Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bill Cosby v. Donald Trump

Bill Cosby

Year of birth: 1937.

During high school, his talent for comedy was discovered, which would become his career. He was an athlete – captain of the baseball and track&field teams in school, and also worked various jobs before and after school to help support his family. He did not complete high school, instead working full time.

At 19 years old he enlisted in the Navy. During his 4-year enlistment as a physical therapist, he worked with disabled Korean war veterans. He also obtained his high school equivalency diploma. He then won a sports scholarship from Temple University, where he studied physical education, while still playing sports. From his experiences in the Navy and at various jobs, including the one he worked during his college years, he decided to take his talent for comedy to the stage. His first major show was at the Gaslight Cafe in New York City, in 1961.

Mr. Cosby became known not just for standup comedy but also for authoring several books and working on various television shows, including: The Cosby Show, The Cosby Mysteries, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. His shows generally portrayed characters of upstanding moral value and social consciousness. Indeed, Mr. Cosby received many honors and honorary degrees during his 55-year career, most reflecting his outstanding record of social service. Mr. Cosby has contributed both time and money to various philantropic efforts.

Bill Cosby married Camille Hanks in 1964, and is still married to her. Together they have 5 children, of which their only son, Ennis, was shot and killed while changing a tire on his car, in 1997.

Is that incident perhaps what caused him to reflect on the African American community? In his Pound Cake speech, he berated young Black men for putting more emphasis on sports, fashion and 'acting hard' than on education, self-respect and self improvement. He continued urging youths toward more moral lives, attacking the 'sag' fashion – wearing one's pants down past the hips; the current trend of mysogyny in rap music and the growing drug culture.   

Donald Trump

Year of birth: 1946

He was born into an immigrant family – his grandparents were all born outside of the U.S.. The Trump clan became wealthy through various real estate deals. Young Donald was sent to an expensive, exclusive school. However, he was expelled from there because of excessive bullying when he was thirteen. He finished his basic education at New York Military Academy. He avoided military service during his college years, using the draft deferment option offered to students. He was certified fit for military duty in 1966, but later obtained a medical deferment. Mr. Trump has never served in the military.

Prior to graduating college, Mr. Trump went to work in the family business, and ultimately took it over. He is listed as one of Forbes' top 500 billionaires, but his business dealings are considered 'sketchy' because of various bankruptcies and because the company does not trade publicly. Thus, little is known of the actual business holdings. However, much is made of his many bankruptcies, and he boasts of dodging his tax obligation through those losses.

The Donald J. Trump foundation, while bearing his name, does not receive any benefit – time, effort or money, from Mr. Trump himself. Furthermore, it is unclear what this foundation supports. Recent investigation has revealed that foundation monies have gone to finance Mr. Trump's personal whims.

Mr. Trump has married 3 times; twice to women who were not American citizens at the time of the marriage. His first marriage dissolved in part because of a sexual relationship with American actress Marla Maples, who became his second wife. He engaged in a relationship with Melania, twenty-two years his junior, while still married to (but separated from) his second wife. Melania is his third wife.

Mr. Cosby – hard-working and socially conscious; Mr. Trump – anything but socially conscious (and dead-set against immigration, even though his family and 2 of his wives were immigrants). It appears those men have only one thing in common: sexual misconduct.

As far back as 1989, Mr. Trump has been accused of rape and/or unwanted sexual contact. Since then, and especially since October of this year, when a conversation between himself and a young reporter revealed Mr. Trump stated his superstar status gave him the privilege of groping and kissing women, other women have come forward with similar stories. Mr. Trump flatly denies all allegations, further insulting the women by saying they were not attractive enough for him to want to kiss.

In 1965, just as Mr. Cosby's career was taking off (and only 4 years into his fifty-five year marriage), a woman accused him of drugging and sexually assaulting her (no charges were filed). In February 2000, another woman reported his lewd actions against her. Since then, scores of other women have come forward, claiming Mr. Cosby drugged them and had unwanted sexual contact with them. The accusations go back for decades; for almost as long as he has been in show business. Mr. Cosby does not deny having sex with the women, or even using drugs, but he states that any contact was consensual.

I am not here to judge, and I am certainly not calling those women liars, or hoping to trivialize their experience. I am just trying to understand why Mr. Cosby - Black, and with a proven record of helping society, is on trial for sexual assault; while Mr. Trump - White, with a proven record of helping himself, and repeatedly accused of the same crime, is running for president?

Besides skin color and philanthropy, one other factor distinguishes these two men: wealth. Mr. Trump was born into money and high social position. Mr. Cosby grew up Black in pre-Civil Rights America.  The Trump name is well-known the world over; the Cosby brand is restricted to the U.S. - and at that, for only certain generations. His name is now ill-reputed, with many previous admirers withdrawing their support.

True, the Republican party has withdrawn their support for Donald Trump, but the American public has not. Quite possibly the same people that condemn Mr. Cosby are avid supporters of Trump for president: the far-right conservatives who would probably string up a rapist... as long as it is not their candidate.

Doesn't all of this – Black/White, poor/rich, do-gooder/bully - make you wonder about the polarity of American society?

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