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American pop culture is filled with darlings. “America’s Sweetheart” has been everyone from the original 1920’s Sweetheart Mary Pickford (actually a Canadian) to Sandra Bullock to Jennifer Lawrence. “America’s Little Sister” was precocious Laura Ingalls. “America’s Mom” was ever-kind and tidy June Cleaver. But it was “America’s Dad” that revolutionized American television and the entertainment industry’s relationship to Black Americans – Bill Cosby.

Cosby was already a famous and ground-breaking comedian before “The Cosby Show” hit the airwaves in 1984. Cliff and Claire Huxtable – with their upper middle class lifestyle, intelligent brood of children and professional careers – launched Cosby into superstar status. Their show shifted the nation’s perception of Black love, the Black family and Black life. Also, it just made people laugh. Cosby became everyone’s favorite dad. Every Cosby fan wished their own dad was like Cliff – funny, goofy, loving toward his kids and affectionate toward his wife.

Now, over 20 years after that ground-breaking series, “America’s Dad”has suddenly fallen from grace.

No solid evidence has been brought forward to substantiate these multiple rape claims but the damage has been done nevertheless. One accusation is a typical Hollywood symptom of stardom, two is a story, three is a pattern. Cosby may not be a criminal, but it’s clear he has a woman problem.

What does all this mean for those of us in Black America? This guy is our “dad.” He was the anti-George Jefferson (who rightfully deserves his own place in entertainment history). He proved that America wasn’t only interested in seeing Black men as jive-talking, White-folk-scolding, blue-collar workers just trying to survive the ‘hood life. Americans love families, and Cosby was the ultimate family man.

Now it turns out our “dad” may have been an abusive one all these years. If the allegations prove true, we may have lost an icon. That’s devastating, but it’s also highlights something I’ve been saying for years now – we in the Black community cannot, must not ever rest our hopes and validation on one or two human beings. Human beings are sinful, fallen. In non-religious terms…human beings suck.

For so long Black Americans have looked to the legacy of Dr. King as a touchstone for community leadership, but that has turned into something very dangerous for us. Instead of looking to our own towns and neighborhoods for individual leaders, we’ve been waiting for another Dr.King to come along and save us like he did all those years ago. Our desperation for leadership gave us Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who in turn took our trust and turned it into a multimillion dollar race baiting industry. Meanwhile Black Americans have seen little to no improvement across the nation. In fact, those of us who still occupy the inner cities are worse off than ever.

Bill Cosby seemed a type of leader, albeit a reluctant one. When he spoke, we listened. We didn’t always like his messages but they permeated because this was Dr.Huxtable talking! When he lost his son to a tragic murder, we grieved with him. When he talked about his love for his family we loved them too. I dare say, we loved our own a little more as well. Cosby, his T.V. Family and his real family – that was who we aspired to become.

Maybe Bill Cosby is just the victim of heartless women looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Maybe he really is a rapist and we have facilitated his abuse by allowing him to stay on that pedestal for so long. Whatever the case may be, watching our favorite father go from super-human to just plain human should serve as a warning.

When we make our issues about personalities instead of our own communities, when those personalities fail we fail.

No matter the outcome of this situation, Cosby’s influence and importance in American culture should never be underestimated. However, we never needed Bill Cosby or Jesse Jackson or anyone else to set examples for us and lead us out of despair. Black American culture is rich with accomplished adults and inspiring stories.

We need not look any further than our own neighborhoods to find shining examples of people who have sacrificed their own comfort, time and money to help others. We have teachers and artists and business-owners. There are plenty of “mini-Huxtables” to look up to in our own communities. We have intelligent, accomplished people who come back to ‘hood and reach out to pull up others, oftentimes with no fan-fare or recognition. These people are among us every day. They lead us and inspire us. They present the true face of Black America to the world.

These are the people we should look to as leaders.

Bill Cosby may be “America’s Dad” but he’s not our dad. We don’t need him to be. We have many fathers in our own neighborhoods ready to be “dad” to those around them looking for a strong presence. We have everything we need to be “the Huxtables” right at our fingertips.

We don’t need anymore disappointing idols. We only need each other.

4 Responses

  1. Spysmasher

    What YEAR is the author living in? Cosby is virtually unknown today. He is not “America’s Dad.” Kids have NO CLUE who he is. Save for Nick at Night reruns, he is forgotten. His renewed fame is due to this scandal! Obviously the author is a minority chick who saw Cosby as HER dad, so naturally she projects this view to all America. Message to Kira Davis: it’s 2014, not the Eighties. Wake up and smeel the coffee!

    Reply
    • Defender of an Important Voice

      Bill Cosby may or may not be guilty of the accusations currently leveled against him. I make no judgment about that, because I don’t know any of the facts. Certainly, the outlook is poor, but has anyone in the mainstream media done any soul-searching about the timing of all this? An example is Gen. David Petraus, whose relationship with the female biographer certainly was known for a long time but was not release until it was time for him to “not” act on Benghazi. Now Cosby is attacked, right at the time when Ferguson is about to erupt (does anyone believe that the grand jury did not reach a verdict many weeks ago?) and the “Amnesty” issue hits the fan. How many of you believe that all these things are coincidences?

      I don’t know if Bill Cosby is innocent or guilty of the charges leveled against him in the past two weeks, but the timing stinks to high heaven. When something stinks, looks for the source. If it is political, look for the motive.

      I might be too simple-minded, but the only group that I can imagine would benefit from the timing of the Cosby “revelations” at this moment in history is the race-baiting, keep-em-down crowd who do not want African Americans to rise above and break the chains of entitlement handouts and dependence on government.

      Reply
  2. Jane Lee Pankovitch

    You know, just as much possibility that he is a criminal than he is not one; so why take sides? Cosby played a role as an ideal dad in the show that was named after him. It is hard to separate fantasy from reality, and actually, he counted on that. It seems likely that he toyed with that boundary between the two in order to cross the most intimate and sacred boundary of all.

    Reply
  3. Linda Nitzschke

    Too bad he isn’t a Democrat President….then, even if guilty, he’d still be worshipped, as opposed to scorned. But, anyway…the timing of this is highly suspicious.

    Reply

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