What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Cosby’s conviction proves a misogynist in a bow tie is still a misogynist

He used class as a shield and projected his worst qualities onto poor black people

12:30 PMBill Cosby’s self-righteous moralizing finally did him in.

In 2009, some five years after he’d delivered his now-notorious “Pound Cake Speech,” Cosby released a rap album: Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati: State of Emergency. The purpose of the album was, in Cosby’s words, to “tackle such social issues as self-respect, peer pressure, abuse and education … that doesn’t rely on profanity, misogyny, materialism or ego exercise.” “Pound Cake” with a backbeat, if you will.

Well looky here: Kendrick Lamar has a Pulitzer Prize and Bill Cosby will soon have a prison sentence. At this point (Drake beef notwithstanding), Meek Mill is more of a hero in Philadelphia than Cosby is.

Ain’t that about a bitch?

Cosby, who was convicted Thursday of three counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004, had long been guilty of shaming black people. Especially poor black people, and especially those darn hip-hoppers, with their cursing and their insistence on using the N-word and their baggy pants and their drug-dealing and their hatred of women. To Cosby, this culture was the real problem with black people, not mass incarceration, or racist policing, or discrimination in housing and education, or racist discrepancies in prison sentencing, or the drug war.

At this point, Meek Mill is more of a hero in Philadelphia than Cosby is.

No, it was black people not taking enough personal responsibility.

“Looking at the incarcerated, these are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola,” Cosby said in 2004. “People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! And then we all run out and are outraged, ‘The cops shouldn’t have shot him.’ What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? I wanted a piece of pound cake just as bad as anybody else, and I looked at it and I had no money. And something called parenting said, ‘If you get caught with it you’re going to embarrass your mother.’ Not ‘You’re going to get your butt kicked.’ No. ‘You’re going to embarrass your family.’ ”

Slipping Quaaludes into women’s drinks is totes better than slinging crack on the corner, right?

His conviction came in part because, in 2015, U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno unsealed a 2005 deposition from the civil suit Constand filed against Cosby. The judge’s reasoning? Cosby “has donned the mantle of public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, child rearing, family life, education and crime. To the extent that defendant has freely entered the public square and ‘thrust himself into the vortex of [these public issues],’ he has voluntarily narrowed the zone of privacy that he is entitled to claim.”

Or, in the far less legalistic words of comedian Hannibal Buress: “Bill Cosby has the f—ing smuggest old black man persona that I hate. He gets on TV: ‘Pull your pants up, black people! I was on TV in the ’80s! I can talk down to you ’cause I had a successful sitcom!’ ”

The conviction came after approximately 60 women had publicly accused Cosby of sexual abuse that spanned decades. It was Constand whose case could be heard, though, because it was one of the few that remained within the statute of limitations. And so this case was not just about her.

It was clear from the way he refused to entertain the questions about the sexual assault allegations against him from an Associated Press reporter in 2014: “No, no. We don’t answer that,” he said, as though the reporter’s question was some gross violation of politesse. Cosby thought he’d ascended to the point that he could rely on the shield of aristocracy: that outward dignity and gentility was — and, perhaps more significantly, should be — enough to deflect attention from internal ugliness. After all, it worked for the Kennedys — just ask Mary Jo Kopechne. Oh wait, we can’t.

At some point, we must acknowledge that the ideas that informed Cosby’s black conservatism and attendant hypocrisy are what uphold a culture of silence around rape and sexual assault on historically black college and university (HBCU) campuses such as Morehouse and Spelman (where Cosby donated so much money he funded a professorship and put his wife’s name on a building). Cosby condescended to poor black people and advanced the idea that higher education — and the education in class and decorum that presumably accompanied it, especially at HBCUs — was the answer to black people’s problems. He never understood that a misogynist in a bow tie is still a misogynist.

When we debated whether it was appropriate for the Smithsonian Institution to display Cosby’s art collection in the National Museum of African Art, what we were really debating was whether it was ethical for an institution to be complicit in upholding this aristocratic contract. That’s why it was significant when colleges and universities began rescinding their honorary degrees and removing Cosby’s name from their edifices. This wasn’t about erasing a man or a legacy. It was about clawing back the cloak of legitimacy he’d used not only to denigrate poor black people but also to win the trust of so many of his victims. After all, Constand met Cosby when she was director of women’s basketball operations at Temple University and Cosby was one of its favored sons.

