In my time I have seen many celebrities and politicians fall from grace, whether it be due to drugs, criminal acts, violence, abuse (sexual and non-sexual). And while there were some who I found to be talented and that I respected because of their talent, there were none that I would say had any personal meaning to me. Many of them did to other people, and I would call those people foolish for defending to the end someone who is clearly guilty, someone who is clearly criminal. And for those who even accepted it, I never really thought about how hard it was for them.
I know I am not alone in my love for Bill Cosby. Many people my age and older grew up with him. My first exposure to Bill Cosby
was through his comedy recordings (for me on cassette and record). A friend exposed me to them early in high school and me and my friends would sit around laughing at his tales. He had such a talent for telling a story. A perfect mixture of embellishment and truth. Watching a couple of his videos, the part that you don’t get is of course his ability with facial expressions which make one laugh even harder. For me Bill Cosby was inspirational in his comedic ability and though I am no comedian, I would say he definitely influenced my humor and the way I make others laugh. And then of course there was the Cosby Show. One of the few shows that we would all get together as a family and watch. It was an extremely enjoyable show, and of course the social and cultural statements made by the show had, I think, profound impacts on the country as the show literally united white and black people around this black family each week. From then of course I saw him continue to promote the importance of education and a good work ethic. He continued to be an inspiration to many I am sure in the black community and a role model to many African-Americans.
So it was with a great deal of surprise, when it came out recently, that over a dozen women had come forward with charges against Bill Cosby of sexual assault. It appears that Bill Cosby did in fact drug and sexually assault these women. Such acts are despicable and make me sick to my stomach when I think of them and how they were described by the women. He was deceitful, calculating, invasive, and immoral. This was a hard pill to swallow (unlike the pills he apparently gave his victims). For the first time I was facing what many others have faced before; a childhood hero, guilty of horrible crimes. I wanted to fight it, and I tried to read lots about it before I could accept it in my mind. The more I read, the more shocked I became, and at some point I had to stop, because it was too hard to bear. More surprising than anything is that most of this surfaced 8 years ago, and I was only hearing about it now. It seems like even the media, which loves to watch angels fall, didn’t even want to see Bill Cosby sink to the depths.
In some ways it has helped reinforced why people have trouble changing their beliefs, whether it be about religion, politics, or whatever, because when facts overturn your beliefs in an instant it is a very tumultuous feeling. It is one you want to quickly get rid of, and often the easiest way to do that is to simply refuse to believe that new evidence. It leaves you feeling divided. Bill Cosby was cherished in my heart and now I feel like it has been ripped out of me and I wonder if I could be wrong about Bill Cosby, what other things that I cherish could I be wrong about? It is not a comfortable feeling.
It also reminds me that when it comes to heroes, when we idolize celebrities we are always running a risk, because what we see may be a very small portion of who they are. Maybe the true heroes in our lives should be those closest to us; the ones we spend time with on a regular basis, the ones we can talk with and listen to, and are reliable. It also reminds me that there is perhaps no perfection, and when we idolize someone to the point of perfection, this is also dangerous.
Maybe Bill Cosby was always like this, or perhaps his fame and fortune corrupted him to such actions; I guess we’ll never know. In some ways I’d have more respect for him if he at least admitted to his crimes and accepted the punishment. I don’t see that happening. He has been too big for too long, and he is much more likely to just hide and hope for all this deserved negativity to go away, in hopes that at least a majority of his fans might remember him in a positive light.
As my way of making peace, I want to say thank you Bill Cosby for all that you gave me personally throughout my younger years. I will not feel ashamed for all the laughter you brought me. For building you up as more than what you are, I take responsibility, but I do hope that somewhere in your heart you feel ashamed for what you have done. Principally of course to those women you violated, but also to a country you asked to take you into your home and to a culture you helped shape and asked that they look at you as an example of what a good black man could be.