Bill Cosby has gotten crabbier, Debra Dickerson writes in Slate. But he hasn’t changed his views. He’s always been a man with a plan for changing the racial equation.
While his humor is nonconfrontational, his attitude has been anything but; like Oprah Winfrey and Magic Johnson’s inner-city focused business empire, Cosby sees the acquisition of power as a civil rights strategy. He’s worked to be in the meetings where decisions are made rather than outside picketing them, though he was an ardent supporter of the civil rights movement and used his shows to pay homage to it.
And he succeeded. Once his star took off, Cosby was rarely without either a sitcom, a game show, an animated series, best selling non-fiction, or a comedy album riding the top of the charts. His power allowed him, among many other good deeds, to support black higher education by donating millions to schools, sending deserving, hardscrabble youngsters he’d read about in the newspaper to college, and challenging universities to ambitious fundraising goals by offering generous matching funds of his own — facts he’s been advertising in a PR counteroffensive after the harsh reaction his recent comments provoked.
So why now? Why is Bill Cosby suddenly so sour, so publicly? Perhaps it was watching one of his four daughters struggle with a drug habit in the 1980s. Perhaps it was losing his only son, Ennis, to random violence in 1997 . . . But perhaps the final straw was watching Eddie Murphy reprise his history-making I Spy role on the big screen in 2002, not as a jet-setting, high-minded patriot but as a jive-talking, barely literate boxer who couldn’t care less about national security; Cosby has long been vocal in his disgust with what he sees as the minstrelsy, vulgarity, and low artistic value of modern black comedy, film, and television. Don’t even get him started on rap music.
Cosby says he’s “tired” of fighting battles his generation thought would be won by now.