We should have known that something was weird with the guy when he accepted no less than 60 honoree degrees from any college anywhere. I like when people actually earn their college degrees by going to class and passing a test. The importance of character is well important. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is what other people think you are. When we idolize people based on their reputation we open ourselves up for disappointment. The New York Times recently released excerpts from a deposition in a law suit Bill Cosby gave under oath a decade ago. In it Cosby admits to offering money to women after having sex with them. He said he hid the payments and his behavior from his wife.
Idolization of people based on their reputation happens all the time. We loved Pete Rose for his amazing records as an athlete on the baseball field and then we find out that he gambled on games. We admired a President Nixon for his great abilities at foreign relations with the world and then find out that he was a liar and a cheat. Bill Cosby was America’s Dad eating Jell-O with us and we find out that he is a serial Rapist. If the allegations against Bill Cosby are true, than he is a man with a tremendously flawed character who at one point in his life enjoyed a stellar reputation. In spite of his horrific deeds to women he was a brilliant comic and actor. He was a philanthropist, a patron of the Arts, a teacher, a man concerned with educating children and a warrior for civil rights. The good works that make up his known reputation became his legacy.
So if a man nurtures his reputation by doing public good as in all the men mentioned today, what becomes of his works when his true character is revealed and he suffers the inevitable fall from grace? Do we simply discard a man’s brilliance, philanthropy, wisdom and humanities? How much of that legacy are we even allowed to remember? For some the answer is zero. If you support Cosby you support rape. The gravity of his acts grant that his legacy be tossed into the trash of history. Some people believe that the value of his works outweighs his character flaws. His legacy is paramount and must be jealously guarded. He was one of our Black heroes. I believe he must be condemned. He must have known that what he was doing to woman after woman repeatedly was dangerously wrong.
It was a difficult balancing act no matter what the outcome. Most of us do not have that same moral equilibrium to pull off stunts as these guys did. We teach our children that certain behaviors carry consequences. Watching your legacy crumble before your eyes is clearly a consequence. The legal consequences are beginning to follow. One thing for certain will be the final judge of the Cosby legacy is in how he answers to these rape allegations by about 50 women. His reputation no longer matters. Everyone is disassociating themselves with him. His shows no longer air on TV, the sponsors have all dropped him from advertising and the Universities are taking back their distinguished degrees. Be honest Bill Cosby there is nothing else left to loose.