The sad reality of how we’ve been bred to endanger women and what that means in the year of Bill Cosby, De’Andre Johnson and Dalvin Cook.
Some things. Just are. You will remember your cell phone bill once payment reminders escalate to warnings. Your coworker believes logistical details will magically align and execute themselves. Your mother poses unanswerable questions and waits for a reply with insufferable patience. Low property taxes translate into poorer neighborhood schools. Children from every strata will learn their isms at home.
And we all have been bred to endanger women.
It was happenstance that I would be anywhere in the vicinity of a sports network broadcast. Walking from one airport terminal to the connecting next, I step out of the flow of foot traffic to adjust my shoulder bag. Once I get myself together, I see monitors fill with the glowy contrast of surveillance footage. I can’t hear the report, but the setting of a busy bar is clear. Also unmistakable is the woman taking a hard punch to the face by a male customer.
His name is De’Andre Johnson. Turns out he’s a football player at Florida State University and she was a pesky female who dared to ruffle after he pushed against her and traded insults in a crowded bar. I braced myself over the next few days for follow-up broadcasts to detail how the college, conference and boosters were scrambling to find a large enough rug and sturdy enough broom for this public relations mess. What caught me off guard was when a male family friend cosigned the internet grumbling about the unfairness of it all: she should be arrested too; she struck him first; he was only defending himself.
My friend and I retreated to our respective corners, clutching our staunch opinions. I reluctantly acknowledged that she struck first. He begrudgingly agreed that suddenly being crashed into by an oversized masculine figure with a foul mouth and attitude might have triggered her defense systems. I wanted to point to the sign about boys not hitting girls, but only its faded space remains. I wanted to rail against the university for circling wagons around him, but they swiftly released him from the team. I was still irritated — suspicious, even. And I couldn’t pinpoint why.
Then I learned that another FSU football player, a rising star named Dalvin Cook, punched a different woman in the face at a different bar in the same weekend. She’d reportedly refused to give a fellow teammate her phone number, and told ESPN that Cook “kept telling me to Google them. They told me they were football players and they could buy me in two years.” According to all of the sports rags, blogs and reports, Johnson, a freshman, hadn’t played a game all season. He was an easy pawn to lose. Cook, winner of the state of Florida’s “Mr. Football” award in high school, has already been positioned to be a key player for the team. Though he’s been only suspended from the team, he turned himself in and was charged with battery. Within less than a week, Cook managed to retain a top-shelf attorney, and the bravado of a football star has shrunk to a tight-lipped statement of innocence. The machine has already begun its work to extract his guilt from the facts. The machine needs him. The truth –and a woman’s dignity—are inconvenient, at best.
That was my early theory about Bill Cosby. Before he confessed to the ‘ludes. Before we all felt our stomachs flip at the vile expansiveness of it all. Back when the Hannibal Burress’ standup bit first went viral and the nation learned –or, in truth, was reminded—of Cosby’s nefarious inclinations. Like everyone, I put a new wrinkle in my brain to understand why someone with unlimited access to everything grand, including women who would be eager to play Doctor Huxtable with him would, instead, steal into a woman’s body. It was alarming, then, when I settled on “inconvenient.” The notion that another human being’s dignity could be sublimated to a condition to be controlled. Sure, she might be willing, I tried to imagine him thinking, but I don’t want to be bothered later. Let’s make sure she doesn’t remember anything. Nice. Neat. Convenient.
There’s a radiant heat in my chest because of how both of these men are institutionally supported in their arrogance, their criminality, their inhumanity, their hubris. At every turn of the Cosby tale, I think of the murky environment that could sustain his hunting lust for so many years. Of the common restraint among the 40-plus women was their fear of his power. I think of how we all know this already. How we’ve been angry about this so many times already. How we’re seeking ways to make the women less attacked, already.
In talking about the Cosby unfolding with a girlfriend, she said, “There have been reports and discussions about Bill Cosby being a rapist for years and years but it didn’t become true, somehow, until a man said it.”
That’s why I’m angry.
Some things. Just.
“In the Margins” is Dasha Kelly’s monthly column at milwaukeemag.com.