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The 13 Most Infuriating Reactions to Ebony Magazine’s Shattered Cosby Show Cover

When I saw the most recent cover of Ebony magazine on Facebook last week featuring a shattered image of the iconic Huxtable family from “The Cosby Show,” I headed straight for the belly of the beast… @Ebonymag’ s Twitter mentions. I waded in so you don’t have to.

When the Ebony magazine’s November “Family” issue floated down my Facebook feed last week, it took only a few seconds for the significance of this cultural moment to sink in…and a few more seconds for me to head over to Twitter. (Sorry, Facebook Friends, but I need instant and colorful insight from all over the world in 140 characters or less. I promise I’ll come back and read your unpublished think-pieces when time permits.)

The now-viral cover image features the iconic Cosby Show photo of the fictional Huxtable family, overlaid with shattered glass. Indeed, Bill Cosby, as the subject of dozens of sexual assault allegations, has shattered the wholesome image of his Heathcliff Huxtable character and–depending on who you ask–the legacy of the show itself.

I turned to Twitter to see what folks whose thinking I admire had to say about the cover. I was also curious about reactions from the people they re-tweeted, either out of agreement or sheer wtf.

Then I went straight into the belly of the beast… @Ebonymag’ s mentions.

As I suspected, there was a mix of praise for the cover and despair over it. I found the lengths that people will go to disparage women, because they have the audacity to accuse a powerful, revered man of sexual assault, disappointing, and in some cases, downright disgusting. And I was angered by the venom directed at the Ebony editors for intentionally shining a light on the subject.

Here then are the 13 Most Infuriating Reactions to Ebony Magazine’s Shattered Cosby Show Cover:

Ebony Magazine Family Issues cover

Ebony Magazine’s November 2015 issue

1. Ebony made a tabloid move, defaming black people to boost sales and stay relevant. Pure sensationalism.

With some folks canceling their Ebony subscriptions because of the cover, and others buying and subscribing for the first time in years, if ever, Ebony really took a gamble, if increased sales was the goal. I’m more inclined to believe Editor-in-Chief Kierna Mayo when she says that the motivation behind the cover was to confront “notions of [Black family] perfection that are so burdensome to us that we are willing to hide our imperfection, that we’re willing to not do the work to heal, in order to keep the illusion.”

2. Ebony is just cooning for corporate. This is some house-slave, bedwarmer shit.

In 2011, JP Morgan Chase bought a substantial minority stake in Johnson Publishing Company which publishes Ebony and Jet magazines. So with “corporate” as code for “white people,” the implication here is that the cover serves white interests in taking down Cosby…As if Cosby doesn’t have White defenders. As if Black people are all aligned in support of him.

And the reference to the female editors of Ebony as “bedwarmers” (enslaved Black women who were raped by plantation owners) is galling, doubly so in this particular context. Sadly, there wasn’t just one such reference to the editors; they were also called “Negro bed wenches” and “bitter Black bitches” for daring to start a dialogue about concepts of family, shame, and sexual violence.

~

The abovementioned responses took pot-shots at Ebony without any real commentary on The Cosby Show, Cosby, or the allegations he faces. So I read on…

3. There’s more to the story.

This reaction is light on details, but clear that the Ebony cover is problematic because of an unspecified conspiracy against Bill Cosby. I wish these conspiracy theorists would give us something to work with. At least with Jay Z, we know it’s the Illuminati.

4. Ebony is playing judge and jury here, and that’s not fair to Bill Cosby. He’s not in jail.

And neither is George Zimmerman.

Bill Cosby has had and will have his day(s) in court. The court of public opinion, however, is not beholden to the same rules as our legal system. Thanks for playing, though.

5. Some/all/most/a few of Cosby’s accusers are lying, so Ebony should not bolster the credibility of this unspecified white supremacist conspiracy against Bill Cosby.

There’s so much going on here, I don’t know where to start. I’ll just stick with the fact that fearing no one will believe you is a common reason for not reporting a sexual assault. Saying that the accusers are lying can silence not only them, but others in unrelated cases who may also consider reporting. A false accusation of rape has serious consequences…so does denying valid accusations.

6. Some of Cosby’s accusers have shady backgrounds including arrests and illegal drug use.

…which makes them immune to rape? Must be some kind of super-power I’ve never heard of before.

