Many people think the allegations about Bill Cosby are part of some plot to destroy the legacy of powerful Black men. Some of you have been people whom I respect. I’ve been trying to figure out how you think so many women could be lying (some probably are, but not all). I’m trying to figure out how you think that one woman should have had the courage to come forward 30 years ago when no one believes 50 now. But then I realize you don’t know the stories.
You don’t know how many other stories are out there, some carried til the grave, some whispered from mother to daughter, some told only in the company of women who are willing to hear.
You don’t know that 4 out of every 10 Black women you know carry these stories. You don’t know just how many of us have been raped. You don’t know just how many of your family members, your leaders, your superstars, your heroes have been raping us.
You don’t know how many legacies Black women have protected and continue to protect. You don’t know how many of your heroes’ images we could take a hammer to, if we were simply to tell the truth about them.
You don’t know because you don’t want to know. You don’t ask us to share our stories. You don’t read, watch, or listen to our stories. You don’t attend the conferences, seminars, or courses about “women’s issues.” In your “race-first” mentality, you put our “issues” on the backburner in the name of racial solidarity. Meanwhile, you parade our rapists in your pulpits, lamenting their legacies while we’re trying to hold together the pieces of our shattered selves.
You do it over and over again, unless the accused is a white man, in which case you line up in front of the cameras and demand justice.
You create an environment in which it is impossible to tell. And when we finally tell, when we finally get up the courage, you say, “You must be lying because it wouldn’t have taken you so long.”
You don’t know. But you could know if you simply tried. The question is whether you want to.
If you’re ready to listen, to learn, to know, educate yourself. Below are a few resources to help you get started.
Watch this clip from Aishah Shahidah Simmons’ NO! The Rape Documentary. Then watch the full video. You can order it here. You can also check your local public and university libraries. Many of them will have it or order it upon your request.
Read an excerpt from Tricia Rose’s Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk about Sexuality and Intimacy. The firsthand narratives will help you to understand just how many Black women’s experiences of sexuality involve rape, incest, and other forms of abuse. The amazing thing is that Dr. Rose did not necessarily set out to study sexual assault. It’s just that common.
Read an excerpt from Charlotte Pierce-Baker’s Surviving the Silence: Black Women’s Stories of Rape. Dr. Pierce-Baker, herself a survivor, explores the silence surrounding sexual assault within African American families and communities.
Check out the website for Men Stopping Violence, an organization that mobilizes men to prevent violence against women and girls. If you’re a father, make sure you check out their Because We Have Daughters initiative, which gives fathers the knowledge and skills to empower their daughters and reduce their risk of victimization.
And guess what? After you do all this, you can still think that Bill Cosby may be innocent. But perhaps you will know how to talk about the allegations against him in a way that doesn’t contribute to rape culture.