Lately, I’ve noticed this new phenomena on social media where if you talk about anything aside from racial and/or social injustice on your timeline, you are automatically chastised for being ‘distracted.’
“You posted a picture of your baby’s first birthday, instead of pointing out how the government pumps drugs into low income communities? Girl – you distracted!”
“You tweeted about Empire instead of sharing videos of police shootings? Why you so distracted?!”
“Why is everyone talking about The Wiz? This is why our people can’t win. We’re so distracted!”
Usually when I read one of these finger-wagging posts or memes, my knee-jerk reaction is to roll my eyes and let out a weary sigh. Mostly because those who are quick to accuse everyone of being distracted often seem to miss the point that people (yes, even black people) are capable of being concerned about multiple things at once.
However, much to my surprise – for once these folks may be onto something. For once I am (with my own eyes) seeing a glaring case of intelligent distraction. And it has me all in my feelings.
Her name is Monique Pressley, and as a singular figure – she is pretty damn impressive.
When we all heard that Bill Cosby had hired a young, attractive, black woman to be his lawyer, his dissenters and supporters alike all raised a brow. Not because a sister can’t do the job, but because it was such an obvious attempt to counteract the ugly allegations against him.
Who better to question a woman’s claims of sexual assault than another woman?
Also, given that many of Cosby’s alleged victims are white, seeing a black woman defend a black man against a white woman would inevitably push people’s buttons and inspire some sympathy. The ploy was transparent but understandable, and for a while we just shook our heads at the aging icon’s last-ditch efforts to salvage his legacy.
But then Monique Pressley started to do interviews with the press, and it quickly became clear she was about that life.
I still remember the first time I watched one of her interviews and found myself gasping, “Oh no! I think Cosby is guilty as sin, but why is his lawyer so dope?”
That fleeting thought left me feeling stunned, uncomfortable and conflicted.
When speaking to my friends, they all seemed to be finding themselves in the same quandary; struggling to juggle their womanist views and allegiance to rape victims while tempering that with the admiration they begrudgingly found themselves feeling for this woman in particular.
I don't know if Bill Cosby is guilty or not but I know his attorney Monique Pressley is a BEAST. I love hearing her speak.
— Charlamagne Tha God (@cthagod) January 4, 2016
#moniquepressley is a capable mind; too bad she's defending the indefensible
— Stephen Fevrier (@sfevrier) January 2, 2016
In the last few weeks, many of us have asked, “Is it even okay to admire Bill Cosby’s lawyer?”
What message does it send when we clap for someone defending an accused serial rapist?
How must the victims feel when they see us celebrating someone whose job it is to invalidate their pain?
And yet – damnit, how often do we get to celebrate “Black Girl Magic” like this?
How often do we see such a glorious example of poise, intelligence and grit wrapped in a such an unflinching package?
No matter what questions are thrown at her, Cosby’s attorney faces them head on with a smile. She slays her opponents with such ease that even the “angry black woman” defense falls flat at her feet, unable to leave a mark.
Let’s keep it real: Monique Pressley is a real life Shonda Rhimes heroine.
Olivia Pope and Analise Keating might as well be her cousin and auntie, respectively. To be fair, we are already predisposed to clap and live tweet our admiration for multi-layered women like her; those who exemplify the best in all of us while causing us to question our moral compass.
Her interview with Marc Lamont Hill from HuffPost Live was so expertly handled that many even started musing that she was the reincarnation of Johnnie Cochran.
And yet, with all that being said… what about the victims?
Are we betraying them by being so open with our esteem for their attacker’s counsel?
Honestly, I don’t know.
While I recognize this conversation is exactly the sort of ‘distraction’ Cosby and his advisors hoped for, that doesn’t make side-stepping it any easier.
The way that I have personally made peace with this issue is to make sure I never gloat over Pressley without mentioning those she is hired to go after. By acknowledging the women on both sides of this case, at the very least I can walk away feeling like I discredited no one.
When all this is over, let’s just hope Pressley – who is not just a defense attorney but also a radio-show host, ordained minister, and mother of two – decides to use her elevated platform and undeniable gifts to work on behalf of those we can clap for with a clear conscious.