Writer W. Kamau Bell proclaimed Black America’s “need to talk about Bill Cosby” in his Showtime documentary that included comedians, educators, journalists, and those who have accused the iconic entertainer of sexual assault.
Bell claimed that for the smart, funny, and politically aware at dinner parties, the conversation would have to center on Cosby.
But for many others who declined to indulge in exploration and dissemination of another African American that mainstream media proved human, Bell missed the mark. Badly.
“He may as well have worn Blackface because the documentary is a minstrel show and as much as you may agree that Cosby is a hypocrite, Bell can’t afford to look in the mirror,” said Lorenzo Simpkins, an actor who has appeared as an extra in multiple movies and television shows, including Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder’s “Stir Crazy.”
“Bell is as misled and foolish as the knuckleheads who said, ‘Cosby admitted to drugging and raping women,’” Simpkins, 68, offered about the tired and wildly misreported civil deposition the entertainer sat for in a lawsuit brought in 2005 by Andrea Constand.
During the deposition, Cosby acknowledges that he provided Quaaludes to women who would have sex. But Simpkins said that’s not his most significant problem with Bell’s one-sided documentary that didn’t include statements or appearances from anyone on Cosby’s team.
“The biggest problem is that it’s a distraction that Showtime will use to make money and to denigrate a Black man further, and they can say ‘look, it’s another Black man [Bell] doing the denigrating,” he asserted.
Instead, Simpkins and others said Black Americans – men in particular – should most want to discuss the two trials of Cosby and the way they were handled and reported.
Despite the defense not putting on a defense, the first trial ended with a hung jury.
The second trial began with racial remarks hurled by an assistant district attorney toward the defense, a juror who proclaimed that Cosby was guilty before the start of the trial and Judge Steven O’Neill allowing five women to present unproven allegations.
The former district attorney, Bruce Castor, wasn’t allowed to testify about a deal he hammered out with Cosby and O’Neill allowed the use of Cosby’s infamous civil deposition.
According to a report from the American Bar Association, the criminal justice system’s pervasive problems with racism start before the first contact and continue through pleas, conviction, incarceration, release, and beyond.
The net effects of history’s injustices are staggering. According to statistics the NAACP examined, although Black people make up 13.4 percent of the population, they make up 47 percent of wrongful conviction exonerations and 35 percent of individuals executed by the death penalty.
Further, the Bar Association noted that African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at five times the rate of whites. In addition, black men face disproportionately harsh incarceration experiences than prisoners of other races.
“The evidence of differential treatment and injustice in the ‘justice’ system is overwhelming,” Bar Association officials wrote. “Because the problems are historically rooted, pervasive, and ongoing, it is even more critical to take action now (and in the future).”
Yet, Bell wants to focus on white media-driven allegations that a group of primarily non-Black individuals made against an African-American icon, Simpkins and others said.
“Kamau Bell is the kind of guy that would be the funniest slave on the plantation. He would never have to work on weekends,” deadpanned Dr. Boyce Watkins.
Nicole Lewis, the host of the podcast and YouTube program “Nicole’s View,” called Bell’s documentary “smut.”
“No relevance to anything besides tearing down his achievements,” Nicole stated. “This is what Kamau Bell is pushing for us to converse about?”
Further, in American culture “where sensationalism is what tends to sell, I knew it was only a matter of time before our courtrooms would be inundated with personal opinion, public antics and trial by public in general,” said Phoenix Jackson, the chief communications officer at Phoenix Affect.
“The Cosby trial displayed at its peak the type of sensationalism that perpetuates the classless culture in America,” Jackson said. “As a communications executive and celebrity publicist, I would never want my clients to experience a public trial. I would want an unbiased, clear-to-the-law trial for the best form of objectivity. No matter the circumstance or who is on trial. Everyone deserves that.”
Dean Tong, a nationally-known defense expert in sex crimes cases, said it’s incumbent upon all parties who are potentially adverse to the African-American male accused of the unthinkable to be free from confirmation bias.
“I was not at Bill Cosby’s trial but I was at Michael Jackson’s trial in 2005 in Santa Maria, California, and these allegations foster and exacerbate emotions on steroids which can supersede logic,” Tong said. “I’m not saying Cosby was or is innocent, although his conviction was reversed. All Black, white, Hispanic, Asian defendants must receive a fair and impartial trial by a jury of their peers. The Constitution has the last say so.”