In Memoriam — the “Good Doctor Cosby”
I miss Bill Cosby. Of course I don’t miss the “Bad Bill Cosby” — the drug pushing, serial date rapist. Like millions of his other fans, I was stunned by the revelations that “The Cos” had a split personality, a Black skinned Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So I will specify that I miss the “Good Doctor Cosby”
- I miss the “Good Doctor” who used unfailing humor to create characters in televised fables in which it was OK for Black Americans to strive and to succeed, and to expect their children to strive and to succeed.
- I miss the “Good Doctor Cosby” who portrayed HBCUs as places wherein Black students lived full lives centered on their commitment to achieving academic success with help from faculty, staff, and administrators who were fully committed to supporting their students’ efforts to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, or whatever other professions their talents would sustain.
- I miss the hope that I had that the faculty, staff, and administrators at non-HBCUs would be inspired by the HBCUs in the fables of the “Good Doctor Cosby” to provide similar support for the Black students in their own colleges and universities.
- But most of all as I become more radical in my old age, I miss the radical subtext of the fables of the “Good Doctor Cosby” wherein Black success was the product of the independent efforts of the Black characters themselves, rather than affirmative benefits they received through the generosity of concerned White patrons.
Yes, we all knew that the Good Doctor’s stories were fables, latter day tall tales designed to inspire, rather than documentary depictions of the harsh prejudicial realities of America’s job markets … but the fundamental anthem of the Civil Rights Revolution was also a fable … “We Shall Overcome” … We need fables because fables inspire the faith that generates the commitment to persevere. Without perseverance failure is the only option.
Unfortunately, some of us overcame, but only a few achieved the kind of outsized success that would allow them to kick back and coast, and too many of us didn’t overcome at all. That’s why I suggest that the passing of the “Good Doctor Cosby” — the inevitable consequence of the recent revelations of Mr. Cosby’s split personality — was a mournful loss for Black America that’s comparable to the recent passing of some of its most revered Civil Rights icons. The vast majority of us still need the positive inspiration of well-told fables to encourage us to keep on striving and to keep on reaching back to help those who are still struggling at the bottoms of too many ladders.
(Note: Other pieces by Roy Beasley can be found on his blog, TECH-Levers, http://hbcu-levers.blogspot.com/2016/01/dll-editorials-and-reports-2015.html)