Snoop Dogg’s Attacks on Oprah and Gayle King and Defense of Kobe, MJ and Cosby Are Classic Misogynoir
The rapper has not only attacked Gayle King (and Oprah) for asking about the rape allegation against Kobe Bryant, but defended several high-profile accused sexual predators.
There’s an obvious trend—rooted deep in the history of political action among black men and women—of black male celebrities defending credibly accused (and convicted) rapists like Bill Cosby, R. Kelly, Michael Jackson, and more recently, Russell Simmons.
Kanye West famously tweeted “Bill Cosby innocent” and defended Michael Jackson and R. Kelly; 50 Cent slammed Oprah Winfrey for her previous involvement in the Russell Simmons sexual-assault documentary On the Record and for interviewing Michael Jackson accusers Wade Robson and James Safechuck after the premiere of the searing documentary Leaving Neverland; and today, Snoop Dogg has come out against Winfrey and King and in defense of Cosby, Jackson, Simmons, Kelly, and the late Kobe Bryant. (King questioned WNBA star Lisa Leslie about Kobe’s legacy in light of the rape allegation brought against him in 2003.)
There are many fair criticisms to make about Oprah and her media empire (and I and many others have made them), but Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent have rooted their critiques in misogynistic conspiracy theory directed specifically against black women who refuse to make it their life’s work to defend black men at any cost. According to these rappers, Oprah smiled in photos with Harvey Weinstein (like countless other high-powered people who benefited from his corporate bullying) and later said the #MeToo movement was “bigger than” him, yet went after black men like Cosby without hesitation. They don’t pause to think that both King and Winfrey, not despite but because of their incredible wealth and influence, find themselves in a unique position to report on and speak out against misogynoir—the hatred and abuse directed toward black women—as well as the allegations made against famous black men. In the process, Snoop, 50 Cent, and West continue to bolster the hostile, fake-loyalty-driven environment that makes it easier to abuse black women with impunity.
In response to Snoop’s dog-whistle, Bill Cosby responded via Instagram: “When they brought me to my gated community and placed me inside of my penthouse, they didn’t win nor did they silence me. It’s so sad and disappointing that successful Black Women are being used to tarnish the image and legacy of successful Black Men even in death.”
Presumably the “gated community” here is prison, and the “penthouse” his cell. Bizarre rich-people metaphors aside, Cosby’s assertion that Oprah and Gayle are “being used” to undermine his image and legacy (as well as other black mens’) speaks exactly to the cynical ways these black men in power weaponize identity to avoid accountability or squash criticism. Cosby spent much of his career using his wealth and influence to condescend to poor and criminalized black men about their lifestyles. Now that he finds himself in jail, his personal-responsibility sermon has transformed into one that strips black women of their agency and denies their intelligence. Despite the specificity in his words—“successful Black Women”—Cosby’s latest preaching isn’t only aimed at Oprah and Gayle, who have plenty of wealth and power with which to functionally insulate themselves from these smears, but at the many non-famous black women who don’t dare speak out against abusers in their communities for fear of those same communities labeling them “used” or unloyal.
Cosby’s cynical strategies have a legacy of their own: Certain famous black men have sought to distance themselves from credible accusations of abuse by evoking Emmett Till, the black teenager lynched by a white mob in 1955 because of sexual-harassment accusations made by Carolyn Bryant Donham, a white woman, who is still alive and recently admitted that she lied. But the thing about the horrific, racist murder of Till is that even if Donham had been telling the truth, even if Till had grabbed her and been “sexually crude” toward her, his murder would not have been justified. In fact, no lynching is justified under any circumstances.
And what has happened to Cosby, Jackson, Bryant, Kelly, Simmons, and others does not begin to approach a lynching. None of these men were murdered by a mob: Jackson was acquitted on charges of molesting children who were not Robson or Safechuck and died of a drug overdose in 2009, which was ruled a homicide because his doctor, Conrad Murray, administered the deathly cocktail (Murray served two years in prison); Cosby will serve a three- to 10-year sentence for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004; Bryant settled with his accuser, secured two more NBA titles, and went on to win an Oscar before his untimely death this year; Kelly married the late singer Aaliyah when she was 15 and he was 27, was acquitted on child-pornography charges in 2008 after the child victim refused to testify, and will stand trial in September for four sexual-abuse cases.
There is no evidence or indication that Snoop, 50 Cent, or Kanye are prison abolitionists who believe that the credibly accused should undergo rehabilitation and restorative justice with their victims’ consent rather than receive prison sentences or other forms of state violence. What they are railing against by speaking out against documentaries, interviews, and rigorous reporting, is accountability—not undue punishment or unfair questioning. And when it is black women demanding that accountability, it’s harder to dismiss it as racism. Like Clarence Thomas did before them, these defenders, as well as the men they defend, resort to misogynoir and ahistoricism to make their groundless arguments. If they can boil it down to black women hating or being jealous of black men, then they don’t have to look at themselves. The worst part is that this strategy often works—these black men know that by and large if they render themselves metaphorically lynched, their fans and communities will uncritically stand by them. Despite these blowbacks, black women from all kinds of backgrounds continue to stick their necks out to set the record straight.