Dangerous Compassions

what I meant about Bill Cosby


A while back Ming asked what I meant about Bill Cosby in a post called psychedelics.  I mentioned him when I was talking about self-sufficiency, racism, and justice.

Years ago I associated Bill Cosby with conservative Black people.  He said some things like “Pull up your pants” telling Black young people to work hard, as there’s no excuse not to succeed: all you need to do is be straight laced, go to school, avoid alcohol and drugs, and you will get rich and find justice.

It was very ridiculous, as pulling up your pants and assimilating to white mainstream culture might get your feet in the door a few times, but it’s still a racist world.  Bill Cosby’s advice was offensive.  He sounded like one of the many people who are able to work a flawed system, then condemn all the people who aren’t able to do the same.

The Cosby Show

Bill Cosby became a famous success by portraying himself as a funny doctor on TV with a quirky family.  The Cosby Show was popular when I was a child and one of my few introductions to Blackness.  I come from a town that was almost entirely white and Mexican-American.

As I grew up and met more Black people, I didn’t meet any doctors.  Not in college or grad school.  Not when I lived in Bishop, California for sure.

The Black people in the neighborhood that Ming and I lived in in Las Vegas were not doctors either.  The world for most Black people I knew was not financial comfort with a two story house, easy respectability, and frequent punchlines.


Then the ironic-er part is how after I heard the whole assimilation success thing, Bill Cosby was accused of sexually assaulting a ton of women.  I didn’t follow this scandal, but it was so painful to hear out of the corner of my ear how this successful Black man was actually a creep and had violenced all these people.

It seemed his success wasn’t actually built on hard work and acting white–it was at least partly built on the backs of harmed women.  If he did sexually assault that many people, I’m guessing that exponentially more people noticed and looked the other way, excusing his violence because of money, fame, and power.

So that’s what I meant about Bill Cosby.  Heroes will fall.  Assimilation is not the solution, and neither is money.  Liberation is collective, or it isn’t liberation at all.  Thank you to Ming for the question.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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