Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston
Sunday Mornings with Rania: Dr. Huxtable's Final Lesson
It's Thursday evening and I'm reading about the breaking news regarding Bill Cosby. A jury found Cosby guilty of three counts of aggravated indecent assault and for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand at his home near Philadelphia in 2004.
With each article, I stop and stare at images of the man, now 80 years old. My thoughts are all over the map. I think of the rise and fall of this American icon, "America's Dad," the patriarch of The Cosby Show, a symbol for the African-American community in the '80s, the chosen spokesperson for America's favorite treat (Jell-O), a beloved comedian and a vocal teacher and advocate for better education, stronger communities and hard work. As a young child, it was Bill Cosby's character, Dr. Huxtable, who introduced me to the world of jazz; he introduced young parents to the "art of talking to children."
But, oh how the mighty fall... From legions of women making claims against him, to the verdict reached this week, to both Carnegie Mellon University and University of Notre Dame revoking the honorary degrees they awarded Cosby in 2007 and 1990 respectively to Cosby now facing house arrest and the potential of 10 years in prison, the massive legacy he could have left is forever stained.
And as we try to process this, there are women and men who feel that Cosby is innocent. That some of these women went to him willingly, eager for the fame, willing to offer themselves to take their next steps. Even now in the aftermath, there are those who feel that the claimants are still seeking this fame and will trade a willing night with Cosby years ago for a legal claim today that pushes them back into the spotlight.
And then there are others who believe the #MeToo movement began with Cosby and applaud the women who spoke out. We've read their testimonies and compared their claims. Their experiences are all so similar. Most were young, aspiring actors or models. Most were invited by Cosby or one of his staff for a private meeting. While there, they were coherent one moment, nervous of course, and then offered Benadryl, a drink and/or a pill to take the edge off. The memories that followed were cloudy but each left knowing that without question, they were drugged and victimized. Over a course of decades, more than 50 girls and women possibly shared the same experiences. More than 50. And yet, justice was only served today, based on the suit of one woman.
The truth is, there are situations in which woman after woman is assaulted and we as a society let it happen. We sit quietly and allow people with power to pick their prey and manipulate situations, people and circumstances because on some level, we feel we need them to reach our goals or that we don't have the power to cross them. That must end.
And so here it is: Bill Cosby's final lesson. And this is one I hope every parent shares with their children or young adults today. There is power in silence and it is a predator's tool of choice - it's up to you whether you let them use it. Children and young adults have to be reminded that their dreams are worth achieving, no matter how large or small, but that they cannot let their guards down in hopes of reaching their goal. Along the way, their voice is a powerful weapon that must be their safeguard and they should never, ever be afraid to use it.
Let's first teach and then constantly remind our loved ones to advocate for themselves and never feel small in the shadow of anyone else's larger-than-life presence. I don't care who is across the table, across the room, offering the next chance or the big break, our children are worth every opportunity and should never feel less than the person in front of them. Furthermore, if lines are crossed and victimization occurs, let's find our strength and use our voices to tell a trusted person, immediately.
I work with a lot of larger-than-life people and am so thankful for that opportunity, and the ones I respect the most seem to know that, without question, accomplishments and wealth are certainly admirable but never grant the standing, right or power to abuse, minimize or steal from anyone. I'm thankful that my parents instilled this belief in me early on - who knew Dr. Huxtable's legacy would forever be a reminder.
About the author