The votes are in from a new TiVo poll to find the country's "Favorite TV Dad." It's no surprise to me that the winner was Bill Cosby's Heathcliff Huxtable. What a paradox: Even though America's long-lasting warmth for Cosby and his classic 1980s series "The Cosby Show" lingers, inside the black community, Cosby is a lightning rod for criticism and abuse.
When "The Cosby Show" hit the airwaves, the star opened himself up to vicious attacks from some cultural pundits who seemed to have a political investment in racism and division and no patience for Cosby's positive portrayal of the successful black family. Cosby was such a glutton for punishment that he funded a study by two hostile academics at the University of Massachusetts, published in a 1992 book titled "Enlightened Racism." They attacked the show for promoting the "dangerous myth" that unsuccessful blacks have only themselves to blame, and that Cosby was relieving white viewers of their responsibility for racial inequality.
There is no doubt that these academics, so contemptuous of images of wealthy, well-educated blacks functioning in harmony with whites, must hate what Cosby's been doing for the last year. He has been touring inner cities with minimal publicity, challenging blacks to stop blaming the "system" and take responsibility for their own lives. He is telling them to stop doing nothing about the outrages of the inner city. He is decrying the sense of hopelessness. He is asking for the uplift of the black community in the sorriest corners of America.
Now, academics are fighting him again. Author Michael Eric Dyson has gone after him with a full-length book asking "Is Bill Cosby Right?" His subtitle answers the question: "Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?" He claims Cosby represents a snooty "Afristocracy" of black professionals denouncing the "ghettocracy" of single mothers and inner-city gangsters. Dyson complained there's "nothing like a formerly poor black multimillionaire bashing poor blacks to lend credence to the ancient assaults they've endured from the dominant culture."
I wonder if Mr. Dyson has lost his mind. In an interview on his book with the New York Times Magazine, he suggested that "None of us want our children to be murderers or thieves. But Cosby never acknowledges that most poor blacks don't have a choice about these things." Don't have a choice? If this is not the most perfectly pathetic example of excuse-making, I don't know what is.