The Feigned Victimhood of Bill Cosby, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas

But it is even more jarring in the context of late-stage Cosby, the moral scold, the comedian turned societal heckler who launched that career by literally defending the police shooting of presumably unarmed black men. In a 2004 screed that came to be known as the “pound cake” speech, he said,

People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake! 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 mother.”

It is difficult to find adjectives equal to the scale of Cosby’s hypocrisy.

.. Cosby’s appeal lay in his representation of a particular node of racial progress.

.. A young Richard Pryor bristled at the anodyne swath of culture that Cosby occupied in the sixties and the pressures it placed on other comedians, particularly black ones, to create humor that soothed the racial anxieties of a white audience.

.. Cosby served as a brief for a particular kind of racial equality. The indignation on Tuesday stemmed from his presumption that, in America, equality means equal impunity.

.. Clarence Thomas referred to the 1991 Senate inquiry into his own history of sexual harassment as a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves.”

.. This is the rhetoric of men whose definition of victimhood is the inability to victimize others.

.. If Kavanaugh ascends to the Supreme Court without a formal investigation into the accusations made against him (all of which he has denied), it will be, in part, because a black man established a model for how best to present oneself as a victim in public. This is a form of interracial unity that the country could do without.

.. Cosby and Kavanaugh are twin exemplars of a kind of amoral amnesty. It is granted to men of great talent and wealth and to those born to men who possess either talent or wealth.

.. Cosby’s poverty-hectoring tours and the book “Come On, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors” is the corrosive effect of irresponsibility.

..  He inflicted this trauma at least sixty times over.

.. There is no accounting for the mechanisms of deflection or rationalization that allowed him to behave in this way while simultaneously denouncing others for far smaller concerns, like what they choose to name their children.

He might not ever do what he has demanded of so many others—take responsibility—but he can no longer avoid being held responsible.

A Third Way in the ‘Respectability Politics’ Debate

Opponents of President Trump can achieve a lot through empathy and loving engagement.

.. And protests at airports around the United States may have caused the Trump administration to reverse its decision to bar entry to green-card holders from the seven countries covered in its travel ban.

.. “For the average white citizen (read: voter), segregation was justified on the basis that Blacks were inherently ignorant, violent, hypersexual, and a whole other litany of adjectives that became increasingly difficult to apply to the people on the television peacefully protesting in the face of water hoses and attack dogs,”

.. he worried that he did not see “anything that would challenge the image of the leftist voter that Trump and his supporters used to their advantage,” and that “between the rise of the Tea Party and Black Lives Matter and a long list of college protests, marching has gone from a radical expression of protest to our shared dialogue. It’s basically mass texting at this point.”

As petty and vindictive as Trump can be, I do not imagine him or his supporters deploying the apparatus of the state to disrupt protests such as this one, mainly because they do not represent a challenge to him on any fundamental level. Where I do anticipate resistance going forward is against any attempt by the left or Trump supporters to relate to one another or build a coalition.

Trump won because he was able to convince all of us, left and right, that the chasm between us and our ideological opponents was far too wide to support a bridge. The work of the next four years will be proving him wrong.

Trump’s political adviser, Steve Bannon, depends on those deep divisions.

.. Neither the notion of most Trump voters as “deplorables” nor the caricatures many Trump voters have of feminists, coastal-dwelling liberals, or immigrants can remain as strong after effective, “in real life” engagement with individuals from the stereotyped groups—engagement rooted in love that transcends the conclusion that the Trump opponent in question is unusual, or “one of the good ones,” by addressing and respectfully challenging relevant prejudices.

.. It is one thing to be dismayed by the results of a Presidential election; it is entirely another to be utterly shocked by them. The latter signals that you do not know a significant portion of this nation as well as as you thought. We cannot afford to be alien to one another. Our unity is not guaranteed; it is a thing which we must guard jealously against all threats. In a nation as diverse as ours, unity is a prize we fight for daily. Sometimes that fight has been with bullets, other times with painted signs and shoe leather. This time, more than anything, we need open eyes and open hearts.

.. Mansoor Shams is a Muslim Marine Corps veteran dismayed to live in an era “where people would be questioning my loyalty to my country,” which led him to travel around America with a sign that says “I’m a Muslim, ask me anything.” He told NPR that the one-on-one conversations he’s having are breaking through prejudices.

.. This sort of thing does not work if attempted on social media. Even in person there would be a lot of failure.

.. But “large rallies can give a distorted sense of how much progress is being made in the fight against the Trump agenda,”