simpson] is guilty, [but] many at the time thought that [he was innocent.] And no matter what we think about Clarence Thomas, many folks thought [he was innocent] because if you look at the Clarence Thomas case, even now today we can say, we always knew Anita Hill was telling the truth, but more so now with our understanding of the Me Too movement, here is a man that ascends to the highest court in the land, and folks were angry with Anita Hill, not with Clarence Thomas.
JIM: Because they thought she was lying, or was it ‘how dare you…’
IRENE: It’s not about the veracity of her story, it’s ‘how dare you, you don’t understand, he’s breaking barriers.’ The last time I read the bible, which was yesterday, I didn’t read anywhere that talked about Jesus being a serial rapist. As a matter of fact, the woman at the well, we can go on and on, he was kind of a cool dude!
MARGERY: I want to ask you, as Reverends, you hear a lot that the Black community was, historically, not that big on gay rights. And then you hear that the Black community is not that big on women’s rights. Is that a canard or is that so?
EMMETT: I think there’s some tension here. I think historically, the Black community was really never posed with an opportunity to speak to these situations, other than reactionarily. Because many mothers have gay sons and gay daughters, and they love their sons and daughters —
IRENE: And at the same time throw them out of the house… the largest number of homeless kids are LGBTQ. This is what I think about the notion of homosexuality in the black community: we’d be wrong to say that it doesn’t exist and that it’s prevalent. We don’t have a patent on it, clearly, but what shapes it largely is generation as well as Christianity. If you are a Christian of Baby Boomer and older generations, you will always go to the bible about homosexuality… the real issue is that as African-Americans, we’ve never had an embodied theology that said that our bodies were as good as White bodies. And so we what we have done is that we have just divided among ourselves who is acceptable and who is not acceptable, the notion of a hierarchy of oppression. Why be gay, why be a feminist, when the biggest problem you have to confront is race?
Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist, the Boston voice for Detour’s African American Heritage Trail, and a Visiting Researcher in the Religion and Conflict Transformation Program at Boston University’s School of Theology. Emmett G. Price III is a Professor and Founding Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. To hear the full All Revved Up Segment, click on the audio player above.