Entertainment & Culture
Kanye, R. Kelly and the Cosby Conundrum

I believe Bill Cosby is a rapist.

We should get that out of the way. Otherwise, the comment section will be filled with comments laying out the case for why he is guilty. I believe Bill Cosby is a rapist, and anyone who can’t have an intellectual argument past that point should stop reading now. I believe Bill Cosby is a rapist (There. I said it three times) but I am shocked at how many black people — male and female — I talk to every day who have doubts, or simply flat-out don’t believe he is a rapist. I’m not talking about barbershop intellectual arguments based on “he-was-gonna-buy-NBC” bullshit and the comment section of Bossip. I’m talking about intelligent Black people who have read the information and still refuse to believe Bill Cosby is a rapist.

I love Bill Cosby. Notice, that is not past tense. The first cassette tape I ever owned was “To My Brother Russell, Whom I Slept With” a beautiful artistic, love letter of a comedy album. I have known his Noah’s Ark routine since I was 13. People who grew up in the era of the “Proud Family,” Nickelodeon and two hundred channels don’t understand the time when there was only one Black show on TV at a time. The only cartoon I ever saw as a child with a black face in it was Fat Albert. The Cosby show was not only the only Black family on TV, it was the highest rated show on TV. Between “A Different World,” his advocacy, and his cold, hard cash, I believe Bill Cosby singlehandedly kept HBCUs in existence during the 80’s. And he was unabashedly Black. And he was hilarious. And he was (as the kids say) “woke as fuck.” I Love Bill Cosby in the present tense. I believe he is a rapist, but I don’t want him to be.

I believe Kanye West is a genius.

He is flawed, he might be a fuckboy and is probably an asshole, but I believe he is a hip hop genius in the same way Beethoven was a classical musician. The way he dissects “soul beats” and finds new meaning and emotion in them is no different from how Michaelangelo found the Pieta in a piece of marble. A few days ago, in the height of what seems to be a nervous breakdown or a period of narcissistic, paranoid masturbation, Kanye tweeted this:

You know the internet went apeshit crazy. There are certain subjects that one cannot have an intellectual conversation about without fear of being shouted down, and this is one of them. The people screaming are not usually smarter, and often don’t have a stronger opinion. All they need are blinders to obstruct their objective view, an unwillingness to openly listen to another opinion and strong vocal chords. When discussing the Bill Cosby allegations, one must be prepared to have one’s eardrums assaulted with accusations of misogyny, male privilege and promoting “rape culture.” I’m not afraid of that, I just want to get past that hurdle to have a meaningful conversation, so again, I say, I believe Bill Cosby is a rapist. I do, however, think that it is intellectually dishonest to paint those who don’t believe in Cosby’s guilt as stupid or vile.

Besides having a myriad of other traits, Black people are two things:

  1. forgiving, and
  2. territorial

We have to be forgiving or all our free time would be spent slitting throats and collecting apologies. The weight of collectively carrying the burden of hating and holding those who have done us harm responsible would crush our people if forgiveness was not an intrinsic value Black people possessed. We forgive our debtors, our enslavers and especially those amongst us who have fallen.

Our territorial side makes us feel like caucasian girls wearing cornrows and white guys with dreadlocks are stealing our shit like they stole our land, our music and… well… us. It also makes us circle wagons around Black genius because we always believe someone is trying to take them from us. I do not believe Bertha Franklin killed Sam Cooke, that Michael Jackson was addicted to propophol or that it is coincidence that the last hip hop genius to be woke as fuck died before he could rent a car. Twenty-fucking five. Damn. I’m sorry, I get sad every time I think about that. Maybe it is not just us. There are people who still believe Elvis is alive, and that John Lennon and Kurt Cobain were victims of conspiracy, but Black people are especially unwilling to surrender our Black geniuses.

I’m always shocked when I hear that R. Kelly is still touring and selling out venues across the country. We all saw what he did. I am also shocked when people can’t wrap their heads around why people still listen to R. Kelly music. I believe R. Kelly is a pedophile and I believe the remix to “Ignition” is banging. Intelligence and logic dictates that both things can be true. When he peed on that little girl it did not annul the notes and lyrics he had previously written. When he asks “What Remix is this?” I cringe, but I cannot help but reply “Feeling on Your Booty.” Those whom God dollops extra helpings of talent are not easily discarded.

While we watch Kanye slowly self destruct before he is tragically tossed onto the Kardashian trash heap of Black boy has-beens, we still can’t help but hope there is still a speck of College Dropout left in him. We want him back. Even through his fuckboy bullshit we still have hold on the hem of his $700 pants trying to not release him into the abyss of the Black excellence black Hole that too soon sucked up Biggie, Whitney, Malcolm, Martin, Tyson, Tupac et al. We have seen what happens.

Plus, I understand why people don’t believe Bill Cosby is a rapist. It is hard to believe the popular narrative when you are Black. I believe a strange man was following Trayvon Martin, tried to detain him, and Trayvon whipped his ass. I believe Mike Brown got into a fight with a police officer who told him to “get the fuck out of the street” and whipped his ass. I believe the man who arrested Sandra Bland went into her cell and strangled her with a trash bag.

I believe thinking that 50 women who don’t know each other all made up the same story about the same man over four decades is crazy. Just as crazy as thinking that none of them made up a story. Both things can be true, just like thinking Bill Cosby is one of the funniest, most talented, most interesting Black people in the history of media…

And a rapist too.

And that’s the conundrum.


About the author

Michael Harriot is a renowned spoken word poet, the host of The Black One podcast and the editor-in-chief of NegusWhoRead. He is perpetually just getting warmed up because he has no chill. He is on Instagram and twitter as @michaelharriot

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