7. This Ebony cover, not Bill Cosby, has killed the show’s legacy. And you have ruined my childhood.

It’s undeniable that The Cosby Show was groundbreaking. And for many kids–and not just Black kids–its positive portrayal of a Black family was eye-opening and affirming. But the show’s legacy was put into play once the allegations against Cosby surfaced, and it would have remained in jeopardy even if Ebony hadn’t issued this cover. It’s easy to believe that all of this nastiness would go away if only… But for Cosby’s defenders, that “if only…” never seems to be “if only Bill Cosby hadn’t done the things he’s accused of doing.” It’s always someone else’s fault that he’s accused of assaulting more than 50 women.

8. Innocent Cosby Show cast members are going to lose residuals.

See #7.

9. It’s a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The Ebony cover actually hurts the Black family more than anything Cosby might have done.

In this case, the baby being a beloved TV sitcom and its positive portrayal of Black family life, and the bathwater being the filthy allegations against the show’s star. But the Ebony cover reveals that the baby-bathwater comparison doesn’t hold in this situation. The baby remains dirty even after you throw out the bathwater. Tainted by association. An association that led Spelman College to terminate a professorship endowed by Bill Cosby. An association that has led a dozen universities to rescind or consider rescinding Cosby’s honorary degrees.

The TV show, by contrast, cannot disentangle itself from Cosby. And worse, Cosby’s reputation as “America’s Favorite Dad” may have protected him for decades from fully facing the consequences of the allegations against him. Surely, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable wouldn’t do these things.

And the idea that sparking a conversation about sexual assault and Black folks’ historical reluctance to air dirty laundry is more damaging than actual sexual assault proves just how necessary and overdue this conversation is.

~

I expected Twitter responses like the preceding ones because they have been the mantra of Cosby’s defenders ever since the story broke. But I was totally unprepared for reactions like the following from people who probably should not be allowed to operate heavy machinery:

10. The Cosby Show was an unrealistic, sell-out depiction of Black family life, anyway. I live in the ‘hood, so I know these things.

Yeah, hi. The early ‘90s called; they’d like their faux deep cultural commentary back.

11. Nice try, Ebony. But nobody’s going to buy that issue.

Because if my friends and I don’t like it, no one will. We are the tastemakers.

12. Ebony should be trying to get more Black history taught in schools, instead of bashing Bill Cosby.

I think it’s safe to say this person cannot walk and chew gum at the same time.

13. Ebony is being hypocritical. Cosby’s only on the cover because he didn’t buy ads the way Subway did to keep them from making a shattered image cover of child rapist Jared Fogle.

I’m just going to let this last one sink in, without comment.

About the Author

Deesha Philyaw is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer and co-author of Co-Parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce, written in collaboration with her ex-husband. Her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Stepmom, Essence, Brevity, and Bitch magazines; and in various anthologies. She is also a Fellow at the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction.

Comments

Our Comment Policy: We do moderate so be excellent to each other (word to Bill & Ted). Don't attack our writers. Don't attack other commenters. If you're not sure if what you're typing is an attack: lemme stop you right there. Healthy debate is great. Criticism doesn't have to hit below the belt. Encouragement is dope. Meaningful discussion is the wave.

  • KimmieKool

    Great article – a conversation starter long overdue in our community.

  • Echo

    I appreciate the magazine cover for what it says artistically. A lot of people did see him/them as the perfect family. True/False these accusations are making the squeaky clean image more and more spotted as more people come forward. I can’t sit here and say those women are lying. I wouldn’t be able to put myself in the position to lie on someone like that for what? More followers? More exposure? Exactly what do they have to gain from this. And as for the person who wrote #6, most people with an addiction like that is trying to hide/manage/deal with something…maybe what Cosby “allegedly” did to them? I don’t know. IJS

