This essay is an attempt to work through the nature of the cultural injury produced by the African American male celebrity—an injury that is frequently enacted as intimate violence—and to hypothesize why public accusations of such injuries so often affectively challenge black subjects. Remedies for these injuries frequently gesture toward heteronormative or otherwise regulatory racialized sexual scripts. Stories of African American male celebrities accused of sexual harassment and assault are frequently marked by stories of marital alibis. In discussions of Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson, Nate Parker, and Kobe Bryant, this essay considers how the marital alibi makes hypervisible the belief that black people have too much to lose if these injuries are addressed. The idea of black male guilt circulates in the media as a black cultural injury, while heteronormative scripts are mobilized to offer not only innocence but repair.
The Cosby Lament: Rape, Marital Alibis, and Black Iconicity
Rebecca Wanzo is an associate professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of The Suffering Will Not Be Televised: African American Women and Sentimental Political Storytelling (State University of New York Press, 2009).