It pains me to write this post and yet I'm compelled to do so. Bill Cosby and his portrayal of Cliff Huxtable had an indelible effect on American culture broadly and my life specifically. I grew up listening to his records and watched I Spy re-runs as well as Fat Albert and The Cosby Show. I danced to his J-E-L-L-O commercials and wept when his son was killed; I even went to see that disastrous Leonard Part 6 movie out of loyalty to Bill (like he really needed my $5.50).
His long marriage to Camille (not perfect, but still 45 years ya'll!), innate dignity and ambition along with his emphasis on education made him a Bougie Hero to me. Yet over the course of the past ten years, I have found myself shaking my head in increasing disbelief. "Bill said what?!" I get it, okay. I understand he hates to see the rapping, $125-shoe-wearing, bling-blinging, baby making, no-child-support-paying, loud talking, no-GED-having, "swagger" section of the African American population. He's mad at the disengaged parents, the single parents, the incarcerated parents. We all are but, er –um… when do you go from being an enlightened voice piece for the masses to being a raving older man bashing folks who can't fight back?
This is actually part of a larger issue in the African American community right now. When did comedians become our social spokespersons? Did I miss this vote? I surely would've exercised the write-in portion of the ballot. Are we the only race that allows this? You don't see Jerry Seinfeld speaking on behalf of all Jewish Americans or Margaret Cho campaigning on behalf of Asians.
As I watched the "pre-game" show for Black in America 2 last night, I noticed that two of Soledad O'Brien's panel members were Steve Harvey and D.L. Hughley. At no point would I ask either of them for advice on plotting my path (no, not even you Steve). I was especially surprised to see D.L. posted up there, didn't CNN give him the kick a few months ago for not being credible? What qualified them? They have made people laugh? That makes you a social psychologist? If so, my cousin Oliver needs the 9:00pm slot on CNN, he's funny as hell.
Allow me to digress and ask an even larger question. Who decides who gets to speak on our (Black Americans) behalf? Would anyone of us have picked Spike Lee, P. Diddy or Wyclef Jean to sit on our panels? Why does every "eruption" of race relations prompt someone to say,"Jesse and Al are on the way?" Or are the good reverends being replaced by the intellectual set? Michael Eric Dyson and the like. For that matter, what qualifies one to speak on behalf of the people? Is being black in America enough justification? Or do you have to be a celebrity and black in America?
Back to my point, I literally held my breath through the video (<-click link) of Bill Cosby discussing the Gates arrest. Prayerfully, he said nothing incendiary and kept his opinions fairly generic.
But I miss the time with the name Bill Cosby conjured up a warm and fuzzy feeling, everybody's favorite father figure. For that matter, I miss the days when the news wasn't entertainment (R.I.P. Walter Cronkite); before everyone had an opinion and a microphone. Then again, I guess that was before everybody had a blog too J!
What are your thoughts on Bill Cosby and the various African American spokespersons out there?