The fall of giants

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SO it does not matter that your last name is Cosby or Jackson. They will get you in the end; and last week they got him. But this is the narrative you want to push if you are a conspiracy theorist; that America is no place for successful black men. That no matter how successful they become, they must be brought down to earth with a mighty thud. Sooner or later, especially in the entertainment industry.

State of the Art with Admire Kudita


Dad turned ‘rapist’

Nicknamed America’s dad at the height of his fame, Bill Cosby could do no wrong. I remember his educational cartoon series Fat Albert and Cosby Kids depicting inner city kids dealing with a plethora of challenges in the ghettoes of America. Cosby as a content producer reigned supreme as a black man in a segregated society living through the sixties and one of the few blacks such as Sammy Davis Jnr and Richard Pryor.

He belonged in an elite club and ultimately outlasted the other two, living to his ripe old age of 80. But boy did he fail to escape ignominy!

Good whilst it lasted

Hell, at one time Cosby made moves to purchase NBC, a powerful television network. Some say that such dreams were not part of his expected end. Interestingly, the late Michael Jackson reportedly had similar dreams of taking on the giant Sony or was it EMI? The point here is that the conspiracy theorists see in both these brothers the insidious hand of an establishment countervailing black progress.

But others see mere celebrities getting their comeuppance after years of entitlement. Celebrities do get spoilt as they take advantage of fawning followers who are ready to inhale the puff of their vanity. Now Cosby, whom I along with others grew up admiring as the congenial black dad Dr Cliff Huxtable, is in jail.

He is now legally blind and will spend three to 10 years in jail for sexually abusing one Andrea Constand. It is not a nice ending for a black hero. It is however folly to idolise people. It seems people are surprised to discover the fallibility of their beloved icons. We do not want our heroes to fail.

Ambivalence

I have agonised over his demise and the psycho-social significance of the fall of Cosby as much as I have over the pain the of the sisters who accuse him. He was a representation of what we as black men could aspire to be: educated, middle class and strong for the family. In his famous sitcom The Cosby Show, he depicted a medical doctor married to a lawyer wife.

In reality, Cosby is a PHD holder. His area of study was education. He would have been intentional in creating the show with the simple proposition that not all black men are absent and on the streets pimping or in jail. It was a devastating notion. It devastated the very racist stereotype of hapless blacks who all end up in jail. The kids played by Michael Jamal Warner and Keshia Pullam Knight were well brought up and well spoken black kids.

They were not the stereotypical drug dealers or gang bangers of Blaxploitation films. Most significantly, Cosby was neither a dead beat nor absentee dad. Indeed, The Cosby Show was a counter narrative of Black American family life.
#MeToo movement’s first “victim”?

The movement coalesced about two years ago with the blowing of the cover on Hollywood by Ronan Farrow on the sexual abuse of women in Tinsel town. The movement drew international attention with the exposure of former industry titan Harvey Weinstein of the famous Weinstein Company as a sexual predator after being accused by a string of now famous and unknown actresses of having used his position to finagle sexual favours off them.

It was a media whirlwind that has by now emboldened women’s rights activists to push back against patriarchy.

Harvey ‘fell’. But he is not yet in jail. He voluntarily admitted himself into rehab somewhere and the spotlight has not been on him. Charges are yet to be brought against him.

But Cosby is in jail.

Maybe the system is following a list. If ever Harvey is charged and tried, he will be one of a couple of tumbling screen gods along with Kevin Spacey and Bill Cosby. Still, Cosby is the first to go down. Some will cry foul over the fact because Cosby is black. If Cosby can go to jail, who is safe they may well ask? But race may be a convenient excuse when crime is involved.

No angel

Notwithstanding, Cosby was no angel for, by his own admission in testimony, he did slip the drug Quaaludes into women’s drinks and slept with them without their consent and with a view to taking sexual advantage. That was his mistake. There is also a sense in which Cosby is a product of his times.

The sexual permissiveness of the seventies and early eighties would have provided an environment in which such things took place. I am thinking here of the free love movement and general licentiousness of the 70s. Other celebrities such as the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and his side kick are notorious for rifling through thousands of groupies (was there no abuse there?).

I suppose sex with women in vulnerable positions came with the lifestyle. Groupies are one of the ‘taken for granted perks’ of stardom. Celebrities have long lived according to different rules from everyone.

Parting thought

Another thing I have been thinking about is the power dynamics between since time immemorial. A society that oppresses some members cannot sustain itself. Conflicts will arise. Next week is part two of the discussion.

Till then, let us interact.

Twitter: @amkudita
Email: amkudita@gmail.com.

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