Dr. Huxtable and Mr. Hyde

Dealing with Cosby on MLK Day

Anybody think it’s creepy now to remember that the character Bill Cosby created for his eponymous show was an obstetrician — a doctor paid to lay hands on women’s genitalia?  At the heart of the fall of Bill Cosby is the creepiness of it all. 

Like it or not, Bill Cosby is as much an icon of Philadelphia as the Liberty Bell and cheesesteaks.  He is the quintessential product of the Philadelphia public school system. Captain of both the baseball team and the track and field team at Mary Channing Wister Public School in Poplar, as well as class president. Then FitzSimons Junior High School, Central High School, finally transferred to Germantown High School, where he dropped out in the 10th grade.  He then went on to receive his undergraduate degree from Temple University, and served on its board of trustees from 1982 until recently.

While LibCity has stayed out of the editorial piling on that Cosby has brought upon himself, we wade into these muddy waters now in the wake of the Jan. 16 move by NBC  to give Cosby the equivalent of the death penalty — a forever ban of the comedian on the network that made him a household name.

The easiest approach would be to take the hardest of hard lines: Cosby is a villain whose power and money allowed him to, allegedly, play the role of sexual predator while being invited into millions of living rooms each week to entertain us. Under this approach, any good that Cosby has done is disqualified by the bad. The dumbest approach is the one taken by Phylicia Rashad, the actress who played  Cosby’s wife on the show, who said: “Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV … What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.”  We understand that the most dangerous place in America may be between Gloria Allred, the legal mouthpiece for a number of Cosby’s recent accusers, and a television camera, but Ms. Allred does not a conspiracy make.

Is it possible to accept the dual reality that is Dr. Huxtable and Mr. Hyde? Can we accept all of the bad that Cosby has done in his life as an alleged sexual predator and equally accept all the good that this same man has brought into this world?  Yes.

This is not about the money Bill Cosby has contributed to colleges and universities — his $20 million contribution to Spellman College was at the time the largest contribution by an African-American to a historically black college — or his chairmanship of fundraising efforts to colleges educating African-American kids.  The history books are littered with bad actors making large charitable contributions, none of whose legacies are altered by the cash they gave away.

In the barrage of Cosby-hate it is easy to forget how profound an impact he had, particularly in breaking down the intellectual divide between Black and White America.  As Anthony Crenshaw outlines in “The Cosby Show Changes the Way Blacks are Viewed,” the “show mentions historically Black colleges and universities instead of predominately white ones, uses an anti-apartheid poster on Theo’s door to represent a typical Black families view toward apartheid in South Africa, shows the Huxtables viewing Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in order to celebrate his birthday, and the honoring of freedom fighters Winnie and Nelson Mandela by naming Sondra’s children Winnie and Nelson.”  Cosby didn’t just choose to use his television platform to entertain, he used it to educate.

Cosby continued to speak his truth to the racial divide well after the last “Cosby Show” aired.  In 2004, at an NAACP event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, when he pinned the problems of the black community squarely on blacks: “We cannot blame white people,” he said, saying, as quoted by USA TODAY. “… It’s not what they’re doing to us. It’s what we are not doing. Fifty percent dropout. Look, we’re raising our own ingrown immigrants. These people are fighting hard to be ignorant …. They’re angry and they have pistols and they shoot and they do stupid things.”

As we write this on the eve of Martin Luther King Day, we as Philadelphians can rejoice in a native son that has lived a life trying to fulfill King’s dream for young African-Americans. No matter how creepy that makes us feel.

Anybody think it’s creepy now to remember that the character Bill Cosby created for his eponymous show was an obstetrician — a doctor paid to lay hands on women’s genitalia?  At the heart of the fall of Bill Cosby is the creepiness of it all. 

Like it or not, Bill Cosby is as much an icon of Philadelphia as the Liberty Bell and cheesesteaks.  He is the quintessential product of the Philadelphia public school system. Captain of both the baseball team and the track and field team at Mary Channing Wister Public School in Poplar, as well as class president. Then FitzSimons Junior High School, Central High School, finally transferred to Germantown High School, where he dropped out in the 10th grade.  He then went on to receive his undergraduate degree from Temple University, and served on its board of trustees from 1982 until recently.

While LibCity has stayed out of the editorial piling on that Cosby has brought upon himself, we wade into these muddy waters now in the wake of the Jan. 16 move by NBC  to give Cosby the equivalent of the death penalty — a forever ban of the comedian on the network that made him a household name.

The easiest approach would be to take the hardest of hard lines: Cosby is a villain whose power and money allowed him to, allegedly, play the role of sexual predator while being invited into millions of living rooms each week to entertain us. Under this approach, any good that Cosby has done is disqualified by the bad. The dumbest approach is the one taken by Phylicia Rashad, the actress who played  Cosby’s wife on the show, who said: “Someone is determined to keep Bill Cosby off TV … What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated. I don’t know why or who’s doing it, but it’s the legacy. And it’s a legacy that is so important to the culture.”  We understand that the most dangerous place in America may be between Gloria Allred, the legal mouthpiece for a number of Cosby’s recent accusers, and a television camera, but Ms. Allred does not a conspiracy make.

Is it possible to accept the dual reality that is Dr. Huxtable and Mr. Hyde? Can we accept all of the bad that Cosby has done in his life as an alleged sexual predator and equally accept all the good that this same man has brought into this world?  Yes.

This is not about the money Bill Cosby has contributed to colleges and universities — his $20 million contribution to Spellman College was at the time the largest contribution by an African-American to a historically black college — or his chairmanship of fundraising efforts to colleges educating African-American kids.  The history books are littered with bad actors making large charitable contributions, none of whose legacies are altered by the cash they gave away.

In the barrage of Cosby-hate it is easy to forget how profound an impact he had, particularly in breaking down the intellectual divide between Black and White America.  As Anthony Crenshaw outlines in “The Cosby Show Changes the Way Blacks are Viewed,” the “show mentions historically Black colleges and universities instead of predominately white ones, uses an anti-apartheid poster on Theo’s door to represent a typical Black families view toward apartheid in South Africa, shows the Huxtables viewing Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in order to celebrate his birthday, and the honoring of freedom fighters Winnie and Nelson Mandela by naming Sondra’s children Winnie and Nelson.”  Cosby didn’t just choose to use his television platform to entertain, he used it to educate.

Cosby continued to speak his truth to the racial divide well after the last “Cosby Show” aired.  In 2004, at an NAACP event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, when he pinned the problems of the black community squarely on blacks: “We cannot blame white people,” he said, saying, as quoted by USA TODAY. “… It’s not what they’re doing to us. It’s what we are not doing. Fifty percent dropout. Look, we’re raising our own ingrown immigrants. These people are fighting hard to be ignorant …. They’re angry and they have pistols and they shoot and they do stupid things.”

As we write this on the eve of Martin Luther King Day, we as Philadelphians can rejoice in a native son that has lived a life trying to fulfill King’s dream for young African-Americans. No matter how creepy that makes us feel.