Cosby is hardly the only self-styled race man with a woman problem. See also: Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton and pre-MAGA Kanye West (yes, that would be the same Kanye who tweeted, “BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!!!!!!” in 2016.)

This week, a different sort of survivor came forward. In an interview with Hollywood Unlocked, singer Kelis alleged that her former husband, Nas, the same man who wrote “I Can,” had been physically and emotionally abusive. For decades, Cosby has been trying, with varying degrees of success, to suggest that misogyny is a problem of less educated, less well-mannered black people. Well guess what, Bill, now you’re in the same boat as R. Kelly and a host of other abusers you’d prefer to sniff at. Happy paddling.

Cosby’s conviction offers some measure of vindication for the five dozen women who have accused him of drugging and/or sexually assaulting them. Finally, a woman got to tell her story to a jury. And finally, she was believed.

But I’m hoping that this week delivers another lesson too. True justice and equality do not mean that wealthy men of color get to behave with the same cavalier disregard for women as their wealthy white counterparts do. True equality is when all abusers, regardless of race, are held to account for their actions and they’re no longer allowed to use class as a shield.

Kanye, Bill Cosby, R. Kelly: when it all falls down

Celeb culture is and always has been insane, but this week is just surreal

6:02 PMThe good ol’ U.S.A. loves itself some celebrity drama because we’re the country that places so much value on it. And now we living in a society that never goes dark. Tweets, updates, IG captions, investigative reports, social videos, headlines, notifications, group chat gifs pop through our screens so relentlessly … very few stories even get shelf lives. Tristan Thompson’s recent cheating fiasco? Already old news and the Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t even made it out the first round. But some weeks? Like this one? You just want to delete every social app from your phone and go back to the days of dial-up internet and printing out MapQuest directions. It’s truly confounding.


Bill Cosby — He was found guilty today on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault against Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee whom he’d mentored. When I asked my grandma how she felt about the allegations against Cosby over a year ago and her logic was simple, “Ain’t nobody gonna say the same thing about you 50 times over multiple decades and it not be some element of truth behind it.” With each count carrying up to 10 years in prison, the likelihood is that Cosby—an American icon via his transcendent The Cosby Show, and later A Different World—will spend his remaining days behind bars. There’s a possibility the sentences could be served concurrently, but regardless the sentence is the coup de grace in one of the most public downfalls for one of the world’s most well-known entertainers—and more importantly perhaps a moment of closure for the women who accused him of similar acts of nonconsensual aggression. This is a week though, that “Bill Cosby is going to die in jail” might not even be the wildest of the week.

Nas — The legendary rapper faces accusations from his ex-wife singer, rapper and Cooking Channel host Kelis who said the MC was both physically and emotionally violent during their marriage in an interview with Hollywood Unlocked. The former couple have been engaged in a custody battle for years, but aside from that and Nas’ 2012 Life Is Good, very little has been revealed about their five-year marriage.

The notoriously private Kelis said the leaked pictures of Rihanna (following the 2009 assault by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown) prompted her to end the marriage. This is the second time the Illmatic rapper has been accused of physical abuse in an intimate relationship. Carmen Bryan, most famously remembered as the woman between Jay-Z and Nas during their long ago beef, also alleged the latter was abusive when asked about the affair. Nas has an album set to drop June 15, and it’s unclear how this news will will impact the rollout of his first new project in six years. The project was, of course, recently announced by and is being produced by Kanye West. Which brings us to…

Kanye West — I’m tired of hearing about Kanye West, but here I am writing about him. The thing that irks me about his gluttony of tweets is how they’re manipulated—by him and the powers around him. Chance The Rapper tweeting that black people don’t have to be Democrats in defense of Kanye’s pro-Trump tweets is true.