  • derek

    The real bothersome part is the author really believes this BS she’s writing. I don’t rock with Bill Cosby since 2001 when he went on his infamous Pound Cake speech and dissed people of my generation so believe me this isn’t about me defending Cosby. Do not get it twisted and think Ebony is opening up any kind of dialogue. If they wanted a DIALOGUE they could’ve hosted seminars where they could have literal dialogue with people. The problem is Ebony is doing the same thing other black folks do but shouldn’t, CHASTISE OUR OWN PUBLICLY FOR ALL TO SEE. You don’t see Jared from Subway or Stephen Collins (7th Heaven) on a white magazines with former cast members and friends being pressured to throw dirt on them AND THEY WERE CONVICTED for the crimes they’ve been accused of yet Cosby has not. Make no mistakes, this article is about Cooning up for the NOW white owned and operated Ebony Magazine and defending their actions. This is about selling magazines to white people. You could’ve had just Bill Cosby on the cover but instead they chose to put the innocent cast members on their with him, why is that? Is this another example of the white gunman theory? You know when a white guy mass murders he’s a LONE individual however when a black man commits a crime his cousins, his friends, family everyone is an accomplice. Low key that’s what Ebony did put pressure on the other cast members so they can throw him under the bus too. Sorry I see thru the BS

    • http://sarahhunyyoung.com/ sarah huny young

      You are a Cosby defender, though. You have two other comments on another website about this subject. Disqus receipts.

      So let me guess: you see the exposure of Bill Cosby’s deplorable acts as an attack on Black men. Which is such a simple-minded and wasteful stance when there are plenty other Black men who actually deserve your energy and defense. We don’t cape around here. You, however…are. Don’t pretend to care about the other cast members. You just don’t like to see a Black man–even one who deserves it–get thrown under the bus. I see through the BS.

      • derek

        And two disqus comments summarize my whole opinion, right? And how do you know me well enough to know what I do and don’t care about? Notice how you conveniently dismiss me without addressing any of the points I made such as 7th Heaven still being on air and Ebony magazine being white owned and operated. You are being paid by Ebony as well. And yes you do do caping its just for white people, notice how you make excuses for them. Sigh, this must be a black feminist website, if so then it all makes sense.

        • http://sarahhunyyoung.com/ sarah huny young

          Because:

          1. I know your type (claim to be about Black liberation but only in regards to Black *men*). and:
          2. nobody here is responsible for 7th Heaven still being on the air,
          2b. nor do I give a damn as I’ve never even seen it,
          2c. but I do know that pedophile was roundly (and deservedly) crucified in the media thus his career is over just like Cosby’s. and:
          3. I don’t get a penny from Ebony magazine. 1839 is funded by The Kelly-Strayhorn Theater. and:
          4. white supremacist thought = worrying about what white people think when we call out Black people who deserve calling out. and finally:
          5. you’re deflecting.

          Bonus point: Black feminists have done more for Black liberation than you have by posting these inane comments. Good day.

          • derek

            Once again, your responses are all assumptions you make up about me. You know my type, really 2 disqus comments and you are ready to write my biography? Assuming black feminist have done more for my people than me it’s laughable because once again you assume I’m not active in my community. Notice how you make claims but you do not back them up with facts? What have black feminist done, give me some examples? What you gonna do quote Bell Hook’s opinion and pass it off as yours (Didn’t expect me to know that)? What is my type? BTW what community am I part of since you know me so well?

            White supremacist thought is going hard on Cosby and giving a pass to all the white folks who are guilty of much more horrible offenses. Again, attacking black men who have NOT been convicted of their crimes is not the business. Black people don’t have to call out our own, white people do it for us. And hire black women such as yourself to continuously stab black men in the backs for them.

          • http://sarahhunyyoung.com/ sarah huny young

            never said you haven’t done anything for your community. what I said was Black feminists–which you brought up, btw–have done more for Black liberation than you have *with these comments*. you know bell hooks’ name like everyone with an elementary school education does, congrats, but are you really pretending not to know that Black women founded Black Lives Matter, NMOS14, Millenial AU, and Operation Help or Hush, or that Black women are visibly, undeniably on the front lines in Ferguson, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, NY, and more? none of that matters if we don’t cape for Cosby, though, apparently. how boring. you, derek, have done zero for Black people by defending a rapist. nada. you do zero for MY people if you hate Black women to be anything but blindly loyal and silent. you have done zero for grammar by refusing to pluralize feministS, too. another telltale sign of “your type.”

            it’s tragic that your masculinity seems to take a hit when a deplorable Black man is called deplorable. the only person in this equation that’s in knots over what white people think is you. the only person who views Black liberation from the lens of what white people may read or see is you. and never mind the fact that I said there are plenty of Black men who deserve to be defended and DO get defended every single day by the organizations I listed above. all you hear is “eff every Black man on earth” when one who doesn’t rate defense gets put on the mat. I find that pathetic. 1839 is full of great articles by and about Black artists and activists. maybe you can put your cape away and see how many we’ve amplified already. or you can continue to rant and rave like a loon. your choice.

