The End of the Innocence: A Letter to Dr. William Henry Cosby

Dear Dr. Cosby,

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s and am one of your children. Of course, not one of your biological children, but rather one of the millions of kids who were Black, Brown, urban, middle class or any number of diverse upbringings who were deeply influenced by your shows and your comedy. You influenced our lives in profound ways. Hell, I read your book Fatherhood decades before I ever became a father. You were the blueprint for so many of us who grew without a father, either in the home, in the picture or anywhere on the horizon. It is with this profound respect that I am now writing you to ask that you come out and speak. You words have influenced so many, inspired so many, it is only through your voice that the truth can come to light.

I have avoided reading or watching much of the coverage of the allegations of which you are accused, not because of any moral high ground, but because I did not know, do not know what to believe. I do know one thing Dr. Cosby, the sheer number of women, the length of time the allegations have taken place, and your continued silence, speaks volumes. Rather than continue disrespecting the women who have stepped forward, rather than continuing to discredit them through your attorney and your silence, speak.

Your words and storytelling are grounded in the deep African tradition of storytelling and truth telling. Now, more than ever, we need that truth.

As I said, I am one of your children. I cried when your biological son Enis was killed just miles from where I went to college, and from where I would eventually live when I returned to Los Angeles in 2003, where I became a classroom teacher. My incessant channel surfing always stopped whenever I came across The Cosby Show, A Different World, and especially The Fat Albert Show. I never tired of watching those shows because as a 20 year old in the '90s I learned something, and even now in my 40s I still learned and gleaned lessons from your wisdom.

As a graduate student at Temple University in the 2000s, I relished the "Fireside Chats" that took place the first few years I was in the College of Education. Even though the majority of the conversation was focused towards pre-service teachers, I was always eager to sit at the foot of the story teller and truth teller who made education and teaching plain to everyone in the audience, even those who had already earned their degrees. I sat silently when Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and others derided you for "blaming the victim" in your speeches condemning much of the Black community. I sat silently when people said you were a "sell-out" for airing dirty laundry about some of the unspoken "truths" which exist in urban areas. I sat silently when your book Come On People was applauded by the wrong people, those outside of our community who said, look even Cosby is agreeing with the notion of Black pathology -- even though I did not think, and do not think that was an accurate portrayal of your words.

Dr. Cosby, dad, I can no longer sit silently.

As a father of a three-year-old son, I am fortunate to not have to explain the current situation to him. I can shield him from whenever I am watching the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC which on Sunday laid out the details, as much as possible, in a poignant way, in such a way that I was forced to wipe a tear from my eye. That tear was there not just because of the accusations, but because I felt deeply disturbed concerning the women who were telling their story. I have fought against silencing and, even though I still do not know what to believe, I do believe their stories have merit and validity. That tear was also there, in part, because this situation has signaled, quite loudly to us in Generation X, that it is no longer 1984, The Cosby Show is no longer number one, and "America's Dad" is no longer infallible. In other words, this is one of those defining moments in one's life when (s)he truly knows they are grown-up.

I do not lament being older. There are a host of things which are far more easily accomplished as a 40something as opposed to a 20something. Some people take me more seriously, I have the advantage of experience, and of course, I have my son. To many, all of these things represent being "grown-up." What is so... what is so sadly ironic about your situation Dr. Cosby is that even now, again, you are teaching us. This time you are teaching us that there is no such thing as innocence, and that television is just entertainment. Perhaps that lesson, even though we have conceptually known this for decades, is the hardest one to reconcile.

In closing, please, just one more time, show us what it means to be a grown-up, a man, a father, and for many of us, the strong Black man we held you up to be. Please Dr. Cosby, your children are crying. Most importantly, the women who have accused you are crying. We all need you to be the truth-teller one more time.

Sincerely, your "son"...