OPINION | I Started Out as a Child: No pardons for Bill Cosby

I had a different relationship with Cosby than perhaps most. I first met him when I was an 8-year-old listening in on his conversation between Noah and God. Cosby went on to teach me how not to run track and field, and how to play “Buck, Buck”. His comedy records brought me and my friend Jon to tears of laughter each time we heard his voice. We loved Cosby. He was funny, black, and parent approved.

The first time I had seen Cosby was years earlier on the television series I Spy. This was the serious Cosby that we saw all throughout his trial. No spies in the courtroom, just the slow horrible dissolution of the fourth wall between fiction and fact. But even while growing up I saw glimpses of Cosby’s serious side such as the T.V. movie, To All My Friends on Shore, as Cosby portrayed a father dealing with the news that his son was slowly dying. People may also forget that Cosby’s only son, Ennis Cosby, died violently at the hands of a robber in 1997. Perhaps maybe too outside of the current narrative.

People don’t understand that at my age there has always been a Bill Cosby. Even when the stereotypes of blacks in poverty (Sanford and Son, Good Times) were the best the networks could muster, Cosby introduced America to a black family in an upscale neighbourhood with professional parents. While to many it was fantasy, I was brought up in Willowdale, Ontario, that was my reality and I was happy to share it. No, my parents were not doctors or lawyers, but my mother was a registered nurse from England, and my dad a bookkeeper. We had two cars, plenty to eat and we even took family vacations. Poverty was something we only saw on television.

Both Cosby and the Cosby Show were a testimony to what African Americans could accomplish, particularly in the United States where segregation and racial tension was a far greater divide than in Canada. Perhaps through Cosby’s wealth and popularity he inadvertently coaxed a truth deeper than that of racism—the disparity between the “haves and the have-nots,” and the colour of one’s money. Arguably, one could surmise that Cosby continued to act with impunity due to his affluence. Cosby, his money, and his fatherly persona may have insulated himself, not only from accusations but certainly from prosecution…until now.

I’m not a Cosby fan anymore, no different from how I refuse to watch or review Woody Allen or Roman Polanski films. Powerful men whom Hollywood has chosen to ignore, and by proxy continues to support. Weinstein may only be the sacrificial Hollywood Lamb.

Bill Cosby celebrated his 81st birthday yesterday. Tired, tried, and found guilty, if not guilt-ridden. More reminiscent of one of his Saturday morning cartoon characters, than the actor and comedian with whom I grew up.  It’s reported that at one point during the proceedings Cosby broke out into his Fat Albert voice- defence mechanism? Plea for help? Who knows. Very few care anymore. Weighed, measured and found wanting in the court of public opinion, even before the jury’s guilty verdict. I make no apologies or excuses for his conduct. He must do his time, or at least what time he has left.

Trump was suspiciously quiet throughout the trials, avoiding the subject that in many ways mirrored accusations made against him by several women. Or perhaps advocacy, like Trump’s pardons, must serve a greater good than that of justice, such as Trump’s political agenda. Trump’s list of pardons continue to grow with the likes of ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Dinesh D’Souza, both ardent Trump supporters. Trump has recently announced pardons for the two Oregon farmers who set federal land ablaze. His base loves it.

 I Started Out As A Child, is Cosby’s second comedy album—simple, light-hearted. Back then Cosby wanted to make us laugh, but as time passed it’s as if he had a change of heart. Cosby, joins the list of celebrities who took our trust and held hostage our dreams. If I’m sounding melodramatic perhaps even a touch naive, it’s becasue as an eight-year-old sitting on the bed with my friend Jon, staring out the window at summer’s magic, I would never have believed Cosby’s career would end on such a discordant chord.


k.g. Sambrano is a Canadian writer known for his works of literary fiction and poetry, and is an occasional freelance political writer. His latest non-fiction book, Trump- the First 365 Days: America’s Fight for America was released on February 20, 2018.

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