And Kanye putting a stress on “free thinking” is important, too. Groupthink is an epidemic in our society. But here’s where the tweets become a problem. Kanye rocking a Make America Great Again hat and praising Trump only enables 45 and the energy around him. Look at how quick Trump was to retweet West thanking him for his support (while he remains quiet on an American hero). Or notice how Donald Trump Jr. now retweets Kim Kardashian.

This isn’t the promotion of free thinking as Kanye says, just cynical manipulation of what he’s saying.

R. Kelly — Where we are: Legendary radio jock Tom Joyner has vowed to never again play R. Kelly’s music on his radio show. Kelley’s publicist, assistant and lawyer all peace’d out on him following new sexual misconduct allegations in BBC Three’s new documentary R. Kelly: Sex, Girls and Videotapes.

There are also allegations that he is the leader of a sex cult in which women are being held against their will. All of these things happened this month. It seems he has used his music and the influence that comes with celebrity to manipulate young women and their families for years. There is no separation between the two. None.

Diamond & Silk — I know very little about Diamond and Silk, real names Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, who fashion themselves President Donald Trump’s most outspoken and loyal supporters. I do know they’re blasphemous for giving a bad name to both Lisa Raye’s character in The Players Club and to the R&B group that gave us “Meeting In My Bedroom.” I also know they’re “famous” (strong emphasis on the quotation marks) because they’re two black women who are strong pro-Trump supporters. Somehow they found their way to Capitol Hill to testify before the House Judiciary Committee with regard to supposed filtering practices by social media platforms. They were, of course, subsequently caught lying under oath.

Please. Put this week in rice.

 

New poll finds black voters believe NFL colluded to blackball Kaepernick

Survey in eight states says some are also watching less football because of quarterback’s treatment

1:28 PMA new poll of black voters in eight politically competitive states found that nearly 6 in 10 said they believe NFL teams colluded to blackball former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick because of his political views and his stance against police brutality.

And more than 1 in 3 of the respondents say they watched less football during the 2017-18 NFL season because of the league’s treatment of Kaepernick.

The poll findings, collected in a telephone survey of 1,000 black registered voters in mid-March, highlight the competing tensions tugging at the NFL during an era of heightened player activism and increasingly divisive politics.

The full poll, which includes questions probing political attitudes and black voters’ views of the nation’s economic and racial landscape, is scheduled to be released next week.

“There is a legitimate, stated reason why African-Americans are watching less football: They believe there is collusion against Colin Kaepernick among NFL owners,” said Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPac, a political action committee that commissioned the poll.

NFL team owners have voiced concerns about players who raised fists or took a knee during the national anthem to call attention to police violence and the nation’s widening inequality, in large part because they view the demonstrations as a turnoff for parts of their mostly white fan base.

President Donald Trump added to their worries with a series of tweets in which he linked declining NFL television ratings to the protests and by conflating the protests with disrespect for the flag. In a speech in September, he also profanely called on NFL owners to cut any players who protest during the anthem.

At the same time, many African-Americans are angered by the treatment of Kaepernick, who has been unable to land a job with an NFL team for more than a year. The new poll tracks with others that found many African-Americans believe Kaepernick is being punished for launching the player protests in 2016, when he took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.

“There is a counternarrative to the narrative that the NFL is losing fans because of the protests,” said Cornell Belcher, president of Brilliant Corners, the research firm that conducted the poll. “That is that the NFL is losing fans because of collusion and racial injustice.”

Kaepernick has filed suit against the NFL for allegedly blackballing him because of his political protest.

Although football remains entrenched as the nation’s most popular sport, television ratings for NFL games fell nearly 10 percent in the 2017 regular season. Viewership for the 2018 Super Bowl was also down, falling to 2009 levels.

The reasons for the decline have been hotly disputed. People have cited growing concern over concussions and off-field problems such as domestic violence. They also point to cord-cutting and the rise of social media, which allows people to follow games without actually tuning in. They also have pointed to the player protests and the racially divided reaction to them.

The BlackPac poll found that 59 percent of black registered voters in the swing states of Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina agree that NFL teams colluded to block Kaepernick from joining a team. One in four disagreed, while 17 percent either did not know or refused to speculate.

