This seems like a very odd thing to say about the Father of Black America’s TV Family. A family we all grew up watching, Thursday nights at 8 pm on NBC. Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable; family man, husband, all around good guy who is the patriarch of the Huxtable family, a Black upper-middle class. affluent family living in Brooklyn, NY. Husband to wife who is an attorney Claire Huxtable; an empowering and inspiring female role model to millions of Black women, as was her husband Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable was to millions of Black men. A Black medical doctor and affluent corporate attorney living together under one roof as husband and wife was almost as rare as finding Jimmy Hoffa's remains. (And, they haven't found those, right?!?) But, as rare as it might have been, being able to become acquainted with this so-called anomaly of family, gave all us watching something to aspire to. It was somewhat of a ritual for my family to gather around the TV around the 8'o clock hour on Thursdays to watch this Norman Rockwell family come to life right before our very eyes. All of us felt like we knew the Huxtable’s; we felt like they were apart of our extended family. Sandra. Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy were the children that accentuated this family. Each episode was another opportunity to peak into their TV lives to catch a glimpse of what their pseudo reality looked like. The optics of a Black nuclear family on network television once a week was powerful. This image was broadcast to millions of people across all races, ethnicities, cultures and even families across the country. And, more importantly Black America got to see this family once a week and I cannot tell you how empowering an image this was, especially knowing how the nuclear family was quickly becoming extinct in Black America.
Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable is the fictional persona of real life dad and iconic comedian Bill Cosby. Black America had long since become acquainted with Bill Cosby decades before this legendary television show. Bill Cosby the comedian has been making us laugh for a long time, telling jokes and stories about his upbringing during his hour long sets. The Fat Albert Cartoon was another brainchild of this legendary comedian, who use this cartoon to impart valuable life lessons to millions of youth around the country and even the world. His stand-up in some ways mirrored the TV persona Dr. Cliff Huxtable he would later portray in The Cosby Show. Good nature, even keel, sensible, comedic dad that skillfully navigates through the issues and challenges of each episode masterfully resolving them in the half an hour time slot designated for each show. And, while we knew that real life family problems and issues are not resolved in 30 mins or less, the optics of seeing some of the same problems and issues played out in TV world and resolved is another one of the reasons many people were drawn to this show. Yes, we all know the rules of TV world, we know it is not real, we know the outcomes are not always real, but seeing this TV family navigate through the problem of bullying, teen age pregnancy, drugs and many more of the same problems millions of their viewers were dealing with was a very refreshing part of the show. So, it goes without saying how influential and impact-ful the life of Dr. Huxtable was to those of us who watched his show week in and week our. And, who would’ve ever thought that Dr. Huxtable would be involved in a scandal or a controversy that could ultimately effect or impact his family. None of us thought that what we knew about the nuances of Hollywood and celebrity could effect Bill Cosby let alone his alter-ego Dr. Huxtable. But, just recently the unthinkable became our reality. What we thought could never happen for Mr. Cosby or Dr. Huxtable, actually did and our world has seem to have been turned upside down. This legendary comedian and philanthropist and social activist in some respects was recently sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for the rape and sexual assault of model Andrea Constand back in 2004. This sentenced was handed down on Monday, September 24th and immediately the life of Mr. Cosby changed and will not be the same for the foreseeable future. And, of course the lives of his victoms have forever been changed by this sinister encounter with who they deemed to a fairly powerful man, maybe not just physically, but statue, wealth and fame. All of these components are the reasons that these over 60 women remained silent for so long about their sexual assault. Many thought they wouldn't be believed, their story wasn't credible, after all it would literally be his word vs. their word, and they knew he was this giant in Hollywood that it would be extremely difficult to get people to believe he actually did what they claimed he did. So, in a way these women who Bill Cosby violated were also grappling with the same TV persona Dr. Cliff Huxtable, who; at least in the public eyes, could do no wrong, and would definitely do nothing as sinister and as evil as drug a woman and take advantage of her. And, yet we later found out that he did.
