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As everyone has heard, this week Actor/Comedian Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years for sexual assault. There has been a great deal of conversation, mostly bad and condemning of Mr. Cosby. I, personally, have stayed out of the conversation (until now). Honestly I am torn with what has happened. I will not go into too much detail except to say that a part of me is very sad about what happened and I wish he had not been found guilty. That is a part of the reason I have stayed out of it and before you start attacking me for feeling this way I will tell you why I feel this way.
Growing up there were NO positive Black role models on television. In fact up to that point our only exposures to Black people were “The Amos and Andy Show” (which was based on a radio show produced by two white men) and was an example of black-face portrayals, Beulah which starred Academy Award Winner, Hattie McDaniel where she played a maid (how ground-breaking), the Nat King Cole show (which was ground breaking because of the number of Black Performers who were guests but the show had to be cancelled because southern states refused to air it out of fear it was portraying Black People in to positive a light), and finally I Spy where Bill Cosby starred with Robert Culp in the first example of a Black man on even level with a white man. Because of this and Mr. Cosby’s comic work he was a welcomed influence on my life and outlook.
In the 70’s Mr. Cosby had a show where he played a teacher which provided a positive example during the times of Blaxploitation films like “Shaft”, “Syperfly”, “Cleopatra Jones” where Black people was hustlers and pimps. This was also the time of the Cosby Kids which I found easy to relate to. And besides his work in the media there was also news of his philanthropic work with the Negro College Fund and other Black charities, all in service to the Black Community.
Then in the 80’s the second Cosby show came on the air. With the Huxtables came a view of Black family and culture that was unequaled on television. Here was a Black family, rather than hustling in the projects, was upper-middle class, was loving and respectful to their children and teaching values that were shared universally but ALL families and peoples, teaching positive virtues and treating all with dignity and respect. The effects of this made my “relationship” grow deeper to him and it was during this time he became more family than public figure or movie star.
It is because of these feelings of family that this episode has been harder on me than hearing the normal celebrity/crime/trial things that have come up. Even though I wish to the bottom of my heart that Mr. Cosby had not been convicted and sentenced I have never voiced that she should not be. I avoided the details of the trial, not because I believe the allegations were false, I avoided them because it would have been very painful for me to hear them. As I said, Mr. Cosby feels like a family member. I remember the news relating just before sentencing that he could get anything from 30 years to probation or house arrest. I was hoping for probation or house arrest but that was not the case, but I accept it the sentence though it will not change my feelings because family is family, for better or for worst.
Mr. Cosby has been found guilty and he is now being made to pay for his crimes. I have come to peace with this and though I am at peace with this I will continue to love him because he still had an effect on my life, a good and positive one, in spite of the other harm he has cause. This is because no matter how we want to simplify or demonize someone we are more than just one thing.