The survey also found that 21 percent of respondents said they watched less football in 2017 than they had previously, while 14 percent said they stopped watching altogether. Some 47 percent said their viewing habits were unchanged, while 19 percent either refused to answer or said they did not know.

An earlier version of this story misstated the number of states in the survey.

New Montgomery, Alabama, memorial recognizes black victims of lynchings

It also highlights the trauma and toll that white supremacy has taken on America

11:54 AMDecades after black people were subjected to enslavement, lynchings and beatings by white mobs, a memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, is recognizing the victims and forcing America to acknowledge its ugly past.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opening today, is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to enslaved black people, victims of lynchings, and those who endured police brutality and injustice. The memorial is, in part, a display of the trauma that white supremacy has caused in America.

The memorial sits on 6 acres near the Alabama State Capitol. Within the bright greenery of trees and shrubs surrounding the site lie sculptures, art and various designs to drive the messages home. A memorial square in the inner yard contains 800 6-foot monuments; inscribed on the long corten steel columns are the names of those who suffered a grim fate, followed by a death date. Although many names line the columns, just as many are simply listed as “unknown.” The design was inspired by the Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

Between 1877 and 1950, more than 4,400 black men, women and children were lynched, shot and beaten to death, according to the website. While many families were left to grieve over unrecognizable bodies, some loved ones remained missing and unable to receive a proper burial. The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) took an interest in these findings eight years ago and began extensive research on the history of lynchings in America. In their findings, the crew gained a better understanding of the true nature of the crimes that had taken place. Because of the terrorization and trauma being endured in the South, 6 million black people fled the area in search of refuge elsewhere.

Having gathered enough information, the crew created a report, Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, that documented lynchings in 12 states.

“I’m not interested in talking about America’s history because I want to punish America,” EJI founder Bryan Stevenson told The New York Times. “I want to liberate America. And I think it’s important for us to do this as an organization that has created an identity that is as disassociated from punishment as possible.”

The memorial’s grand opening week will host several events. After the opening ceremony, which will feature civil rights activist John Lewis, other national leaders and a performance by BeBe Winans, there will be “justice summits” and guest speakers including journalist Jelani Cobb, writer and activist Gloria Steinem, and film director and producer Ava DuVernay. Topic discussions include race and implicit bias in education, climate change and environmental justice, reforming criminal justice and activism.

A full schedule of opening week events can be found here.

Meek Mill’s first post-prison public appearance could be Sixers-Heat Game 5

Sixers owner says via Instagram that he’s en route to pick up Mill

4:32 PMWith the breaking news that Meek Mill is a free man, after the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania overruled Judge Genece Brinkley’s controversial sentence, comes the question: What’s next? Meek outlines his plans in the below tweet thread, but what happens tonight? Philadelphia 76ers owner Michael G. Rubin, who befriended Meek years ago and has become one of the rapper’s most vocal supporters, announced he was en route to pick Meek up from prison.

Whether Meek actually shows up courtside tonight as his hometown Sixers attempt to complete a first-round series victory over the Miami Heat is up in the air.

It is, however, hard to imagine a scene when he doesn’t. If Meek waltzes in as Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons warm up and they all dap and hug, we’re looking at one of the loudest ovations we’ve heard in a basketball arena in a long time. Philly could potentially be looking at a courtside trio of Meek, Allen Iverson and Kevin Hart. That type of cultural star power doesn’t happen every night. Brotherly love for real.

Robert Downey Jr. at ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ premiere: ‘Wakanda forever! I can say that as an honorary black man’

In a crowd including Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana and even coach David Fizdale, Iron Man pledges allegiance to the ‘Black Panther’ phenomenon

8:28 AMNearly 40 Marvel superheroes gathered on the stage at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre on Monday night. For 10 years, the studio has been making films that bring comic book stories to life — breaking box-office standards and often introducing the next big thing along the way.

So the actors — Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman, Zoe Saldana and Scarlett Johansson among them — stood there prepped for the opening of Avengers: Infinity War on Friday. According to Fandango, it’s already sold out more than 1,000 screens and has a chance to top the biggest opening of all time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which collected $248 million on its big night in 2015. Marvel is already celebrating unprecedented success of its February release, Black Panther, which has to date earned more than $680 million domestically and is still growing.

