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a childhood idol

I was at a prime age to fall in love with the Cosby Show when it came on, and follow it for the duration.  Dr. Huxtable was loving, strict, and hilarious – a lot like my dad.  Even though I only have one sibling [my younger sister], I felt like we were the Huxtables.  Looking back now, I know that I based this on the parts that I could actually relate to: kid/parent dynamics, general awareness of being black, having both parents in the house.  My parents are professionals, but not doctor and lawyer, so our financial outlook was quite different, but the difference wasn’t stark to me.

After the Cosby Show, I’d basically give anything that had Bill’s name on it a chance.  I still think it’s the best show that’s ever been on tv.  So I was taken aback when he started his roaming ‘call out’ sessions a couple years ago.

It’s really hard to describe how I feel about his approach and opinions.  I am not a supporter of teen pregnancy, absentee fathers, high-school dropouts, and saggy pants…I’m actually quite conservative in my personal life.  So you might think that I’d be on board with his messages.  Except that I’m not.  Not all the way.

My dad is convinced that saggy pants are tied to the inevitable demise of America, but I don’t see it.  I can’t see how they’re more of a threat than long hair, bell-bottoms, tie-dye, and leisure suits ever were.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a great article for the Atlantic about Bill’s efforts to save the black community, and carves out some of the words I’d been looking for.

If Cosby’s call-outs simply ended at that—a personal and communal creed—there’d be little to oppose. But Cosby often pits the rhetoric of personal responsibility against the legitimate claims of American citizens for their rights. He chides activists for pushing to reform the criminal-justice system, despite solid evidence that the criminal-justice system needs reform. His historical amnesia—his assertion that many of the problems that pervade black America are of a recent vintage—is simply wrong, as is his contention that today’s young African Americans are somehow weaker, that they’ve dropped the ball.

Cosby suggests that the lack of strong black families, and educated black people is a creation of the current generation.  But that’s not the case.  Sure, there is business that we need to handle.  But uh, the situations that exist right now are complex – and were not solely created by our own community.  That would seem to be my central point of disagreement with Mr. Cosby.

That – and the fact that I really do feel like he’s airing dirty laundry.

I sure do run into a lot of white people who think he’s RIGHT ON.  That should give him pause, too.


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