THE BILL COSBY saga had a built-in local angle. While Cos no longer lives here, he hung out at Temple and the Penn Relays so often it was like he never left.

In the court of public opinion, the death of Michael Brown is the flip side of the Cosby story - Cosby is crucified while Brown is canonized - but the Brown story lacked a Philly local angle until Charles Barkley jumped in with his size-16 feet.

Although Cosby hasn't been charged with anything, let alone convicted, it's hard to believe he's a lamb. My opinion.

Amid the fury, the missing sound is the voice of black leaders and intellectuals defending Cosby. Only two "names" - Jill Scott and Whoopi Goldberg - stood by their man. Cosby is exorcised from the racial solidarity enveloping Brown.

One reason is that Brown is a victim and Cosby is an accused predator. For another, Cosby ticked off the black intelligentsia by carelessly condemning bad habits of some lower-class blacks, and that's where Charles Barkley stuck his oar in the water.

Cosby was incinerated almost as much for destroying the Cliff Huxtable myth as for alleged sexual assault. Brown is lionized as a symbol of something greater than himself. His supporters refer to him as "an unarmed teenager," which is true. But so is this: He was as big as an NFL defensive end and used his size to intimidate.

His defenders willfully ignore that Brown stole a handful of cigarillos from a convenience store. Even worse, on videotape, Brown shoves the clerk out of the way as he goes out the door, then turns and takes a menacing step toward the clerk, who is half his size. That was naked arrogance.

He then goes out and walks down the middle of a street where he is later killed by a white cop in an incident that cried out for an indictment.

There's an anguished focus on what followed - Brown's body lying in the street for 4 1/2 hours. That's a long time, but how unusual or racist was it?

When Mafia boss Angelo Bruno was shot to death sitting in his car in 1980, his bloody body - head back, mouth open (which made a sensational Daily News front page photo) - remained there for more than three hours, says then-homicide detective Michael Chitwood, who was on the scene.

Chitwood now heads Upper Darby's police force and says a crime scene must be preserved and in the case of an officer-involved shooting, even more care must be taken "and what we do is wait for the medical examiner." That can take up to two hours in Delaware County.

Another police commander tells me if cops remove a body too quickly they're accused of a coverup.

In Philadelphia, some Italian-Americans screamed that cops had disrespected Bruno. It wasn't disrespect, it was procedure.

Finally, Sir Charles, who has a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth, broke with most of black America on Mike Missanelli's radio show on 97.5 The Fanatic. The grand jury followed the evidence and got it right, he said, and called the rioters "scumbags." His opinion.

In a later interview on CNN, the former Sixer great said, "We as black people, we got a lot of crooks," adding that racial profiling can sometimes be justified,

A social conservative, Barkley quickly was condemned by some as an Uncle Tom, and in some parts of the media he instantly became the black man to hate.

But I can say white people have even more crooks or that some whites are racist without being called a race traitor.

If we are going to have that elusive honest conversation about race, we have to hear all views, even those that make us uncomfortable.

Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

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