Bill Cosby was once the paragon of his race. But his sex drive was his undoing. Found guilty last week of drugging and raping dozens of women, the celebrity who often lectured his community on family values, might end his life in prison.
Until 2004, Cosby was the darling of both Black and White America having portrayed a wholesome and fatherly image over the decades in movies, TV series, and commercials. That year, he wasn’t content with being a passive role-model. Instead, he turned on Black culture, condemning everything from invented first names to violent and misogynist Hip-Hop lyrics, and the failure of Black men to act responsibly. He hit a nerve and made many enemies among liberal Blacks.
Cosby is now the poster boy of both Black failure and White fears. The overwhelming majority of his victims were White women, which the media has glossed over for obvious reasons. As a fallen idol, he has been expunged from the African American hall of fame. This is the real cost of this sad story.
My first introduction to Bill Cosby was in 1965 at college. The series I Spy had just premiered and our freshman recreation room was packed with mostly White students excited to watch the first Black hero on, then, all-White television. We all rooted for his success, and he didn’t disappoint.
Over the years, his personality, humor, and versatility captured the hearts of America. As he rose in stature and wealth he gave back to his community. His media roles were always positive and reflective of the rising Black middle class. Cosby wasn’t weighed down by Black history. In fact, he saw even the post slavery decades as the golden years of African American family life and values. His critics worried that his rose-colored view of the past would ultimately forgive slavery and undermine the government largesse his community was reaping. Reparations advocate Ta-Nehisi Coates, in Atlantic Magazine in 2008, put it this way:
“Cosby has been telling thousands of black Americans that racism in America is omnipresent but that it can’t be an excuse to stop striving. As Cosby sees it, the antidote to racism is not rallies, protests, or pleas, but strong families and communities. Instead of focusing on some abstract notion of equality, he argues, blacks need to cleanse their culture, embrace personal responsibility, and reclaim the traditions that fortified them in the past.”
Cosby echoed past Black activists like Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and even Malcolm X – success begins internally with strong family values, racial pride, and education. (Washington, whose birth name was Booker Talliaferro, founded the famous Tuskegee Institute where industrial trades were taught. His surname, appearance, and philosophy of success-through-labor hint at an Italic heritage.)
Cosby’s own father deserted him as a child, the reason he values family. His commitment was unequalled. Cosby gave back to his people in image, message, and money. Beside his upscale portrayals of the Black community, he and his wife gave $20 million to Spelman College in 1988, the largest individual donation ever given to a black college. You need only compare Cosby to our own Francis Coppola, David Chase, and Martin Scorsese – who gained their fortunes by destroying the Italian image, but never gave a dime to preserve it – to lament the collapse of Cosby’s reputation.
That which Bill Cosby saw as the cause of Black poverty – the disintegration of the family – is now spreading to other communities. It is said that marriage is becoming passé among Millennials of all races. In my last blog I noted that 56% of White babies are born out of wedlock among ages 20-24 (It’s 90% among Blacks!). In my own extended family, I have such a situation in the works. We can only cajole the young ones. The shame of illegitimacy is now considered a historical oddity.
The forces of anarchy no longer have to worry about lessons in morality by Bill Cosby, or any White role model for that matter. -JLM