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The disgrace and disappointment of America’s ‘TV dad’

As one of the moral father figure of television Cosby’s downfall is disheartening to those who admired him.

Bill+Cosby+walks+out+of+the+Montgomery+County+Courthouse+on+Thursday%2C+April+26%2C+2018+in+Norristown%2C+Pa.+after+learning+a+jury+found+him+guilty+of+sexual+assault.+%28David+Swanson%2FPhiladelphia+Inquirer%2FTNS%29
Bill Cosby walks out of the Montgomery County Courthouse on Thursday, April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pa. after learning a jury found him guilty of sexual assault. (David Swanson/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Bill Cosby walks out of the Montgomery County Courthouse on Thursday, April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pa. after learning a jury found him guilty of sexual assault. (David Swanson/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

TNS

TNS

Bill Cosby walks out of the Montgomery County Courthouse on Thursday, April 26, 2018 in Norristown, Pa. after learning a jury found him guilty of sexual assault. (David Swanson/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Wayne Camp, Staff Writer

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America not only lost someone many people grew up calling their “TV dad,” but a pioneer who broke down barriers and served as a positive role model for millions of fans. It is a true shame to see someone as highly regarded as Bill Cosby fall from his moral pedestal.

In his role as Dr. Heathcliff “Cliff” Huxtable, Cosby was a major force in changing how African Americans on TV were portrayed. Unfortunately, as his crimes come to light we must be willing to hold him accountable despite the good he’s done.

Cosby was convicted on April 26 of three counts of aggravated assault toward Andrea Constand, an employee Cosby mentored at Temple University in 2002. After losing television deals, honorary college degrees, and wholesome image, Cosby could be sentenced with up to 10 years in state prison for his crimes.

While this is a gross and disturbing revelation, what is even more alarming is that Cosby made jokes about drugging women at parties during his stand-up shows back in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

This case saw the completion of the indescribable late-life downfall of a comedian who broke racial barriers in Hollywood on his way to superstardom in the ‘70s. More importantly, Cosby’s conviction finally brought justice for all of the women involved in this case.

As someone who religiously watched “The Cosby Show” reruns every night before bed, this felt like a punch to the gut from the moment of his arrest for drugging and sexually assaulting women back in December of 2015.

How are you supposed to feel when somebody that you looked up to for moral guidance has been hiding behind a mask for more than 35 years?

Cosby wasn’t just an actor playing a well-liked dad on a popular TV sitcom during the ‘80s. Cliff Huxtable was a father figure and trusted role model who kids looked to for wisdom and guidance, sometimes more than their own parents. You felt connected to the Huxtable household, as if you were a part of the family’s daily lives. Claire Huxtable seemed like your caring mother that you never wanted to disappoint and Theo, Rudy, Denise and Vanessa seemed like the siblings you wished you had.

African Americans seldom had roles in Hollywood during this era that showed their characters living successful lifestyles or holding prominent positions such as doctors, lawyers, father figures, etc. Most African American actors would find themselves playing drug dealers, mob members, or other characters living criminal lifestyles such as Huggy Bear from “Starsky and Hutch.”

This is why Cosby and his TV show was so significant. Shows like “The Jeffersons” and “The Cosby Show” broke many barriers for African Americans as entertainers. Cliff Huxtable, being one of the best doctors living in New York City, showed that you could have black actors as father figures on television and it wouldn’t drive audiences away.

It is truly puzzling and disturbing how somebody who knows his position in America and what he means to people could have been doing such troubling things during a period where he was thought of as a moral icon.

One has to question why he lived a double life for so many years. Entrenched as the stereotypical role model for American children since the 80’s, one would have never thought such horrendous skeletons were in his closet. Imagine the women who have had to live with these secrets for so many years because they thought that no one would believe them. He was such a powerful figure that his presence instilled fear into his victims even when he was finished with them.

Cosby does have his defenders.

What you’re seeing is the destruction of a legacy. And I think it’s orchestrated,” said Phylicia Rashad in 2015, who played the wife of Cliff Huxtable. “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.”

Despite her claims, it’s hard to say that these women “orchestrated” his defamation when over 50 women have come forward.

The impact of his crimes was on full display when New York Magazine featured the 35 women who accused Cosby of sexual assault on the cover of their July 27th issue in 2015. Although the actions of this man are still shocking daunting to me, it feels good to say that he is officially guilty of the crimes. I hope that all of those women can now receive the peace and closure that they deserve.

Despite Cosby’s legacy, if we want equality, not just in Hollywood but in society as a whole, we have no choice but to bring powerful figures down when evidence of their crimes arises.  

Cosby was a prominent figure in my life and in so many others. Scared of ruining his public image and losing everything that he eventually lost, he spent decades of resources trying to cover up his actions. The even more gut-wrenching part is that he would have gotten away with it if Constand had waited three more days to press those charges against Cosby. But as the old saying goes, what is done in the dark will always come to the light eventually.

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