Commentary: Bill Cosby and Cliff Huxtable, we thought that we knew you

Commentary: Bill Cosby and Cliff Huxtable, we thought that we knew you
May 03
03:00 2018

I met Bill Cosby when I was in graduate school. He was charming, funny and smart. It was a great personal moment for me. Like most of America, I was inspired by his persona and impressed by his ability to talk about the social issues of the day.

He was a proponent of educational attainment and personal responsibility. I thought at the time that Bill Cosby was the consummate role model. He was self-made and wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He didn’t have a financial inheritance, but he did have a determined will. By all accounts, Bill Cosby was a well-admired American and a wonderful ambassador of good will.

His star was steadily rising with television shows like “I Spy” and his commercials for products like Jello. How many of us ate Jello or gave it to our children just because of Bill Cosby. His most famous television series, “The Cosby Show,” was a smashing success. It depicted a black family with two college-educated parents. Cosby played Dr. Cliff Huxtable, and Phylicia Rashad’s character, Claire Huxtable was an attorney. They had five rambunctious children who played their roles quite well. All families everywhere loved the Huxtables.

So, what happened to America’s dad, Bill Cosby? Some years ago, the beginning of his end started. On Thursday, April 26, Bill Cosby went from being America’s dad to a disgraced man. After 14 hours of deliberation, a jury in Norristown, Pennsylvania, convicted Cosby of three counts of aggravated indecent assault. His accuser, Andrea Constand, maintained that Bill Cosby drugged and assaulted her. Constand’s charges were consistent with the charges made by 60 other women. Cosby’s lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, says that they will appeal. Bill Cosby, now 80 years old, could spend the rest of his life in jail.

I am pained to think about Bill Cosby. The man I met in the ’70s has fallen into an unspeakable dungeon of hopelessness.  Even if he wins his appeal, he will still be cast into the sea of forgetfulness.

During his time, Bill Cosby did a lot of good in a lot of neighborhoods in America. Yet these sexual improprieties by his own admission have given us a new perspective on him.

Some are wondering about the credibility of Andrea Constand. My response is when one woman is drugged and abused that is one woman too much. Whether you think the Me Too Movement was instrumental in his conviction, is your prerogative. Women of today are standing up and speaking up for women of yesterday as well. Workplace assaults and sexual abuse were commonplace as we are learning more and more about it. History has a way of resurfacing and we do learn some painful lessons from our past. Women had no rights and no voice. They were pawns on a social chessboard. Equality and fairness will always trump wrongdoing. We can no longer turn our backs and pretend that it doesn’t matter.

Now the tables have turned, and women have found their voices and are being heard. It is my thinking that this avalanche of justice will only continue. It is not stopping now. The social tides of dignity and respect have women at the forefront and their ships have come in with a roar. The tide is rising. Just ask Bill Cosby.

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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