In their 2007 tome, “Come On People: On the Path from Victim to Victors,” Cosby and Poussaint offered a salvo for what they deemed the disease of pathological victimhood running rampant through black communities. They appeared on “Meet the Press” and NPR’s “Tell Me More,” wagging their fingers and decrying a culture of fatalism reinforced by “gangsta rap” and widespread use of the N-word.
Yet Monday night, Cosbyland found itself embracing the word. Camille Cosby, Bill’s wife of 50 years who maintained a steadfast front against the onslaught of allegations that her husband is a serial rapist, released a statement defending him. She compared the recent media coverage of her husband with that of Rolling Stone’s flawed story of a gang rape at the University of Virginia. And she ended with an eyebrow-raising kicker: “None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim. But the question should be asked — who is the victim?”
Within the arena of advocacy for those who experienced sexual assault or intimate partner violence, “victim,” has become waylaid by lexical baggage. “Survivor” is the terminology of choice.
“Victim” is for losers. “Victim” is for people who can’t pick themselves back up and reassemble the pieces into something resembling a functioning human being. Implicit in the word “victim” is a shameful lack of self-respect.
In a recent televised interview with the “Today” show, Janay Palmer vociferously insisted that she was not a victim of domestic violence. She wouldn’t cop to being a survivor either — but so poisonous was the “victim” label, and so eager was she to distance herself from it, you’d think it was laced with arsenic.
Camille Cosby wants the public to believe that her husband, a man said to have held enormous power and influence in Hollywood, who spent decades cultivating a charming, avuncular image and garnering worldwide admiration and trust for it — a man who, historically, has practically spit at the word — is a victim.
In Bill Cosby’s case, the boogeyman isn’t black-on-black crime or a culture that conflates academic achievement with “acting white.” It’s a band of more than 20 lying, vituperative harridans intent on sullying his legacy and what’s left of the 77-year-old comedian’s life.
At least that’s what his daughter, Evin Cosby, appears to believe. On Facebook on Tuesday, Evin slammed her father’s accusers with words directed particularly at model Beverly Johnson. She posted screenshots of tweets attacking Johnson as well.
“Drugged- you can remember the whole damn day but you were drugged?” she wrote. “Just sayin. Memory- you can remember you looked at (allegedly) each other, people were starring allegedly remembering your home address allegedly the name you called him allegedly but you were allegedly drugged.”
She continued: “I would like to thank EVERYONE that has been sharing, voicing and putting their beautiful positive energy out there for me and my family. There will always be jealous, vengeful and crazy people out there to break anyone down. Every day we wake up and appreciate the love and support from everyone. There’s more positive in life then we think. It’s the BS that can be overwhelming. We keep fighting each day. The challenges in life can only make us stronger.”
Evin echoed the sentiments of her mother’s words from Monday with a statement to “Access Hollywood.” “He is the FATHER you thought you knew,” she wrote. “The Cosby Show was my today’s TV reality show. Thank you. That’s all I would like to say :).”
In his recent Vulture interview — yes, back to that again — Chris Rock cited his pal Jon Stewart: “Jon Stewart has said the reason Fox News works better than CNN is because the people at Fox News figured out how to make themselves into victims.”
Bill Cosby has long campaigned against black victimhood. Now, he’s leaning on it as the key to his salvation.
Perhaps the biggest irony of all: Cosby may never have found himself embracing the label were it not for one comedian, caught on camera, taking issue with the up-from-victimhood doctrine Cosby and Poussaint espoused in their book and beyond.
Said Hannibal Buress: “[Cosby] just gets on TV — ‘Pull your pants up, black people. I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you raped women, Bill Cosby. So, brings you down a couple notches.”