          • derek

            First and foremost you once again assume I’m defending Bill Cosby. As I have said many times I don’t support Bill Cosby and have not for over a decade. However women like you assume because we point the hypocrisy in how the American white media treats blacks vs white celebrities you assume that’s me defending a rapist? If Bill Cosby is a rapist then I agree he should be charged with rape and punished to the fullest extent of the law, why hasn’t that happened yet? If he raped any of these women then he should be in jail right now. Charges for all these rapes should be brought forth and he should be convicted awaiting trial right now and whether he is brought forth on these charges or not, I don’t really care.

            Bill Cosby is scum and I’ve said that plenty of times in previous disqus comments, which you previously left out too. He can drop dead for all I care, But I will not dismiss the fact on how the American media treats blacks vs white celebrities for criminal charges nor the lone gunman theory I discussed previously. Again for the third time you’ve dismissed the fact that Ebony is white owned and operated now which is another reason the whole cast gets lumped into Cosby’s BS. Calling that out is caping tho, right? And me caring how the images of black people being portrayed in the mainstream America is caring about what white people think. You damn right you gotta care about the images they show us on TV. In case you haven’t noticed a lot of unarmed black men are getting killed out here based on what white people think and yes the media has a little bit of influence in that.

            See how you are so dismissive and try to belittle people who call out the white power structure? Why isn’t the entire 7th Heaven camp on magazine covers? But I guess it’s irrelevant to you because you didn’t watch it, right? So you can just dismiss the hypocrisy based on whether a show is relevant to you or not and me pointing that out is now caping for rapist?

            Btw you forgot to mention that generous 33 million dollar George Soros donation to BlackLivesMatters. You conveniently left that out of the credits (On purpose I’m sure). And when I did I accuse you of hating every black man on Earth? Once again you are making baseless assumptions off me from 2 Disqus comments. Do you know why I’m talking about Bill Cosby when there are other black men out here worthy of praise? Probably because I’m in a Bill Cosby article responding to comments made in reference to Bill Cosby based on an Ebony article about Bill Cosby. I’m here to discuss Bill Cosby. If you want to talk about other black men then write an article about them. BTW calling me out on my grammar because I left an S off my comments. You’re running out of steam.

          • http://sarahhunyyoung.com/ sarah huny young

            – google “statute of limitations.” bye.

            – you claim to rile against “white power structure” but you need this exact same power structure to convict Cosby before we get to say eff him? bye.

            – if your beef is with Ebony (which is staffed and written by Black people, btw) why are you *here*? this article is pointing out the hypocrisy and fraudulence in the *reactions to the cover story.* Ebony has a website with it’s own comments section yet you don’t seem to have commented there at all. bye.

            – a lot of BLACK PEOPLE are getting killed. not just Black MEN. you keep proving me right–you don’t care one lick about Black people. not Black women, certainly. solely Black men. you would rather debate people into the ground with your inane, logic-bending ridiculousness over Bill Cosby of all people than spend one minute giving a damn about Black people as a whole. you’re the type who sits by silent as hell when Black women get assaulted and killed. bye.

            – I didn’t forget anything. you’re regurgitating lies about #BLM (with not a peep about *any other organization I mentioned*…) that have been widely debunked like a white supremacist tea party troll. bye.

            – I’m calling our your grammar because it’s a running joke that hoteps can’t seem to pluralize feminists. christ. bye.

            – “If you want to talk about other black men then write an article about them” – ONCE AGAIN: this website is full of articles by and about Black people. but since you only acknowledge Black men here’s a few: Thomas Agnew. Malik Yoba. Michael David Battle. Brandon Small. get to it. bye.

            – no seriously: bye. our comments are for discussion, not pitchforking. not attacking our writers. our comments are not a platform for lies about our funding. our comments are not a democracy. move on. bye.

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