I love Bill Cosby and I’m not afraid to tell the world. My loving Bill Cosby doesn’t mean I am condoning his alleged off-screen behavior. But he has been apart of my family going all the way back to I Spy in 1965. Family never turns their back on another member of the family. Bill Cosby has been a distant member of my family for years. Face it, if you’re black, Bill has been a distant member of your family as well.
Man in 1965 I Spy represented the indelible hope for a diverse society. The TV show story line had a brother equal to his white counter part (played by Robert Culp) and he was a legitimate spy. He was a hero doing good, intelligent and a TV superstar. In the sixties it couldn’t get much better and Cosby was politically astute who used his influence and resources to change the quality of life for African-Americans. I knew some young brothers from 12th Street and Central High School in Detroit who were incredible tennis players but they were stuck in the hood until Bill Cosby sponsored them for several years in the pros. He even moved them to Florida to be coached by one of the world leading tennis professionals and financially sustained their lifestyle without an expectation of ROI. He told them to do your best and keep me informed of your victories and defeats. Well they never rose to the status of the Williams sisters or Arthur Ash but they were all among the top twenty-five in the world. I love Bill Cosby!
Again in the seventies, my friend the late Cookie Cox (The daughter of Dr. Wendall Cox one of the founders of Bell Broadcasting owners of the only black owned and operated radio stations in Detroit) an alumnus of Fisk University was trying to raise money to keep the doors of Fisk University from closing and reached out to many entertainers to help. But no one responded until she connected with Bill Cosby and he assembled probably the most eclectic group of black entertainers ever. He called together the likes of Aretha Franklin, Harry Belafonte, Issac Hayes, Sidney Poitier, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, Flip Wilson, The Staple Singers and many more including politicians like the late Congressman Charles C Diggs Jr, former Congressman Ronald Dellums and others. If you were somebody you responded to the call. The call didn’t just apply to entertainers and politicians but alumnus and other students from around the country. They raised several thousand dollars and pledges equal to I believe more than a million to save Fisk University. I love Bill Cosby!
Even I responded to support our friend Cookie and Fisk University. So on the next day as we were preparing to check out of the King of the Road hotel in Nashville we discovered something strange all of the rooms had been paid and the front desk clerk told us the donor said donate the money to Fisk University. Well we all rolled up to Fisk only to discover a line of guests that included the Queen of Soul making a donation to the school. We later discovered that the donor was none other than Bill Cosby. Yes, I love Bill Cosby.
He and his lovely wife Camille loved us back with multiple million of dollars in private donations to individuals, institutions, HBCU’s, political causes, black entrepreneurs, politicians and global causes. I love Bill Cosby but he has never been the moral compass for African-Americans and for that point the African diaspora. We love him as an entertainer, philanthropist, activist and much more but not as the moral purveyor of truth and morality. A few years ago when the aging comedian was ranting about black parents he was taken to task by leaders in the Black community and scholars including Dr. Michael Eric Dyson for berating black parents without understanding systems of oppression. We didn’t reject him as a family member we simply corrected him and moved on. After all he was that family member who needed to be corrected.
I’ve been troubled by the way members of the elite blacks have responded to the Cosby’s situation. In fact for me it is very troubling that several leading black academic institutions (Central State University and Spelman College included) who received donations from the Cosby’s removed he and his wife’s name from their buildings. Perhaps they were feeling the pressure of the #me too movement. I said it was troubling because when did we start allowing the oppressors standards to align or replace the values of our community. The African-American community has a rich heritage steeped in truth, justice and forgiveness. We have always loved and care for our wounded. But it seems that are assimilation and integration has allowed others to both guide and redirect who we are as a people.
As a community, we never condoned wrong however we were able to look to the interest of African-Americans and make reconciliation, forgiveness and rehabilitation a hallmark of our truth steeped in biblical formation. Before anyone accuse me of supporting or advocating for the mistreatment of women you are totally wrong. What I am saying is our values are both biblically centered but also community focused. Many of you will disagree but Congressman Adam Clayton Powell and Mayor Marion Berry were good for the African-American residents in their respected cities Washington and New York. Which is why each one of them were reelected to governmental positions.
We the African-American community understood that biblical justice has two sides to the coin and the other side represents reconciliation and rehabilitation. In the oppressors justice it has generally one side of the coin and that’s punishment unless you have the clout of the rulers. If Dr. Cosby is convicted he will join the long list of Black men who are incarcerated without a chance for rehabilitation, forgiveness or reconciliation. Unfortunately or fortunately his financial resources will be key to his reconciliation. One of the fundamental truths of Christianity is forgiveness. As a people group (Blacks) we have always understood that forgiveness does not negate natural consequences but our search for justice included rehabilitation.
Here is another interesting point as long as we’re doing good and making you proud we are in the family. But the minute are sins are exposed we are castrated and tossed into the sea of none-forgiveness. Our kids see this as performance based love. Subsequently when we say we love them they don’t believe it because from their perspective our love is based on how well they perform. Some will say I can never live up to their expectations because the performance gap is too wide and too deep so why try.
Cousin Bill Cosby is a symbol of what is wrong with a justice system that only seeks punishment for justice. It’s time we host a family meeting where we hash out this village value justice. Certainly we can not settle for justice system that has gone wild and produces limited if any results. Over the last several years I’ve met some incredible brothers (yusef Shakur, Rev. Joseph Williams, Shaka Senghor, Van Jones and Bryan Stevenson to name only a few) who live their lives dedicated to transforming our justice system. This situation alone requires us to think outside the box and ask what is the value of incarcerating an 80-year-old man verses extending the long arm of forgiveness and rehabilitation. Perhaps if we need to open our eyes to a bad justice system that is discriminative, corrupt and dysfunctional. Dr. Bill Cosby will go on trial this week and whether he wins, loses or draws justice will not be served. I’m just saying….