Chong: Celebrities should advocate for overlooked issues, use power for public good

Accusations of sexual assault against comedian Bill Cosby had been public for nearly 10 years before dozens of women came forward to accuse the comic of various rapes and sexual assaults occurring over more than 40 years. Given the number of women and the seriousness of the allegations, we wonder why Cosby’s name disappeared from media coverage so quickly. Comedian and actor Hannibal Buress wondered the same thing.

In one of his stand-up shows, Buress made a joke saying Bill Cosby had no right to tell black people how to behave because “you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches."

In a shaky video clip that went viral, Buress’ one joke revamped the public’s attention on Cosby. The victims’ stories were rightfully brought to the media’s attention after being retired as old news. Buress certainly did not realize the magnitude of his words or the uproar they would cause, but it is time people in his position did.

Fame is a rare and pretty unobtainable asset. The fact that fame can be used to properly bring a rapist to justice is not a new phenomenon. Johnny Depp, for example, spoke out against executing the West Memphis Three—three men who were falsely accused of murder and sat on death row—and played a vital role in the movement to free them.

Given that their words carry more weight than the average citizen’s, famous figures have a moral obligation to speak out on injustices that the media does not cover and that the public does not see.

Whether its impact is subconscious or not, the media hold a real value and meaning to people in their daily lives. Without it, we would not know what issues to worry about or what to even think of them.

Barbara Bowman had publicly explained for over 10 years that Cosby had raped her, yet no one believed her. The media could have done something about this, but because of her lack of powerful celebrity status, she was regarded as irrelevant.

The fact that a 10-second joke went further to address serious issues than 10 years of a victim trying to convince people of her case is sickening. This proves that the media has a big hand in choosing what issues people will become aware of.

More people like Buress should use their celebrity status to speak out about important issues that the media ignores.