Last weekend two prominent trials came to a disappointing end; the case of Jeronimo Yanez for shooting Philando Castile and the case of Bill Cosby. For each in their own way justice was not done. Though both deal with different problems, in each we’re left with a desperation: Why is this still happening?
Why do we not believe and trust the oppressed? Because let’s call it as it is, in both cases there was evidence that the defendants were guilty of their crimes. We have videos of Yanez shooting Castile multiple times and Bill Cosby admitted to drugging these women. But the jury and many people are willing to look past that because of their prejudice.
Still, in our society, some are more likely to win than others. And it has to do with the color of your skin, your gender, your ability, your sexual orientation, and we can go on down the list of marginalized groups. Looking at Philando Castile, it is obvious that the police officer shot him because he was African American, an African-American with low resources. Is Yanez a racist? Are the members of the jury racist? They are prejudiced to say the least. Whether Yanez really was afraid for his life or not, the officer would most likely have acted differently when the people in the car were white, in a nice area, with a fancy car. Likewise for the jury.
In case of Bill Cosby, a woman took an American living legend to court. Yes, Bill Cosby is African American, but in this case that was trumped by his fame and fortune. Bill Cosby is not just an American actor, he was THE favorite American dad for decades, he was the reason why racist white folks felt inclusive (“We’re not racist, we love Bill Cosby” and “If everyone was like Bill Cosby, I wouldn’t have a problem with African Americans”). Bill Cosby’s stature and impact on the white community gave him the benefit of the doubt in this trial. But how can there be doubt with over 50 accusations? 50! The defense took all the victim blaming possible to convince the jury, that despite of Cosby's admitting to drugging the victim, it was Andrea Constands’ own wrong doing and that there was consent, making it so hard for any of the other 50 accusers to take Bill Cosby to court. Making it more difficult for any survivor to feel empowered to prosecute their abuser. The verdict was therefore a huge loss for all survivors of sexual violence and for women in general. And to make matters worse, Bill Cosby is now taking his story on tour, profiting from the crimes he committed.
If there are any positives to these trials, it is that people are reminded again of how imperfect the society is we live in, and of how much work we still need to do to make this country truly equal for everyone. Philando and Andrea, your voices were heard all over the world and we will keep on fighting these fights for equality, dignity, and respect with you. To all survivors of sexual / interpersonal violence, please let these outcomes not discourage you, we might have a long way to go, but we stand with you, we believe you, we care for you.
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