used to love me some Bill Cosby. Not only because he was America’s
Big Daddy, but also because he was fun and funny. Most of the times
that I was around him, I felt lifted. He had that deep, heh heh heh
laugh, and that sweet smile, and then he loved some HBCUs, so what
could you say?
there was that irascible thing; that pull up your pants and don’t
steal the cake preachy conversation. But there was the $20 million
that he and Camille gave to Spelman College and the fraction of which
I was able to wangle from him for Bennett College. We had this
conversation, once upon a time, when he said that he loved me, and I
replied, as much as you love Dr. Cole, and he said yeah. So I said,
“Where is my $20 million?” If you love me even ten
percent as much I get 2 million. He laughed. I laughed. He spent a
day at Bennett talking to my students.
he has been convicted as a sexual predator, and while there will be
an appeal, the fact that more than 60 women have made accusations is
daunting. Even if half of them are piling on, enough of them have
made the case that a man who has been an amazing philanthropist has
also been an awful sexual predator. How do I mend my broken heart?
my heart is broken. It started breaking with the first allegation.
It continued to break as the accusations piled up. How could I, how
could we, reconcile the image of a man whose humor and dadliness
engaged a generation with a man who, by his own admission, drugged
women so he could have nonconsensual sex with them. What is real,
what is fake, and how do we begin to enjoy powerful episodes of the
Cosby Show without thinking of the man who was just convicted?
do we throw the art out? Do we decide that the engaging body of work
is now worthless because the creator is horribly flawed? Do we
decide that Fat Albert wasn’t really fat and funny, that Theo
and Rudy weren’t amazing kids, that I Spy didn’t spy,
that the Cosby body of work is useless?
will make no excuses for a man who has been convicted as a sexual
predator, even as I confess my affection for him. But I wonder if we
can separate the art from its creator, especially when we consider
the fact that Cosby broke so many barriers as he created his art.
And while he deserves more than a wink and a nod or a slap on the
wrist, I think it also important to consider context. Who taught
this man to be a sexual predator? Was this the norm in Hollywood at
that time? Cosby was raised well enough to know the difference
between right and wrong, and he was not only wrong but also butt
wrong to drug women to have sex with them. One could be a
misunderstanding. Sixty is an epidemic. Even if half of them are
making it up, thirty, twenty, ten, or even one is more than enough.
my heart breaks for our culture, and for that which many will throw
away. Meaning, do Cosby’s crimes invalidate his art? Will all
eight seasons of the Cosby show be kicked to the curb because its
creator is an extraordinarily flawed man? Will a moment in history,
a moment when the ensemble depiction of a dynamic Black middle-class
family entertained a nation, be obliterated by the judgment of one
am not sure of the answer. I am certain, though, that my heart is
broken. Cosby will appeal and he may prevail. Or, he may not. But
I am among those who cherish the memories of the Cosby show, the
Cosby philanthropist, the funny and irascible man who came to my
campus, talked good sense to my students, and cared. Cheers to him
for lifting up Black colleges. Shame on him for violating women.
How can I reconcile these images? How can I mend my broken heart?