The Vermont Cynic

What happened? Let’s ask Cosby


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Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, Judge Philip Banks and Officer Carl Winslow were the trifecta of ‘90s family sitcom dads who served as the patriarchs of their respective TV families on “the Cosby Show,” “the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Family Matters,” respectively.

Awful sweaters, fat jokes, annoying neighbors and moral righteousness set to the sounds of a live audience’s roaring laughter accompanied these shows’ rare portrayals of black men as financially stable and responsible patriarchs.

For the first time in my life I saw people who looked, talked, dressed and acted like me. It signaled that the ways in which I embodied my blackness, maleness and my suburban upbringing, while contrary to the stigmatized black narrative of stereotypes, were nonetheless authentic.

But even Dr. Huxtable was flawed — TV is not real, and perfect dads do not exist.

That brings us to the current allegations against comedian Bill Cosby for serious sexual misconduct. The nation is asking, ”Where is my TV dad?”

The latest report from CNN declared that over 32 women have come forward claiming that the Jell-O loving TV father had drugged, raped and silenced them in incidents dating back upward of 40 years.

Their accounts are eerily similar with the mentions of pills, unconsciousness and embarrassment when they awoke naked, hungover or incoherent.

They say Cosby used his industry influence to suppress these women and their stories.

Some are asking “why now?” But that question, unfortunately for some supporters, does not lead to conspiracy theories of orchestrated defamation, settlement ploys or legacy ruining, but rather a sexist rape culture that disempowers victims.

In fact, the allegations have been buried time and time again over the past 12 years.

It was not until a video of stand-up comedian Hannibal Burress calling Bill Cosby a rapist in an extended set went viral last October and shined light on what the women involved had been saying for decades: Bill Cosby had sexually assaulted them.

It should not take a man to amplify a woman’s voice. The number is irrelevant, but 32 women conspiring to lie about the same thing seems illogical.

These women have not been taken seriously because it is unbelievable that “America’s Dad” could commit such heinous acts. And so I ask: Dr. Huxtable, where are you?

Then I remember that the unadulterated rectitude of a TV character is not to be confused with the unapologetic acts of a powerful man.

Bill Cosby should be remembered for his great contributions to society in the advocacy for access to education, and his endearing humor and iconic style, in addition to his unacceptable behaviors, despicable manipulations and abuses of others.

We do not get to write him off as indisputably good or irrefutably bad. People do or say good or bad things; they themselves cannot be moral absolutes.

While Cosby will most likely never have charges pressed against him — the statute of limitations has run out in these would-be cases — his reputation has been destroyed beyond repair. NBC cancelled his new sitcom; Netflix indefinitely delayed his stand-up special; and TV Land has pulled reruns of the “The Cosby Show” from their lineup, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Cosby’s alma mater, UMass-Amherst, has severed ties with the entertainer and Cosby himself resigned from the Temple University board in statements released by the institutions.

The accusation of serial rape has taken its toll in the court of public opinion — but it is not enough.

Hollywood, especially those parts linked to the black community, has been noticeably silent or cautiously conservative about making remarks on Cosby’s situation.

Celebrities have expressed their sorrow over the allegations or anguish to see the turmoil subside, but few have condemned Cosby.

The women making the allegations have lived with the ramifications of what occurred, and it is time Cosby do the same.

Take responsibility for what you done, stop hiding behind your PR team, and do what Dr. Huxtable would do: Tell the truth.

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What happened? Let’s ask Cosby