#BackChannel: Cosby Sentence, Serena Williams & Colin Kaepernick, ‘Say It Loud’ Anniversary

Oct 4, 2018

The man once known fondly as “America’s Dad” now faces three to 10 years in state prison. 81-year-old Bill Cosby was sentenced last week for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, one of more than 60 women who has come forward with assault allegations against Cosby.

If Bill Cosby had largely victimized black women, like R. Kelly has, the outcome may have looked very differently in this moment.
- Mark Anthony Neal

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Cosby was the first high-profile celebrity to stand trial in the #MeToo era, and his sentencing has renewed debate about the power and limitations of the movement. What’s the significance of Cosby’s case, and is it a turning point? Popular culture experts Natalie Bullock Brown and Mark Anthony Neal join host Frank Stasio to tackle those questions in the latest installment of #BackChannel, the State of Things’ recurring series connecting culture and context.

It's a tired, tired trope of the angry black woman that keeps getting imposed on Serena Williams ... She in many ways is not only fully expressed, but she is free. She is clearly feeling free to be exactly who she is. And a large part of that is unapologetically black.- Natalie Bullock Brown

They also talk about Serena Williams’ controversial loss in the U.S. Open and Colin Kaepernick as the new face of Nike. Bullock Brown and Neal review the new six-part docuseries “Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story” from executive producer Jay-Z and talk about the lasting legacy of James Brown’s hit “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” which turns 50 this year. 

Interview Highlights

On Colin Kaepernick's deal with Nike:

Mark Anthony Neal: Nike’s in the business of selling athletic gear. Selling a lifestyle …  I’m always a bit suspicious of these kinds of moments. Let alone the fact that Colin Kaepernick had been signed to Nike for a while. They were kind of waiting for the winds of change to decide to run this commercial.

Natalie Bullock Brown: In the midst of hiring Colin Kaepernick for this campaign Nike is giving millions to the Republican party… It’s very interesting the contrast between Colin Kaepernick — what he rose to fame for — and the president that just really latched on to that as a political issue. And then what Nike is doing through its employees and so forth in terms of the money that’s going to the Republican party. It’s just very interesting.

On James Brown's "Say It Loud — I'm Black,and I'm Proud':

Mark Anthony Neal: James Brown was hesitant around those politics. He hadn’t written anything that was explicitly political before then … As a commercial artist he actually gave up something for making this political stance … He was at a point in his career where he could withstand that. He’d built big enough of a brand that he could step out and make a political statement.

Natalie Bullock Brown:It’s so interesting the connection between Bill Cosby and James Brown. Here are two black men, black entertainers, who both had conservative politics … What do you do with the artistic legacy of men who number one: are really not riding for black people. And number two: who are accused of, and in Cosby’s case convicted of, sexual assault and sexual violence. [In James Brown’s case physical violence].

On the new docuseries "Rest In Power" about Trayvon Martin:

Mark Anthony Neal: Zimmerman had the inability to stand down. He felt entitled to police that community. He felt entitled to police black male bodies. Even as the police officers are telling him: We don’t need you to do that. Go home. He still felt entitled to do that.

Natalie Bullock Brown: Trayvon Martin’s death absolutely was a wake-up call. And that it took place during the presidency of the first black president underscored the idea that we are not post-racial. There is so much that we still have to deal with when it comes to race and how we use it to interpret guilt and innocence, who's  a victim, and who's a predator.

Here's a trailer for "Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story":