Bill Cosby has been battling these allegations from 60 different women from his past in court who claim to have been taken advantage of by him. They described those assaults by him first inviting them up to his room for a cocktail and then they are drugged and eventually sexually assaulted. This sounds like a very different picture than the fun-loving, charismatic, doctor, father and husband that Dr. Cliff Huxtable was on television OR was that just a television personality and not really who Bill Cosby really was? Maybe the roofie drugging, sexually deviant recluse was actually who he really was and Dr. Huxtable and even comedian and actor Bill Cosby was a ruse? Which one is it, inquiring minds want to know. What we do know at least for the immediate future Bill Cosby is now behind bars, and so is the impeccable image that his TV persona Cliff Huxtable millions have come to know and love. In our minds Dr. Huxtable could do no wrong, he was beyond reproach; and even comedian Bill Cosby; whose real identity almost became synonymous with his TV persona Dr. Huxtable, when he was spewing venom and vitriol towards his own community telling Black boys “to pull yo pants up." Although, he was right in many respects, the tone and the nomenclature of his message was not well received, because it didn’t appear to be rooted in “love” but rather condescending judgement. Mr. Cosby was still given somewhat of a pass in this regard, because he wasn’t just talking he was also putting his money where his mouth was. According to NewsOne website,
“Bill and Camille have proven their dedication to education through their charitable giving. According to the Atlanta Post, Cosby’s $20 million gift to Spellman college is one of the largest ever given to a historically black college. The couple also donated $1.3 million to Fisk University and founded the Hello Friend/Ennis William Cosby Foundation (named after their deceased son) to support children with learning differences.”
So, it seems fairly inconsistent with who Bill Cosby is as a person to be so philanthropic, fun-loving, and comedic, socially active; although bit harsh at times, and influential on one hand, but then considered a violent sexual predator on the other. Or, was the former just a great cover for the man he truly was. Not sure. I still would like to believe in Cliff Huxtable; I still would like to believe that he wasn’t just a TV persona limited to the parameters of our TV screen, but Dr. Huxtable was indeed a personality worth striving to achieve in real life, the Huxtables were a Black family that we were not just proud of, but a family that we could strive to be like. My question is has that died now that Bill Cosby is incarcerated, has this Norman Rockwell painting started to fade now that our Black hero is behind bars? Another, important question to ask ourselves is, was sex and sexual assault really what this is all about? We all our aware of the culture of Hollywood. It is no secret what goes on behind closed doors, and there are more stories like the one these 60 women tell that involve more influential men in Hollywood than Bill Cosby. So, let's not try to sanitize Hollywood by claiming they have captured their long-time serial sexual offender. Men like Harvey Weinstein, Russell Simmons, Matt Lauer and many more have either been exposed for their sexual deviancy. So, if Cosby is the start of Hollywood moral cleansing, I hope that many more sexual predators in Hollywood will be brought to justice. Not just fired or publicly embarrassed for their wrong doings, but held accountable by the justice system. Knowing this about the sins of Hollywood, is this really only about Cosby's sexual deviance, or is there something more to be considered. It has been rumored for some time now that before all of the sexual misconduct allegations were levied against Mr. Cosby, he had expressed a desire to buy NBC. A Black man worth $350,000,000 inquired about the cost of purchasing a major network like NBC. Imagine the type of influence he could’ve had, imagine the power he would have gained being the CEO of this major television network and he was a Black man. Could it be, that the “powers that be” not just intercepted this query, but decided to make a example of Mr. Cosby for ever thinking in his affluent, wealthy, well to do mind that the very idea was accessible for his consumption. Not sure if this is true or not, but if it is true imagine that lengths that those in power would go to sully the name of such an iconic figure. From all accounts he is still independently wealthy, he is still a comedic legend in his own right, but my question is, is he still the Dr. HeathCliff Huxtable we grew up watching or has he become something far more sinister, is he still the fun-loving, affable, comedic physician and patriarch of the 1st Black Family of Television, “The Cosby’s.” Or, have they taken that from us too? In taking down this seemingly sexually deviant celebrity, have they also destroyed this notion of this perfect Black Family that we all thought was possible? Has that idea gone away too? In sullying the image of this picture perfect Black family, have they tarnished this perfect painting in some way? I wonder if this was the real intent in the first place, to destroy Bill Cosby's name, thus destroying everything that he was connected to, which would will not only ultimately change the way you or I see him, his family, and the Cosby's, but even the way we see ourselves. Time will only tell.