Written by Steven Spear, Jr.
As with every year, I began 2016 with the highest expectations. Then the Zika virus started spreading. Then legends started passing away: David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro, Carrie Fisher, and the list goes on. The year wasn’t all bad though: plenty of good books were published and Saturday Night Live aired the three presidential debates between Hillary Clinton (Kate McKinnon) and Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin).
While there were a lot of things that impacted me this year, the following four stories were some of the most significant. Read my thoughts on each of these stories that have lasting effects on society and the world that we cannot ignore.
Alexander Scott (I Spy). Fat Albert (Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids). Billy Foster (Let’s Do It Again). Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show). Bill Cosby has played many beloved characters in television and film. When I think of Cosby, I think of a legendary comedian that worked to advance black people. He was an ardent supporter of higher education, and he created shows with that gave a window into the lives of black families and their experiences. The Cosby Show, probably his most famous show, achieved mainstream success and was the number one show in the U.S. for five straight seasons. Despite all of the good he has done, I’m afraid that it will all be forgotten by future generations.
Cosby inspired generations of young black men and women to rise above what society often expects of us. He made us believe that we could become doctors and lawyers, but now, his legacy has been eclipsed. Sixty-one women have accused Bill Cosby of rape, sexual battery, and sexual assault going back more than forty years. No criminal charges can be brought in most of these cases because of the statute of limitations, but there are many civil suits pending.
On December 3, 2015, Cosby was charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault, and the trial is scheduled for June 5, 2017. If convicted, Cosby could face up to thirty years in prison. He would be 110 years old.
But he’s an Olympic hopeful
In California, a man was found raping an unconscious woman next to a dumpster. Two passing bicyclists rushed to stop him. The police soon came and arrested Brock Turner. The maximum penalty for his charges were 14 years, the district attorney requested 6 years, and there was a statutory minimum of 2 years. He got 6 months. In California, judges have the authority to deviate from statutory minimums.
Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky agreed with the Santa Clara Probation Department and determined that sentencing Brock Turner to several years in a state prison would have a “severe impact” on his life. Turner was released from a county jail after only 3 months (released early for good behavior), must be on probation for 3 years, and must register as a sex offender.
This unusually light sentence received national criticism, and Judge Persky was accused of offering a lighter sentence because Turner was a white male. After an investigation by the Commission on Judicial Performance, an independent state agency, Persky was cleared of any wrongdoing. The commission found that Persky consistently follows the sentencing recommendations of the probation office.
In the many news articles covering this story, authors felt compelled to include his Stanford swim times and his hopes to be in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Shame on You.
When I first heard the allegations against Bill Cosby, I did not believe them. The Bill Cosby I “knew” wouldn’t do something like that. Dr. Huxtable wouldn’t do something like that. Some time passed, and over fifty women had accused him rape or sexual assault. I couldn’t believe it. “This is all a mistake,” I thought to myself. “Surely, the man who had become “America’s Dad” couldn’t have lived this double-life for over four decades.” Now, I believe that I might be wrong. If these allegations are true, then you tricked us. Shame on you Mr. Cosby.
Judge Persky lowered Brock Turner’s sentence to six months claiming the “severe impact” of prison of his life. What about the “severe impact” of Turner’s raping “Emily Doe” (she wished to remain anonymous)? Does she not deserve justice? Three months is not justice. We all must weigh the future quality of life for Turner against his crime.
No one cares about your swim times. You took advantage of a woman’s body; you took away her sense of security; she will always remember that you violated her. Yes, you are young, and prison would impact you, but that is no excuse for you to receive so little jail time. Shame on you Brock Turner.