My cabdriver to the courthouse on this June morning, Roy, asks if I can give him "a little shine" by mentioning him here. Roy is a big fan of Bill Cosby.
"Do you think he did it?" Roy asks, and I say I don't know. We're late, I'm tired, I don't feel like having the same conversation over and over.
The night before, heading back from the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pennsylvania, to my hotel one town over, my cabdriver announced, "The only thing is, why did they wait until now?" I was too tired to answer then, but at this point, with Roy, we're yoked. I'm invested. We're in this thing — the fifteen-minute drive — together. Roy has the same suspicions as last night's driver, and most radio commentators, too.
"Man, they wait until Bill gets all old and then start saying all this shit about him. My thing is, why did they wait so long? Why is it coming out now?"
"Because the powers that be didn't want it to come out."
"Who would believe those women? We barely believe them now, right, so who would believe them then?"
"All these women talking about he gave them a pill … Bill, man, it's too many people saying you did it."
"That's what I'm saying."
"I should say he gave me a pill, get some of that money. 'Well, he put a pill in my Jell-O pudding, and next thing I know I was fast asleep.'"
It takes me a minute to realize Roy is trying to make me laugh. Roy laughs.
"I don't think it's that simple. It seems pretty tough to make a case, actually."
In the case of Commonwealth v. William Henry Cosby, Jr., concerning the sexual assault of Andrea Constand, the defense has motioned that Ms. Constand and any other complainants not be referred to as "victims." Before I even get to the trial, I am feeling horrible about being a woman, as usual. How I must see myself through the eyes of men, anxious about the preferred way to look and be. I always see myself in contrast with white women, a holdover instinct from my suburban upbringing. Emily and Amanda and Rachel are preferred, their mild opinions and floral skirts, their lilting giggles, the way they tuck oak-brown hair behind their ears.
I am not preferred. I will do in a pinch. Good Enough.
A trio of white women reporters seated near me (seersucker, wedding rings, ballet flats) are making small talk, reminiscing about covering the Dylann Roof trial. So horrible, in contrast with how truly good the victims were. So forgiving, exceptional people. They weren't asking for it.
When it comes to violence, it doesn't matter whose hair is thin. I'm one of maybe three black women in the overflow courtroom they've designated for the press, which means I'm one of three women wrestling with that familiar triple-consciousness chicken-or-egg. Am I black today, or a woman? Which injustices should I fight first?
Before the trial even began, I texted a friend, "Can't we burn the men and keep the culture?"
For some reason, lately, I've been compelled to explore why I think what I think is funny, why I often use humor to talk about my darkest aches and the country's most egregious defects. I've been reading about the history of black comedy, listening to Richard Pryor vinyls, revisiting Dick Gregory's shtick and The Flip Wilson Show. It would be impossible to discuss the rise of black comedy within a newly integrated America without including Bill Cosby's legacy. And it would be impossible to discuss the "color-blind" ideology and respectability politics of the '90s — the kind that raised me to defer to and mimic Amanda in her floral skirt — without invoking The Cosby Show as the vision board for Wholesome Blacks. Forget the Jeffersons' wide-eyed "movin' on up"; these Negroes were up, man. Sky-high and sitting comfortably, almost unrecognizable in their ease and achievement.