As media pundits, social media trolls and everyday people opine about Bill Cosby’s case and subsequent conviction, one critical fact emerges. We, the adoring public, never really knew the real person who brilliantly played the character of Dr. Huxtable on The Cosby Show. 

So for the record, it was not the wise and kind Dr. Huxtable who was guilty of the series of pre-meditated sexual assaults of women who trusted him. It was this guy, William Henry Cosby Jr., who was the sexual predator — “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

The case of Bill Cosby is a metaphor for how we Americans have been duped by the illusions created by television and the movies. We got snookered into believing that the role a person plays reveals his or her real character. Not so. 

We never knew Bill Cosby. As it turns out, America’s Dad was a cold and calculating sexual predator who drugged his victims.

The Me-Too movement has caused an uproar among many men and women who claim the movement paints with broad brush strokes. Some argue that men are unfairly entrapped into sexual misbehavior and that women should be savvier. Notwithstanding female savvy, we men are often tone deaf and have been socialized to believe that women are almost a different species. As progressive and open-minded as some of us men believe ourselves to be, we are, at best, recovering sexists. As a result of culturally defined roles, what men know about women amounts to a thimbleful of knowledge compared to what women know about men.

This disparity between the genders is like the gap between the oppressed and their oppressors. In other words, the oppressed must, for survival, know more about their oppressor than the other way around. A woman in an abusive relationship must study and anticipate the personality of the man she lives with. She must know, to the best of her ability, what his trigger points are and what situations will result in his visiting emotional or physical abuse upon her. Even without the introduction of drugs and alcohol designed to render her incapable of resistance, a woman is still vulnerable. If she complains to law enforcement, her family, friends, clergy or strangers, the underlying question she is forced to answer is, “What did you do to bring this on yourself?”

The presumption of guilt for just being a woman is one of the reasons sexual assaults are profoundly under-reported or not shared. We have failed when the victim decides it is more tolerable to live with the emotional and psychological consequences of sexual abuse than to subject herself to the accusations and innuendos that come with reporting the incident. Powerful and wealthy men who are serial abusers know and depend on this reality as a defense against claims made against them. Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, and Donald J. Trump all know and use this predictable defense.

Another defense most recently employed by a Cosby representative was calling out the racialized criminal justice system that applies the rule of law differently for blacks. There is no argument from me as to the validity of this claim. Yet in the Cosby case, this argument withers in the face of the facts. For sure, it is sad to see a feeble-looking, 81-year-old icon being sentenced to 3-10 years in prison. However, lest we forget, the victims are condemned to a lifetime of post-traumatic nightmares and emotional disorders. 

The Cosby case, specifically, cannot and should not be about race — it is about power, celebrity, and privilege. Abusive behavior toward, and exploitation of, the less powerful is not a race issue — it is an ethical and criminal issue. Therefore, we will all be watching the trial and subsequent disposition of the Weinstein case. If his sentence is anything less than prison time, the claims of racism will be bolstered. 

Still, we must never forget that these men put themselves in the position of the victimizer. It is the victims, somebody’s wife, daughter, mother or relative, who need our support — not the victimizer. 

Kwame Salter, an Oak Park resident, is an occasional columnist for Wednesday Journal.

Join the discussion on social media!