I come from a broken home. My parents were married for a time, but memories of my father in the house are few and far between because his military career often required him to be stationed out of state. I was about 8 when my mother filed for divorce, and as far as I was concerned, nothing much was going to change. I’d continue to live with Mommy and talk to Dad on the phone every now and then—that’s just the way things had been, so I barely blinked when they remained the same.
I could count on one hand how many of my childhood peers were from a two-parent household, so, as with most black kids growing up in the ’80s, my best (and only) example of a nuclear African-American family was The Cosby Show. Sure, we had classic family-oriented sitcoms like The Jeffersons, Good Times and What’s Happening?, but The Cosby Show represented something more than poverty, single parenthood or dysfunction as a backdrop—even if that was the reality for many of us.
Each week in front of a prime-time audience, Cliff and Clair Huxtable displayed how fun, loving and undeniably black co-parenting and marriage could be. The Huxtables may have been fictional, but they represented a reality that so many of us wanted to emulate. For more than two decades, this show was the primary image we had of a successful black family. To be middle class, successful and in love became the black American dream.
If you were a person of color, this was the original #RelationshipGoals.
Over the years, there have been a few notable black couples to inspire us, but it wasn’t until 2008, when Barack and Michelle Obama came on the national stage, that we had a real-life embodiment of Cliff and Clair. More recently, Steph and Ayesha Curry have emerged as another positive example of black love.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Over the past two years, Bill Cosby, who became known as “America’s dad” for his portrayal of Cliff Huxtable, has seen his squeaky-clean image tarnished as a result of resurfaced allegations of sexual assault by dozens of women that date back decades. This all culminated in his finally being charged in December with drugging and sexually assaulting one of his accusers.
While the outcome of an official trial still looms, the verdict in the court of public opinion has already begun to take shape. Reruns of The Cosby Show, as well as anything else Cosby-related, like his animated series Little Bill, have been pulled from the airwaves. As a result, the next generation will likely not have the same relationship with the idealistic sitcom as my peers and I had.
I am an expectant father, and my wife and I now have to figure out how The Cosby Show and Bill Cosby will fit into our child’s understanding of what it means to be black and successful in America. We both grew up on the Huxtables, and I always imagined that my kids would, too, but the sheer volume of Cosby accusers (50-plus) and the habitual nature of the alleged crimes are troubling, to say the least. Still, the possible actions of the actor shouldn’t negate the quality and impact of his work, right?
The life lessons and positive images of black people that The Cosby Show presented are still impactful and relevant. With no father figure of my own coming up, I looked up to Dr. Huxtable as both my surrogate and muse. I still look forward to giving my children bucking-horse rides on my knee and loads of “zrbbts” on the cheek and being the coolest dad ever.
Does that mean I will ignore the heinous acts Cosby has been accused of? Of course not. Whether he’s proved guilty or cleared of all charges, I’ll have that age-appropriate discussion with my child when necessary. In the meantime, I see nothing wrong with my child forging the same childhood memories with The Cosby Show that I did. But I’m glad that he or she will have more than this singular image as inspiration.
Unlike those from my generation, my child will grow up in a world where a black man can be and has been president of the United States. This same man is married to a black woman and publicly expresses his undying love for her, not because it was written into the script but because it’s true. Best of all, this man actually exists in the real world and not some fictional version in which the day's issues are conveniently wrapped up in less than 30 minutes.
The same inspiration can be found in the Currys, who are more like the Huxtables than Cliff and Clair. I mean, Steph and Ayesha are both successful, genuinely have fun with each other and even have their own real-life Olivia in daughter Riley (complete with her own memes).
While the Obamas, the Currys and even the Huxtables are great examples of black love and marriage, I don’t want my child to have to look outside the family, as I did, for guidance. Mommy and Daddy may have come from broken homes, but we are not broken. We are a family. One that is fun, loving and undeniably black.
We are the black American dream personified.
Anslem Samuel Rocque is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer who previously ran the popular relationship site Naked With Socks On. He’s currently wearing way more clothes while working on his debut novel. Follow his thoughts in 140 characters or less on Twitter and on Instagram.