The Truth About Ebony Magazine’s ‘Cosby Show’ Cover
By now you’ve probably seen the November issue of Ebony magazine. The one with the classic photo of the Huxtables innocently staring up at you through shattered glass.
The magazine’s “Family Issue(s)” cover sparked wide debate in just over 24 hours in the Black social media community, bringing about another division as we unwillingly deal with Bill Cosby again and his alleged mess.
Comments range from standing ovations and praise for Ebony to disgust at a Black publication for “tearing down a Black icon.” But is that really what Ebony is doing?
Bill Cosby is not Heathcliff Huxtable. Heathcliff Huxtable is a character, a persona, a carefully curated imaginative figure who is not real.
Cosby, however, is a very real person, one with devastating comedic genius and a proven record of sexual misconduct against women. One created the other but they are not the same man.
“The Cosby Show”, love it or hate it, helped to shape the Black American identity. The Huxtables were damn near the ideal balance of respectability politics, success, and all American family values. So, the idea of taking such a public and graphic shot at an image many in Black America holds so dear is unfathomable.
Black America has a deep-seeded need to project positive images because so often others only see the negative. So much so, we close messy issues behind doors and sweep the negative under the rug, all for the sake of progress.
Black women in particular are held with the task of turning our heads and closing our mouths to injustices Black men perpetrate against us, because we have an inherent instinct to protect them.
We don’t report that man who aggressively catcalls us to an almost physical point because we don’t want to be responsible for putting another Black man in jail. We keep quiet about abuse because somehow it makes us as a community look bad.
We protect Black men’s success, because we believe it’s our success. But this Ebony cover is not about protecting Black men.
Separating Cosby, the man, and Heathcliff Huxtable, the character, has been one of the biggest challenges for the Black community at large. It’s true, we need to come to terms with the fact they just aren’t the same people, but did Ebony have to be so graphic in their methods?
There are definitely those who will support Cosby until the very end, despite what he’s done. But for many, the outrage comes at the idea that Ebony didn’t just bash the man who sexually assaulted over 40 women, they literally bashed glass over the family that for decades now, represents hope, progress and aspiration in Black America for all to see.
Cosby as Heathcliff Huxtable appeared a few times on the cover of Ebony over the years, but Ebony didn’t choose any of those past images to deface. Instead they chose to use the image of the entire television family.
The cover is obviously chasing shock value.
But it publicly shames the ideal of the Huxtable family on the pretense of what Cosby did.
The story poses the question of whether “The Cosby Show” should continue to live on past the shame of what Cosby was accused. But the cover seems to answer that question for the readers.
Ebony’s fate as a company has wavered in the balance for a few years now and this provocative cover could honestly be the breaking point for many readers who look to Black publications for uplift.
As more is revealed about Cosby, we’re tempted to look at “The Cosby Show” in an entirely different light. We pay closer attention for signs of misogyny and analyze the respectability politics even closer than before.
But can we blame the child for the sins of the father?
So then isn’t “The Cosby Show” more than Bill Cosby? Does it deserve to be smashed on the cover of a magazine?
The Ebony cover makes us think. But what exactly does it make us think about?