Separating the Man from the Myth: Why It's Okay to Love Cliff Huxtable

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Like the rest of you, I've been shocked, saddened, and totally in denial of the allegations regarding Bill Cosby that are flooding the media everywhere.  I can't bear to pick up that new People magazine or read any more articles about the 21 (and counting) women who have come forward with horrific accounts.  It makes me sick to my stomach, and not because I know Bill Cosby at all.

But, all I desperately want is for someone to stand up and say "It's okay to still love Cliff Huxtable!" So, that's what I'm doing now.

I don't know Mr. Cosby.  I got to see him perform once, years ago, at the Orange County State Fair.  It was silly, nostalgic, and kind of surreal to see such a legend create comedy out of thin air.  But, beyond the occasional TV interview, I know nothing of the man himself.  To me, Bill Cosby is the myth - unknown, distant, and now completely unrelatable.  I don't know him.

But, I know Cliff Huxtable.  I've seen every episode of The Cosby Show multiple times, like many of you, and I vividly remember wiping tears off my cheeks when I watched the finale on TV.

Cliff Huxtable was kind, brilliant, hilarious, respectful, responsible, and would be completely disgusted at the despicable acts that Mr. Cosby is being accused of.  It would sicken him.  It would make him sit his five children down and discuss the importance of integrity in this mess-of-a-world.

Cliff Huxtable is NOT Bill Cosby.  Cliff Huxtable is the man.  A good man.  The man who brought laughter and truth into my heart and home every week of my childhood.  The man who loved his wife with humor and grace.  The man who taught his children how to make the world a better, safer place.

The Huxtable family didn't just teach me about family dynamics, it taught me about diversity and gender equality.  See, I grew up on a farm in the middle of Kansas.  I went to a high school of 98 kids and graduated with a class size of 16.  (Did I mention this was a public high school comprised of three neighboring towns?)

The reality of growing up like this is that I didn't get to know anyone who wasn't white until college.  (I know - it's even hard for me to believe.)  And almost all the moms I knew didn't work outside the home.  But, because I grew up in a home where love, equality, and integrity were held in high value, I didn't bat an eye when I welcomed the Huxtables into our living room each week.  The Huxtables weren't an "impressive African-American family with a working mother and father" - they were just a family!  They set a norm for me - and an expectation that a "healthy family" can look a lot of different ways.

These truths, these positive memories, these endearing and nostalgic attachments I hold to the television show have nothing to do with the reality of Mr. Cosby today.  Nothing can take that away from me, or you, or our children who might watch reruns with us in the future.  And while I fiercely cringe at the horrifying thought of what may have gone on behind the scenes of his personal life, I refuse to let the headlines strip me away the virtues of the Huxtable family.  You don't get to do that, Mr. Cosby, you can't take that away from us.

So, if no one else is saying it - I'm saying it:  I love Cliff Huxtable.  And when I see hoagies or crazy sweaters in the future, I'm going to smile and embrace my memories with open arms.  In the meantime, I pray justice is served for Mr. Cosby while peace and insurmountable grace be given to those women who have come forward - that's what Cliff would have wanted too.

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