Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Bill Cosby hasn’t been “America’s dad” for years. For some blacks, he is the cranky uncle complaining about young African Americans who, in his view, dress and behave in a way that drags down their race.
The shift in perceptions of Cosby, from revered comedian to more of a public scold, may be costing him support in the black community as he battles decades-old accusations of drugging and sexually assaulting women.
Few people outside Cosby’s circle of family and friends are rallying around him. Besides the gravity of the accusations, Cosby’s own words may help explain why.
“He’s asking people to pull up their pants and act right,” said Fredrick Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. “People are questioning, ‘Why were you unzipping yours and pulling yours down?’”
More than 15 women have come forward since November claiming to have been drugged, sexually assaulted or both by Cosby, who has never been charged in connection with any of the allegations.
A 2005 lawsuit by a Pennsylvania woman was settled before it went to trial. Earlier this month, prosecutors in California declined to pursue charges against him in the case of Judy Huth, who claimed Cosby molested her 40 years ago. She is one of two women suing the entertainer.
Since his iconic sitcom “The Cosby Show” ended in the early 1990s, Cosby has moved away from the benign “Heathcliff Huxtable” father figure to a chastising curmudgeon, scolding African Americans for what he deemed irresponsible behavior.
The most famous of his critiques came in Washington, D.C., a decade ago during a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which declared segregated schools unconstitutional.
Cosby cited a range of behaviors, from speech and attire to single-parent households and dropout rates as high as 50 percent in some cities. “Parenting is not going on,” he said. Lower-income families are not “holding their end in this deal.”