Bill Cosby and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot may not know each other but both have been giving genuine racial victimization a bad name.
After the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the actor-comedian’s sexual assault conviction, Cosby, who spent three years in prison, reacted through his publicist Andrew Wyatt that the decision was “justice for Black America.”
That’s a stretch. I’m certain that the more than 50 women who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them, for example, would disagree.
It could have been worse. After Cosby’s sentencing three years ago, his spokesman called it the “most racist and sexist trial in the country’s history” and Cosby one of the “greatest civil rights leaders in history,” comparing his case to the persecution of Jesus.
And, as with O.J. Simpson’s double homicide case, Cosby’s victory only shows that a wealthy Black man has a reasonably good chance to get the quality of justice that until recent times was pretty much limited to wealthy white men. As “equal justice,” that soup is pretty thin.
Let us not forget that the court did not exonerate Cosby. The justices only concluded that his conviction should be overturned because it relied partly on evidence that a former district attorney had promised would not be used to prosecute Cosby in a criminal case — if he testified in a related civil case.
That testimony included Cosby’s own confession that he had groped, assaulted or raped some 60 women over more than four decades in sexual acts he had the audacity or delusion to describe as consensual.
A new prosecutor decided that evidence was too good to pass up in a criminal case. The high court ruled otherwise. The justices decided the broken promise violated Cosby’s constitutional rights and he was freed after serving almost three years of a three- to 10-year sentence.
So be it. Don’t listen to those who say Cosby was released on a “technicality.” The right to due process is a key constructional protection against mob justice — and African Americans in particular have seen way more than enough of that in our history.
Meanwhile, on the evening before Cosby’s release, Lightfoot was asked in an interview with WTTW’s Phil Ponce about the city’s recent spike in violence and her notoriously short-tempered response to criticism of her handling of it.
“In recent months, there have been questions raised about your temperament and your reaction to criticism,” Ponce said. Throwing in a reference to a Chicago Tribune editorial’s description of her as “irascible,” he asked “How much of this do you think might have to do with the fact that you’re a woman and specifically a Black woman?”
Lightfoot quickly responded, “99% of it.”
Oh? We can quibble about percentages, but that sounds more than a little high to me, especially considering the many more urgent issues for which she has been criticized, such as surges in the city’s homicide rate and high-departure/low replacement rates of top-level city officials.
Considering the landslide of voters and good will that greeted her election as the city’s first Black and lesbian mayor — and a champion for police accountability as head of the Chicago Police Board — it sounds almost like an act of panic to jump so quickly to playing the race card.
But, as the old saying goes, she knew the challenges she faced when she sought the job. For her to defensively shrug off complaints as 99% based on race and gender bias fills no one with confidence, particularly those who need city services the most. She can’t solve all problems but neither should she add to the noise.
Yet, she does have her defenders and so, it must be said, does Cosby. You’ll know it’s all over for Cosby, for example, when he loses the support of his longtime “Cosby” show co-star Phylicia Rashad, newly appointed dean of the College of Fine Arts at Howard University.
“FINALLY!!!!,” she tweeted triumphantly after his release. “A terrible wrong is being righted — a miscarriage of justice is corrected!”
But that good deed did not go unpunished by students and others at historically black Howard, which distanced itself from the tweet as Rashad’s personal opinion.