Bill Cosby has been sentenced from three to five years in a maximum-security prison. He was found guilty for drugging and sexually assaulting a white woman. He is the first celebrity of the #MeToo era to be jailed. He is eighty-one years old and considered a sexually violent predator and, therefore, placed in maximum security. A predator is defined as “someone who follows people in order to harm them or commit a crime against them.”
Cosby is not a healthy man as was very apparent every time he was seen making his way into court. I doubt seriously that even if he was on the outside, Cosby is in any kind of physical shape to be a predator. It was a convenient excuse to place him in maximum security prison. For that reason alone, one can assume that the system’s determination to punish him was not about justice, but revenge, something that Black men have confronted all their lives and for decades. I doubt seriously if his punishment would have locked him up in maximum security if the victim of his crime had been a Black woman.
Black men in this country rather guilty or not have always been the target of white men whose greatest fear has been his perceived notion that he must protect his women from the savage nature of the Black man. That was the theme in the movie, Birth of a Nation, back in 1915. And that fear was best articulated by a South Carolina Senator, Ben “Pitchfork” Tillman when he took to the United States Senate floor and delivered the following peroration:
“I have three daughters but so help me God, I had rather find either one of them killed by a tiger or a bear and gather up her bones and bury them, conscious that she had died in the purity of her maidenhood, than to have her crawl to me and tell me the horrid story that she had been robbed of the jewel of her womanhood by a black fiend.”
This perception of the Black man spread throughout the country and men of color were not safe from the lynch mob. Leon Litwack explains this sickness in his outstanding history of the South in his work, Trouble In Mind. He writes,
“To endorse lynching was to dwell on the sexual depravity of Blacks to raise the specter of the Black beast seized by uncontrollable savage, sexual passion that were inherent in the race.”
Of the nearly three thousand Blacks lynched between the years 1889 and 1918, approximately 19% were based on rape. The combination of Black men and white women and revengeful white men added up to the noose and a lynching. According to Litwack, one of the most brutal attacks on a Black man occurred in Rocky Ford, Mississippi:
“An angry mob chained J. P. Ivy, a Black field hand and an alleged rapist, to a woodpile, poured gasoline over it, and roasted him to death before a crowd of six hundred white spectators.”
Probably the most vicious attack on a Black community occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 1, 1921 and the initial catalyst was the belief that a young Black man, Dick Rowland, had accosted Sarah Page, in the elevator in the Drexel Building, when nothing was further from the truth. In that instance, white men and even women and children attacked and slaughtered over three hundred Black men, women and children. With the help of airplanes flying over the Black community, thirty-three blocks of Black businesses and homes were burned to the ground. Following the slaughter in Tulsa, was the vicious attack in Rosewood, Florida when a Black man was wrongly accused of attacking a white woman, and years later there was the Scottsboro Case.
What is really ironical about the Cosby sentence is the judge claiming that no one was beyond the law. How about all the Black women who have been raped by white men during the brutal years of slavery and afterwards? Evidently, those men were beyond the law because, unless Black men took the law into their own hands, those rapes went unpunished. White men were “beyond the law” for the inordinate number of Black women who fell victim to their crimes.
If Mr. Cosby sexually abused as many women as has been reported then, of course, there must be some form of punishment. In all crimes, justice must prevail. But in this country, we know that justice has never been meted out in a fair and equal manner. To place a rather frail and sick Black man in maximum security prison is not justice, it is revenge. And it is a warning to all other Black men that the Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” is on the prowl and we, as always, are the center of their attention.