One jury I wouldn’t want to sit on? I’ll give you one hint: J-E-L-L-O. I am queasy, simply nauseous, over the allegations regarding Bill Cosby. Only, they are no longer allegations. Bill Cosby admits the unthinkable—the dark bitter exploitation of power that is sexual abuse. My childhood, forever TV uncle, is a rapist.
I grew up with The Coz. I grew up, through awkward braces and scrawny legs, in the Huxtable’s home, Rudy clobbering down the stairs in that episode where she was the landlady. I witnessed the marvel and charm of the smartest, savviest family in their cozy brownstone, island stews and Mulligatawny on the burner, and bocce ball on the lawn. I grew up fairly in love with each family member. In all of my single-digits, and then into double-digits, I respected Cliff, the way he honored women, the sweet professionalism in how he cared for his patients, all women nearing labor or there for a check-up. He was, after all, a gynecologist. So many positive attributes in one show!
His wife was a lawyer. They broke cultural and media norms. They challenged status quo and earned hearty laughs.
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My love was deep. Favoring imagination, outside time, and reading, our parents legislated that we daughters may watch a scant one-hour a week. One measly hour of TV a week. Back then, commercials bit into a good chunk of our allowed time. My weekly selection: half an hour of “Family Ties” and half an hour of my other favorite family—the mom and dad I would have snagged in a heartbeat, at least as godparents—those Huxtables.
They were the first black family truly in my life. I know it is embarrassing to admit. My high school’s moniker even contained the word “vanilla.” My family and I loved diversity, but our neighborhood didn’t really provide. In “The Cosby Show,” I saw a professional, gorgeous doctor and lawyer, a naval officer, writer, all thinkers, dancers, movers, shakers, not afraid to take political and civil stands. They, along with “A Different World,” helped to shape my life, gave me another facet to explore, poets and protesters to claim. I saw great beauty in the cloths of Nairobi, in silks and pearls, natural curls and braids. Even when my own family would shake and tremble, it was those people, that family, I more than envied. What respect, what love modeled.
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There are years of syndicated joys layered on the VHS of my memory. Reels of Bill Cosby doing his dentist jokes with the numb tongue. Closets of his bold sweaters, reels and reels of questions.
There are new videos now. Ugly images you don’t even want to think of. How can your virtual uncle, America’s sweetheart father, be disgusting? What deep closets hide monsters. I have not yet brought myself to really look. Who wants to investigate tragedy or sickness?
What I do know is we must listen to the women, many whom have been largely ignored without sufficient evidence.
Victoria Serignese, the first of the currently 48 women to come forward, stated, ”Cosby was everywhere. Everyone thought he was a great family man. I knew he wasn’t. I just couldn’t prove it with anything but my word,” Serignese wrote. “There was no video camera or DNA evidence. No one else had accused him publicly yet.” This is from an account in Vegas in the 1970s (CNN, July 7, 2015).
The game changer, the sad reality, is that it was just released that Mr. Cosby (whom I cannot seem to separate from Dr. Hux; they are one in the same) admitted to buying Quaaludes for the very purpose of drugging women he wanted to have sex with in 2005. He has not yet further admitted to giving the pills to the women. Lawyers keep these conversations on a short leash. Admission of buying drugs for this repugnant purpose is nearly admitting rape, and that is unforgivable. Scarring. Despicable. Drugging for the purpose of rape. Making friends or acquaintances into victims.
READ: Why I Talked to My Preschooler About Sexual Abuse
While my sister and I sat on our brown and orange tweed couch, silver popcorn bowl between us, relishing the warmth of our loved and esteemed TV family, our hero was perhaps buying his Quaaludes, in between taped sets. Maybe he was giving a noogie sandwich to Theo or tickling Rudy. Maybe he was abusing the women of the show, or just parading, wanting to be their kind uncle or papa, all the lines of TV and off-set blurring. Maybe they are shocked at such allegations. Maybe they aren’t. It’s good to remember that a camera doesn’t capture everything. Bill Cosby is, quite sadly, human. There will be consequences to attend to.
Cliff, Cosby, Dr. Huxtable? I’m sorry to say, I miss you and what feels like the last pulling away of childhood’s innocence. We are all adults now.