Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Fault Isn't In Our Stars

Happy New Year fellow students.
At the start of 2016 there is unfinished business of 2015 that we need to explore.  Of all of the "scandals" and outrages of the past year, there seems to be just one that won't die out and it is the oldest of them all and the one that is the most "personal" and intimate.  After the ridiculousness of Rachel Dolezal, the revelation of Charlie Sheen, the shame of this Donald Trump candidacy, over indulgence of the media for Bruce Jenner's self aggrandizing and the other beyond silly social media/ entertainment stories; the one that just won't die is the sad tale of Bill Cosby's issues.
The fact that this is a national story is not surprising; after-all, the Cosby show was a television phenomenon.  It helped NBC to unprecedented ratings, it launched a successful spin-off, lasted eight highly rated seasons, and started the careers and resurrected careers for people who starred on the show.  But what it did that was more impressive and important than all of that?  It re-established the functional nuclear family sitcom.  And it did that while showing that Black people, just as our White counterparts, can have 2 parent homes where both parents work and have successful professional careers and lovingly take care of their children while honoring the parents they learned from themselves.  This fact cannot be overemphasized enough; it is important to the social fabric of where we are today as a nation.  Before that show, Black family life on television was defined by what was shown on The Jeffersons.  Now the Jeffersons was not a bad show, but it was based on certain stereotypes of the times and the main character was more of a caricature than a realistic portrayal for most professional Black men. There are plenty of White people to this day, that only think of George Jefferson when they think of a Black businessman and Herman Cain did nothing to dispel that impression, (Mr. Nine, nine, nine).  Heck, some even only think of Fred Sanford when it comes to Black professionals on television.  And let us also not forget that not only did this show show us how easy and normal it was to be a "normal" Black family, it taught us values, emphasized education, focused on love and respect for others, all while making us laugh and smile.
But even before THAT show Dr. Cosby won accolades and awards for his groundbreaking Saturday morning cartoon, Fat Albert & the Cosby Kids, and his clean cut, family based stand up comedy routines and albums.  Since the early sixties, Dr Cosby has been America's "favorite" Negro.  He stood front and center during the Civil Rights era, he used his fame and fortune to further the cause of education on all levels and was honored as he gave his name, his fame, and his money to small historically Black colleges and universities and major universities as well.  And yes, he sold us a lot, a LOT of Jell-o pudding.
Now, I am not offering all of this background to plead Dr. Cosby's case, nor to proclaim his innocence of these allegations and current charges.  I just want to clarify his history for folks who are now so quick to swear they know what happened between Dr. Cosby and all of his accusers.  Actually I am more disappointed than I am convinced, either way.  Whether he did do these things or whether he did not, the one thing that cannot be denied is that Bill Cosby has always been an advocate for all people, Black people, and education.  There is no denying his influence on society, no whitewashing of the record of the amounts of money he and his wife gave to those schools who are now quick to rescind his honorary degrees.  In fact, what is a concern is if these schools are taking away his honorariums, are they also writing refund checks to William and Camille Cosby?  Do they, do WE have a right to take a moral high-ground on the current state of affairs?  Yeah, I kinda think we all do.  I think we have every right to be outraged and upset.  But we also have a right to be skeptical and curious.  What we don't have a right to do is discount who the man is and all that he's done.  I mean, I get it, the jokes about what happened are funny and some of the memes are clever.  But the time has come to just move on now.

If you disliked Cosby coming to your town and preaching to you about how you are not raising your kids, or taking an active role in how they speak, what they watch on TV, or making sure that they go to school, then you are probably kind of happy that he is now in the center of this shit storm.  But all of you who are still debating his guilt or innocence have laughed at or side eyed the man and his works over the decades.  And if he IS guilty of doing these things, he should be punished by the law for what he did.  It just bothers me that so many that either directly or indirectly benefited from his pioneering efforts on their behalf, are still beating this horse that is dragging him to the gallows; so to speak.  People like Larry Wilmore, who seems to base at least one Nightly Show per week on attacking Dr. Cosby.  He is making this as personal as Gloria Allred and it is bothersome.  Other so called "leaders" of our community understandably find themselves in a tough spot, whether to defend this man, or jump on the bandwagon and push him off the cliff.  But why?  Why is this such a hard choice?  Whether they believe him or believe IN him, they should all, each and every one, stand by the man they know and the work he's done.  It is not uncommon in this country for any Black man, especially a prominent one, to be character assassinated by the media, White America and the public in general.  What is unusual though is for Black America to be so quick to help them take down one who has dedicated his life to trying to help us.  There was more support for OJ Simpson during and after his trials then for Bill Cosby.  Conversely by all accounts, once OJ achieved HIS level of Hollywood fame, all but forgot about the Black America who would come to his defense when he was on trial for MURDER.
And while I am talking about OJ, allow me this, even though he was not THE star of any movie or TV show, he was in any number of movies and shows.  You have not heard of nor seen where networks or stations have refused to air HIS acting projects.  Cable networks like TVLand, TV One, Centric and others have pulled The Cosby show from their rotation.  Does this punish Dr. Cosby?  Yeah, in a way, in a small financial way.  But it really punishes the Phylicia Rashad's, Malcolm Jamal Warner's, Keisha Knight Pullium's and other members of the cast who still get residual checks from the show being in syndication.

Look, at the end of the day, what Dr. Cosby is accused of is reprehensible, disgusting and sad.  If he did these things to these women, then whatever comes his way is deserved.  But when we sit around and day after day see videos of Black men and boys being murdered by White cops who are then (in some cases) absolved of all wrong doing; why are we so quick to believe a case or cases, where there is absolutely zero evidence of any wrongdoing?  Why are we as the people who have enjoyed being entertained and benefited from 50 years of advocacy by this man, so fast to want to see him found guilty?  Sure, Bill Cosby should have gotten off the stage about 10 years ago.  Maybe he should not have launched his own personal campaign to try to force us to take a hard look at our own children and how we are raising them.  Maybe that got under your skin in a way you can't understand.  But whatever it is, can we all please stop ignoring all of the things he DID DO, in favor of what you are being told to believe?