Bill Cosby: America’s Dad As An Absentee Father

Disclaimer: I want to as best I can fully disclose my thoughts: There is shared grief in this process. Not just for the victims who have grieved since the encounter, but the Cosby family who are still actively grieving the loss of his daughter and also the people who esteemed the man who otherwise matched his television persona. 

So today, is a day of reckoning of sorts. Burying what we knew in order to soberly let live what we now know about somebody that meant (and still means) so much to us. In my piece, I address the dichotomy of who Bill Cosby is and the compounded grief of laying to rest who we thought he was. 

As a young black man, I aspired to become a dad like Heathcliff Huxtable, while I do still aspire to achieve what was fictitious in Dr. Huxtable, I am battling through the difficult process of accepting the troubling truth of Dr. Bill Cosby. I am submitting this piece entitled: “Bill Cosby: America’s Dad and As An Absentee Father” for your consideration.

Today sitting at my desk, I exhaled a breath of acceptance.  The Cosby saga has been draining. It has pit friend against friend, male against female and even family member against family member. While it remains unclear whether the court of justice or the court of public opinion rendered the guilty verdict on all three counts, one thing is clear: Bill Cosby isn’t who we thought he was.

He was “Heathcliff Huxtable”, “Fat Albert”, Sidney Poitier’s sidekick on “Let’s Do It Again” and for what’s it worth: “America’s Dad”. Was there a dark side to our model citizen and family man? Yes and what this means is still up for debate. For years, Dr. Cosby used his platform to encourage America to be its best self. It wasn’t lost on black Americans that he was a lot harsher when addressing certain segmentations of the black community. A fact that today, brings me to this sobering point.

As a black boy growing up in a fatherless home, I watched The Cosby Show wanting a family and the success of the Huxtables. I knew it was fictitious, but the human element spoke to me and the father I would become. I wanted a successful wife and children that no matter the difficulty they faced or found themselves in, they would come to me and listen to my advice. Conversely, I wanted to be a man my children could trust. A learned man, esteemed by his colleagues and contemporaries…that’s who I wanted to become.

While I feel that I am yet on my way to accomplishing many of the fatherly intangibles of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, I am juxtaposed by the realization that Dr. Bill Cosby is not. I feel sorrow today, not as I should and that makes me feel even worse. I feel bad that my heart questions the motives of the victims, ensuing trial and the guilty verdict. I feel so bad that my disbelief hasn’t been settled by the preponderance of the evidence presented. I feel awful that during the trial and media circus surrounding the charges that I not once thought of my sisters or my mother who as a single mother had to face misogyny as normal ‘business practices’. I feel bad.

I am not a victim and will not assume the role. I am disappointed, yet graceful. Because as a man in America, you get a pass. Well you used to but hey #Time’sUp for that, too! Today, I am coming face to face with the reality that what we see on television is seldom crafted from real life- it comes many times from the imagination of the writers on the team. Now, I’m a skeptic! In real life, you don’t have to be a shimmery star or have a glowing personality. In real life, what you do is as much a part of you as who and what you want to be. That makes it hurt even worse. Are all men bad? Are there any men out there without secrets? Do we all have a dark side that is waiting to overtake us and destroy us? Another layer to this sobering conversation.

For years, Bill Cosby showed us the man he wanted to be without ever seemingly addressing the man he was. Now with his future as a free man in jeopardy, I am restricted to this overwhelming sadness that one of my heroes is a villain. We all have the propensity to be or become villainous and to chose better is the message I always got from ‘The Cos’. Well, it’s time to turn the television off! Real life has a much deeper lesson than the many gifted writers on The Cosby Show could have ever written. It’s a line from Spider Man 3 and it says: “It’s the choices that make us who we are, and we can always choose to do what’s right.”

I as a man have made my share of bad choices and I’m not judging Mr. Cosby. I am coping with the harsh reality that what we see on television is seldom crafted from real life. Standing with Mr. Cosby during this trial is akin to waiting for an absentee father to finally show up! We just know he’s coming, but he won’t. No matter how many times he calls and says he’s around the corner, working late, or simply “forgot”. To a generation of Americans who grew up with the Cosby Kids, “America’s Dad” won’t be coming home!

We’re his creation…kids and parents who could escape to the oasis under the roof of that brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, now left as orphans parsing together his “Fatherhood” with his future as a “Ghost Dad”.


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