By MARLON A. WALKER
This week, iconic comedian and actor Bill Cosby was finally charged with sexually assaulting one woman after dozens of women sharing stories of being drugged and raped by him over the years. Sure, a jury could now be charged with deciding whether he’s guilty of rape, at least once.
That’s not the concern for me, for the moment. I grew up watching “The Cosby Show” with Heathcliff, Clair and their five children, learning the same values of supporting your community, loving your family unconditionally and fighting for that in which you believed.
How do I tell myself, the self who wanted a Gordon Gartrell original and ached for a part on “Night and Day,” that everything the show taught me is a lie.
It IS a lie, right?
I don’t remember a world where “The Cosby Show” didn’t exist. I was three at the time the show began its meteoric run as one of television’s best shows, spending an almost unheard-of five consecutive seasons as the nation’s top show.
Theo taught me I’d have to do some dumb stuff to get forgiveness if I ever did my woman wrong (who doesn’t remember him wailing “Justine! Justine!” after getting caught kissing her dorm mate?). The subtle jabs at Denise over the years by both Cliff and Clair forced me to see through my own time at Florida A&M University.
The birthday celebrations are motivation for my interactions with my own family, opening my house in the two years I lived in Detroit as an adult whenever the situation called for, blending cousins with nieces, nephews, uncles and aunts to mark someone getting older. Some of the videos taken during such gatherings make me miss Detroit.
But how do you remember such things fondly without feeling somewhat hypocritical?
I cast off R. Kelly the minute videos surfaced with him clearly engaged in sexual activity with an underage girl. There’s been no stepping in the name of anything in my car or house since 2002.
The last Chris Brown CD I purchased came before photos of Rihanna surfaced, complete with bruises from their Grammy Eve altercation in 2009. They’re talented, but not enough for me to sell my soul as the new music cycle brings them to the forefront every other year.
Why was it so easy for me to leave them behind, but not Cosby? How do you separate the comedic legend from the doting dad who laid out harsh truths as he educated his growing family?
I remember a time in 2003, home for the holidays, when “The Cosby Show” came on Nick at Night. Heathcliff was rocking a FAMU sweatshirt. Before I could react, my phone rang. A friend of mine was watching the same episode. We laughed at the coincidence, not brushing aside the fact that so many little black kids who grew up in the 80s and 90s would matriculate through Historically Black Colleges and Universities because the Huxtables — most of all, Heathcliff — made them seem like extraordinary places. And HE WAS A DOCTOR! This made me feel my dreams could be attained through attendance at an HBCU.
The degrees on my wall, the recognition letters for community service, the books on my shelves all point back to the lessons instilled from 8-8:30 p.m. every Thursday night for eight years of my childhood.
Eventually, I’ll take a side on whether I think Cosby was guilty of the dozens and dozens of allegations against him, but he’ll always get credit for some of the good instilled in me that makes me the man I am.
If only he made music CDs, too. It would be so much easier.
Marlon A. Walker, 34, is a full-time journalist based in Atlanta. He is also the vice president-print of the National Association of Black Journalists.