Let me start by saying two things: First, I love conspiracy theories and am willing to speak for hours as to why, based on sound reasoning and valid arguments, Tupac could, in fact, have faked his own death and is living in Cuba.
Second, I am a profound protector of black legacy. I believe that our excellence must be not only documented and recounted but also held high and exalted. Mix these two statements together and it would seem that I'd be ripe for standing on the side of Bill Cosby's defense against sexual assault allegations. Except … I am confused.
Wednesday, my colleague Kirsten West Savali wrote a piece condemning Phylicia Rashad's defense of Cosby. Rashad would try to moonwalk out of those statements in an interview with ABC News shortly afterward, and The Root's Facebook comments section was buzzing with cries about the destruction of Cosby's legacy.
Also on Wednesday, three more women came out to say that Cosby assaulted them. For argument's sake, I will suspend my position and say maybe our readers who defend Cosby are on to something, but I must admit that right now, their argument is thinner than Young Thug's leggings.
Or, more important, I'm just not sure how this conspiracy against Cosby's legacy plays out. Every great conspiracy theory needs a villain and a victim. For example, if you believe that the Black Panthers were a righteous group, influencing fundamental change throughout the black community, then naturally you might think their destruction was plotted by the government, making the government the villain. For Tupac as victim, Suge is … well, you catch what I'm throwing here.
The issue with the Cosby case is that currently, there are more than 20 women—of different ages and races and from different parts of the country—who have all reportedly met Cosby at different times, most with similar stories.
If Cosby is the victim of felonious accusations, as many believe, then who is the villain? Who has the motive? How was it planned out? Has the ominous person or governmental agency contacted each of the women and worked out dates and timelines? And more specifically, what is the gain here?
If nothing else, I do like the Cosby believers' conviction. They're a spirited bunch who are quick to call foul when even the mention of Cosby and sexual assault appear in the same sentence. "They're" trying to bring Cosby down, they argue. "They're" trying to tarnish his legacy, they say.
I would argue that Bill Cosby has been single-handedly undoing his own legacy for the past 10-plus years by firmly entrenching himself in the upper crust and wagging his finger at black folks who aren't like him. He was on a full "Pull your pants up tour" at one point. You remember.
During an NAACP speech in 2004, Cosby stated, "They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English. I can't even talk the way these people talk … 'Why you ain't' … 'Where you is' … 'What he drive' … 'Where he stay' … 'Where he work' … 'Who you be' … And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk."
It was almost as if the Cosby of that era were complaining about the characters he created in Fat Albert—I don't recall Mushmouth speaking the language of the queen.
But here is the long and the short of it for me: I am all for protecting Cosby's character, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, since he was a lovable, sandwich-hiding dad whom just about every black family wanted and still wants. But the reason Cliff's legacy can remain untarnished, loved, adored and admired is that he was fictional.
Bill Cosby is not Cliff, and it’s time to separate the man from the myth.
And here's a theory we can ponder while we work on that. Daughter Denise tells Dr. Huxtable that she was raped by a popular professor at Hillman College, his alma mater. … Slowly, other women start to come forward after saying that they, too, have been assaulted in a similar fashion. What does Dr. Huxtable do?
Stephen A. Crockett Jr. is associate editor of news at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.