It’s almost a shame that this wasn’t an April Fool’s joke but on April 1st, 2016, news broke that the Smithsonian Institute plans to include Bill Cosby’s sexual assault allegations in their exhibition with the opening of the Museum of African American History and Culture slated to open in September in Washington, DC.
Before any attempt is made on where I stand with Bill Cosby, let me be clear. I honestly don’t know exactly how I feel. Like many of us, we grew up on Bill Cosby’s works including Fat Albert (and as an extension the Brown Hornet), Sesame Street, and of course The Cosby Show as well as A Different World. Sadly though, when more than 50 people come out and say the same things about someone and their only goal is to let some kind of truth to be shown and not for money, well, it’s hard to ignore. However, our legal system says we are all supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. With all of the legal proceedings that have occurred thus far, Bill Cosby has yet to be found definitively guilty in a court of law. However, it seems like the court of public opinion in some sectors, thinks differently.
My question is why does the Smithsonian Institute thinks that they absolutely need to include the accusations in with Cosby’s exhibit? Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the museum thinks that we all need to know “the unvarnished truth” of what is happening with Bill Cosby.
Some people feel that the Smithsonian should eliminate all mention of Bill Cosby as a result of recent revelations. We understand but respectfully disagree. For too long, aspects of African American history have been erased and undervalued, creating an incomplete interpretation of the American past. This museum seeks to tell, in the words of the eminent historian John Hope Franklin, “the unvarnished truth” that will help our visitors to remember and better understand what has often been erased and forgotten. Like all of history, our interpretation of Bill Cosby is a work in progress, something that will continue to evolve as new evidence and insights come to the fore.
Lonnie Bunch’s entire statement can be found here
My problem with this ‘truth’ is that the public still doesn’t know 100% of what the truth is and if anything, this further taints his legacy by putting it on display as if it was, regardless of the outcome. Truth is, he stands accused, nothing more and nothing less. With technology being the way it is today it would be very hard for records of what is happening with Mr. Cosby to be erased however in my opinion, it’s hypocritical to single out one person for a crime in which yet they are to be convicted.
It does make one wonder, what took place with Mr. Bunch as well as other museum patrons that made them decide to do this. However, it does make me wonder, if one was to visit the museum today, especially in any exhibit looking at the impact of entertainers or US leaders whose careers have been as prolific as Bill Cosby’s, would we see statements about the following:
- Frank Sinatra’s alleged mafia ties
- Bing Crosby’s child abuse allegations
- Jack Nicholson’s vandalism charge
- Willie Nelson’s multiple drug arrests
- Woody Allen’s, R. Kelly’s and Roman Polanski’s pedophilia accusations
- Rob Lowe’s sex tape, with one of the females being a minor
- Paul Rubens public masturbation charge
- Warren Beatty’s numerous liaisons (one which includes Janice Dickerson, one of Cosby’s accusers)
- Ben Roethlisberger’s and Kobe Bryant’s rape allegations
- Tom Brady’s and Bill Bellichick’s cheating scandals
- Bill Clinton’s impeachment
- Al Gore’s handjob accusation
- Any and everything that has come out of Donald Trump’s presidential run
Some of you reading may think it’s a reach, but the bottom line is that I think that it’s hypocritical for the Smithsonian to single out one person and talk about his legal issues as of now even before he is proven guilty or innocent. In my mind, it probably would have been better to just not include him at all rather than go through the pains of making an announcement. Sadly enough, it’s difficult to omit an entire portion of Black culture that is significant to many of us without that detail. On the other hand, it really makes me wonder what slant of truth this particular museum will give to African American culture. Think of it this way, there is a lot of our history that has already been omitted from the Smithsonian National History already is it is. More to the point, there has been a lot of history that has not only been omitted but also sugar coated as well. So even when this new museum opens, news like this makes me wonder, how much will be included, omitted and changed in the name of ‘truth’? Quite frankly, how much money and influence will patrons use to promote their view of what is considered true and available to be on display for the millions who will filter though?
In the end, this is yet another sad chapter of Cosby’s career. Yes, he has done a lot for not just Black culture but American culture as well. It’s even harder to ignore the accusations that have accosted him these past few years. But until, he has been proven guilty by a shadow of a doubt, I don’t think it is right that the Smithsonian or any museum needs to prominently include that information. If any institution feels that it needs to do so, then kindly go back and include a legal history of anyone else who is famous in your exhibits so that the truth about all celebrities has been evenly spread.
Glass houses and stones…makes me wonder if one was to take a look at those that were for this decision, what demons of theirs would fall out.