Malcolm Jamal, your critical thinking is off.
Shattered perceptions and public fallout centering around one William F. Cosby have caused many a reaction around the internet and much undue conversation about a “conspiracy to destroy a Black man” by either the media or the now over 50 women who have come forward with accounts of Cosby’s sexual assaults and use of date rape drugs. Recently, Malcolm Jamal-Warner took issue with Ebony’s cover of a photo of the cast of The Cosby Show under a fractured glass photo effect, which symbolizes the destruction of a legacy; Malcolm Jamal-Warner however, took this to mean something completely different.
As reported by the Huffington Post and I’m sure several other outlets, he went on to say that the cover actually perpetuates the broken family stereotype of African-American families, which I regard as a stretch of Herculean proportions. First of all, the cover suggests that the image of the beloved Cosby show and its equally beloved patriarch, Cliff Huxtable and the man who played him, Bill Cosby, have all been shattered by these recent allegations. They are only allegations because Cosby has not really been forced to stand trial, though he and his legal team had fought like hell to keep depositions sealed which indicated that he at least bought date rape drugs to give to women to have sex with. It is a dangerous thing to equivocate a fictional family with real life Black people, but that’s precisely what Jamal-Warner has done here, with little thought to the idea that whatever the Cosby show was to Black America, because it bears the name of a now embattled comedian it is tarnished by name association if nothing else.
The amount of mental gymnastics it takes to bend and twist a clear statement about the Cosby ordeal’s effect on the image of the Cosby show itself into something that isn’t even hinted at by the cover image is rather mindboggling. Even if the Ebony cover did mention broken families, with a 72% rate of children born out of wedlock or to single mothers, it’s hardly a simple stereotype. It is now common, and one has to wonder why it is common, which is a far more intriguing and interesting conversation that telling people that it’s just a stereotype. Regarding that conversation, some people like to point to the fact that marriage is on the “decline” or that women “settle” for men, but the truth, ah the elusive truth, is that neither of these answers drenched in respectability politics is the answer.
Speaking of respectability politics, something that Cosby frequently engaged in while he was doing all of this date raping and drugging of women, presenting ourselves as married and “productive” members of society has not saved us from enduring systematic racism. It did not protect us from slavery, the Black Codes, Jim Crow, the War on Drugs, Mass Incarceration, or Gentrification. Malcolm Jamal-Warner’s “criticism” is simply hero worship hidden under a veil of respectability politics, and until we eradicate this need to save our fallen heroes by virtue of their Blackness, we’ll continue to be here, needlessly criticizing Black publications and people for daring to tell the truth and taking risks while doing so.