But on Monday night, when Downey Jr., who began his Marvel journey with 2008’s Iron Man, was given the microphone by studio president Kevin Feige, he made his allegiance very clear: “Wakanda forever,” he said as he looked behind him to see Boseman. “I can say that as an honorary black man.”

The crowd, which included Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance and Laurence Fishburne, broke out into laughter, reminded of the actor’s controversial turn in 2008’s Tropic Thunder his character undergoes skin surgery so that he can actually become a black man for a role. Infinity Wars screened at just under three hours — and judging by the oohs, aahs, laughter and audible shock reverberating through the space, Marvel has another darling on its hands.

Immediately after the premiere, lucky golden wristband holders were ushered to a rooftop for an after-party where guests feasted on vegan falafel, Thai chicken meatballs, beef meatballs tossed in marinara sauce and an assortment of salads, cheese platters and mini desserts. The crowd was huge and eclectic; the last few Marvel premiere parties (such as the one for Black Panther) have been more intimate. Guests jumped into and out of photo booths, received mini Marvel puppets and sipped champagne.

The night was soundtracked with tunes from George Michael, Janet Jackson, Prince, Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z and Michael Jackson, and industry insiders mingled with cast members such as Saldana, Winston Duke, Josh Brolin and even former Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.

The party started closing out shortly after midnight, with straggling well-wishers issuing kudos to film producers for pulling off what likely will be another box-office blockbuster. Fans will have to wait until next year for the film’s second part — a year too long.

Donovan Mitchell is becoming a legend in Utah

Rookie sets playoff scoring mark as team closes in on second round

8:05 AMDonovan Mitchell was about to be interviewed after leading the Utah Jazz to one win away from the second round of the NBA playoffs when the home crowd gave him a roaring standing ovation. Mitchell had just surpassed Hall of Famer Karl Malone to score a Jazz rookie playoff-record 33 points in a 113-96 victory in Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.

A touched Mitchell was at a loss for words. He threw his hands in the air in appreciation and turned away to hug teammate Derrick Favors. And while the 21-year-old’s scoring and dunking have spoken volumes during his rookie campaign, he learned on this night that winning is what makes you a legend in Utah.

“To be honest, a lot of this is surreal,” Mitchell told reporters. “I’m just taking it game by game and not really getting caught up in the big picture. Just focusing game by game.”

Mitchell was a superstar during NBA summer league after being selected 13th overall in the 2017 NBA draft. The former University of Louisville star averaged a rookie-best 20.5 points per game this season while making the highlight reels with his athletic drives, high-flying slams and nailed 3-pointers. The four-time Western Conference Rookie of the Month set the Jazz rookie scoring record and also won the 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

Malone and Darrell Griffith were great rookies for the Jazz, but truth be told, they have been surpassed by Mitchell. And while Mitchell showed his youth and had fun engaging in a Rookie of the Year battle of words with Philadelphia forward Ben Simmons, Mitchell’s focus has changed solely to winning in the postseason.

“I am just focused on the task at hand,” Mitchell said. “The biggest thing with me is if I start thinking about the individual stuff and all the stuff that really matters to the team, that’s when you kind of lose your head.

“You’ve got to give your all for your teammates. I’m just trying to give my all any way I can. It’s definitely an honor.”

Said Jazz coach Quin Snyder: “I don’t think he’s trying to do anything special. He’s playing.”

The NBA playoffs are a different level, and the expectation was that this rookie would crawl at first. Reality is nothing has changed, as Mitchell has been the best player on the floor in this first-round series against a Thunder team with three future Hall of Famers in 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook, five-time All-Star Paul George and 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony.

Mitchell joined Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Lou Hudson as the only rookies to score more than 100 points in their first four playoff games.

While the Jazz’s young star seems to be setting a new scoring mark each game, the number Mitchell is most interested in is a series-ending fourth win.

“We have one more game, so I’m focused on that,” Mitchell said.

Said Favors: “He has been doing it all year for us. Making plays. Making shots. He has been huge for us all year, and hopefully he can keep it up and we can keep it up as a team the rest of the series.”