These days, the US is awash with censorship and threats of it.
Confederate battle flags are removed, civil war soldiers’ graves are dug up, “The Dukes of Hazzard” is banned.
There’s even more talk of other things that will be banned “Gone with the Wind” looks to be next amid mass outcry.
To what extent can we appreciate art while not necessarily condoning the entirety of its message or even worse, what if the vehicle for that message is flawed—even to the point inciting disgust?.
Cosby admitted in 2005 that he obtained the sedative Quaalude. The intention—to drug women that he wanted to have sex with. The LAPD is investigating at least sexual assault claim.
This recent information brought to light is certainly damning to comedian Bill Cosby. And with good reason. It might not make such a huge deal to Americans if it weren’t for all that Bill Cosby has embodied for years.
A man who prizes education and positive image for African-Americans—something that to this day isn’t well represented in American culture.
A man who is Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable for crying out loud. Dr. Huxtable! The lovable dad of five children, married to a successful, strong woman. He’s a loving husband, he’s a wonderful father.
And now a serial rapist.
It’s so hard for the American people to take that comedian Amy Schumer recently filmed a mock trial in which she defends him.
The reasons she cited for his innocence: he’s a fun dancer, he wears a fun sweater, brings us pudding pops. He’s Cliff-freaking-Huxtable.
She goes on to say that this is destruction to us as we look back on our childhoods. Why can’t we dance like no one is watching and watch like no one is raping.
Is the solution just to ban it all? It seems to be the American way at present.
With the exception of perhaps the Smithsonian. Recently, it displays signs distancing itself from Cosby’s actions, but not necessarily from the artwork that he donated.
This artwork includes art from their permanent collection as well as some of Cosby and his wife’s.
Last week they issued this statement, “”The exhibition brings the public’s attention to African American artists whose works have long been omitted from the study and appreciation of American art.”
With the art that the Smithsonian has, it has still decided to forge ahead with including the Cosbys’ art.
The solution: a disclaimer.
Signs in the museum will read:
“Most of the objects are from the permanent collection of the National Museum of African Art. About one-third are on loan from Camille and Bill Cosby. Though the exhibition does recognize their role in assembling those works, the purpose of the exhibition is to examine the interplay of artistic creativity in African and African American art — something that has been part of our museum’s history since our founding more than 50 years ago. The exhibition brings public attention to artists whose art has not been seen, art that tells powerful and poignant stories about African American experiences.”
I think this approach is appropriate. Why let such a beautiful message be undermined by that actions of one man?
I would venture to say that this should be extended to the message that Cosby gave. Although it appears that he was the worst sort of hypocrite.
The Cosby Show ran for eight seasons and was full of messages about family pride, spousal love and happiness, and respect for your parents. All the good staples.
Its spin-off, which is a personal favorite of mine, features a fictional historic black college—Hillman College.
The cast said in an interview once that A Different World was the inspiration of many African Americans deciding to go to college—and it didn’t stop with African Americans.
This show dealt boldly with many social issues—ironically date rape was one of them. Other issues included domestic abuse, AIDS, racial tensions, hate crimes, orphans, community responsibility, self-image. The list goes on and on.
All messages were positive. All were dealt with in such intelligent and thoughtful ways.
Mr. Gains jokingly tells a girl dying from AIDS not to cry. “You can’t stand to lose the water weight.”
And tells Kim Reece, who’s insecure about her dark skin, that she’s “a beautiful Nubian princess from Ohio”.
Isn’t it bad enough that Cosby has marred so much of the good that he has done with these selfish, despicable acts?
Do we have to strip the entire message because of the depravity of the messenger?
My answer. No.