I was not going to comment about Bill Cosby. In full honestly, I withheld my insights or thoughts due to a disbelief of what I was hearing in regards to the sexual assault allegations while cradling questions about how or why we placed Bill Cosby on such a pedestal.
My path of disbelief and disenchantment with Bill Cosby began many months ago as many of the victims started to speak out. While buzz continued to question the credibility and validity these women, my questions remained internal. Occasionally, one of my questions would find its way into one of my phone conversations with a friend, “Do you believe what is coming out about Bill Cosby?” Often my questions were met with a pause or a response “I don’t know…” as we had a short discussion about the fact that so many women were coming forward so it must be true.
These questions co-mingled with fond fuzzy memories of The Cosby show. Most weeknights for many years, my family and I planned our evenings around seeing Bill and Claire Huxtable with their children appear in their Brooklyn Brownstone on Primetime television. The Huxtables were an upper middle class family allowing an ease and escape from my own family dysfunction as I fantasized myself into their lives. I remained hopeful that perhaps they would one day extend a hand into our living room to invite me to be a part of their family. Perhaps I could replace Rudy Huxtable or enjoy many of the perks of being one of the Cosby kids. Despite the lack of reality and the smooth manner in which family issues were resolved within the record time of 30 minutes (as with most shows then), the life of the Huxtables was idyllic especially the role of Bill Cosby who was a gentle, firm, comical and lovable father.
What I longed for while gazing through a screen was the dynamic of family as presented by the Huxtables but Cosby was not necessarily a surrogate father figure. In fact, my father was present in my home but that was not the situation for many of my peers. For many in the black community, it was (and still is) key to see positive representations of black family especially favorable images of fathers. But our societal disenchantment with Bill Cosby extends beyond that. In his later years, the jokes stopped as he used his celebrity status to address some of the issues within the black community. Cosby refashioned himself from being one of America’s favorite dads/Jello-man to the tough love father who wanted better for his community.
Given the these nostalgic images, it is easy to see why we are all in shock. We all seem to be undergoing a serious mourning of the image of the Bill Cosby we thought we knew and loved. At the same time, I’ve previously written commentary on the fact that we have foolishly placed these celebrities upon unrealistic pedestals only to realize that they are human and fallible. But perhaps we are having such a hard time about Bill Cosby because so many of our fathers and mothers have physically and emotionally gone missing, especially in communities of color. We have become orphans who’ve set out to look for replacements in the form of celebrities a.k.a. strangers who devastate us with as much ease as our familiar loved ones. And of course the only cure from such a thing comes from the wise advice of Eve Ensler in her recent article “Eve Ensler on Bill Cosby: Let the Mythical Daddy Die” it is time to stop infantilizing ourselves and break ties with our father figure fantasies.