On the last day of June, 2021, Bill Cosby was released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in his favor on a technicality in his sexual assault conviction.
They did not rule that he was not guilty of raping Andrea Constand or any of the other dozens of women who accused him.
When Black men rape and abuse women, regardless of their race or ethnicity, there is never any justice. The race of the women they abuse, however, often shapes the direction of the injustice.
The overwhelming story of Black men raping white women is one of injustice for Black men. As is well documented, tens of thousands of Black men were lynched based on false accusations that they raped white women.
As our research documents, among the more than 2500 exonerations in which the race of the victim and the offender are both known, nearly 70% involved the wrongful accusation and conviction of a Black man for the rape of white woman. Black men have collectively lost thousands of years in prison for crimes they didn’t commit and the real perpetrator typically rapes several more times before he is caught. This is the case for Black men like our friend Darryl Hunt and the five young Black boys, teens–Antron McCray (15), Yusef Salaam (15), Korey Wise (16), Kevin Richardson (14) Raymond Santana (14)–wrongfully convicted for raping Trisha Meili the Central Park Jogger.
Justice was not served.
We have advocated for decades to prevent wrongful convictions and for equal treatment under the law for all and especially for Black men who are disproportionately represented in the criminal legal system and especially in jails and prisons.
That said, releasing Bill Cosby on a technicality did not serve justice anymore than lynching or locking up an innocent Black man does.
In the few realms in US society where Black men have power—sports and entertainment—they are often able to bypass justice in cases in which they are the perpetrators of sexual and intimate partner violence.
Though perhaps less dramatic then Bill Cosby’s release, just in the last week, two other Black men with privilege, both in Sportsworld, were hired into prestigious coaching positions in the NBA despite being credibly accused of sexual or intimate partner violence.
Chauncy Billups was hired as the head coach of the Portland Trailblazers. Immediately after the announcement of his hiring, reports of a 1997 rape allegation that he denied, but settled out of court in a civil case, resurfaced and the Trailblazers front office scurried to defend Billups hiring. According to police reports the rape kit in the case was consistent with sexual assualt. (We also note that one of the finalists for the position was a woman, who, to our knowledge, has not been accused of rape nor settled out of court).
Jason Kidd was hired as the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. Kidd has a long history of intimate partner violence, including being arrested, charged and pleading guilty. In the early 2000s he was traded from the Dallas Mavericks to the Brooklyn Nets “because of his history of domestic abuse”. Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban, upon hiring Kidd, had to walk back his previous statements that he wouldn’t tolerate perpetrators of gender based violence on his team.
Apparently not until he needed one to serve as head coach.
Really? Teams can’t find non-violent people to serve as head coaches?
Just a year ago when Kobe Bryant died tragically in a helicopter crash, along with his daughter, two friends, and the pilot, supporters of Bryant urged those who dared to remind us that he, too, had been accused of and charged with sexual violence, only to settle out of court, to be quiet.
There is rarely justice when Black men are accused of sexual and intimate partner violence, especially when the victims/survivors are white women. Usually it is the Black men who are on the short end of justice, but today, in the case of Bill Cosby, and this week in the cases of Jason Kidd and Chauncy Billups, it is the victims/survivors who are denied justice. And, more often than not, those women are Black women.
Racial disparities exist at all levels of the criminal legal system, from the decision to submit a rape kit for analysis, to the decision to charge (or not), prosecute a case, and in sentencing those convicted. However, race is mitigated by the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. In cases in which Black men are convicted of stranger sexual assault, they receive harsher sentences. But, because most sexual violence occurs between people who know each other, and thus is most likely to be intraracial (Black men rape Black women/white men rape white women), racial disparities are less visible.
Sexual and intimate partner violence are serious offenses that impact millions of women, children and families every year. We believe we can deal with accusations of gender based violence fairly, in ways that protect the rights of both the accused and the victim/survivor, and result in justice for all.