Author’s Note: This was written prior to April 26, 2018, when Bill Cosby was found guilty on three counts of sexual assault during his retrial.
As a social interest group leader for The Good Men Project’s Conscious Intersectionality group, I regularly have the privilege of speaking with folks who seek justice for all … and they (we) strive to be mindful of justice and the effects of oppression in an intersectional way. Recently, I posed some questions to the group to challenge our intersectional lenses and I will ask again here…
With respect to the Philando Castile case…
1. When a black man is murdered by the police, who do you typically see defending their life and honor in the press?
Most answered: their family or mother.
Answer: Their black mother. In this case, Valerie Castile.
2. Who do we know to be the most invisible class/group of people in the US?
Collective answer: black women
What does this translate to? NO VOICE, NO JUSTICE. NO JUSTICE, NO VOICE. It becomes an insidious cycle of pain that is never heard and lives that never matter.
Reasons why we saw no conviction from a jury in the Castile case?
1. ‘Blue wall of silence’ testimony from Jeronimo Yanez’s partner.
2. Instruction by the court to jurors in cases involving police officers to judge the use of force from the perspective of the officer.
3. Instruction by the court to the jury specifically warning them against using the 20/20 vision of hindsight. The idea is that police officers are faced with split-second decisions and thus should be given some deference.
With respect to the ‘Cosby Case’…
1. If you are able to name your favorite Cosby episode, but cannot name Andrea Constand as the woman in this case, what does that say?
I asked the group to answer honestly, and many admitted to not knowing who Andrea Constand was prior to our call.
2. Why does it seem as though the existence of racism and the existence of sexism (read: guilty of rape) cannot both be present in this case?
Intersectionality tells us that we don’t have to choose…both can be present, alive, and operating well within our systems, and in individual cases like this one. Cosby is clearly not being treated the same way a Brock Turner would because of his race…but that does not render him innocent, nor in the same camp as Emmett Till.
If you are not able to even NAME the woman in the case, how can you honestly say that you have considered her story? Considered the other 50+ stories that were omitted from consideration in this case?
Reasons why we saw no conviction in the Constand case?
1. A sequestered jury. (They were not privy to much of what the public was in terms of Cosby’s pattern of abuse.)
2. Only Constand’s testimony was considered, thanks to a statute of limitations that barred the 50+ other accusers from having a voice in court. They were unable to show a pattern of behavior that would have been pivotal in this case.
3. A high prosecutorial burden of proof – in the case of rape and sexual assault, having to prove ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ heavily favors perpetrators of rape. In the case of Constand, it was called into question the length of time it took for her to report and also her communication with Cosby after the alleged rape (which was related to her job at Temple University)…this is victim blaming and shaming, and can be seen in many sexual assault cases. Being drugged alters memory, shame paralyzes victims, and a societal rape culture that blames victims and forces them to relive their trauma only serves to prolong or suppress their decision to come forth.
A sexist system places statutes of limitations and high prosecutorial standards on sexual assault cases that render women powerless and voiceless in these cases.
In the end, structural bias in favor of criminal defendants is the common thread between the Castile and Constand cases. The system is designed to believe/favor police officers. The system is designed to believe/favor men over women.
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