Dr. Sheron's Blog
Living Thug dead icon
An old, familiar hymn says, “Life is filled with swift transitions.” This is no truer than in the curious fall of the iconic Bill Cosby and the ascent of Michael Brown. It is inconceivable that the two would trade places, but they have. Today, Cosby is booed; even his star on the Hollywood walk of fame was defaced. Brown is cheered. He is the face of protest against police brutality. Cosby’s sex scandal is stunning because he was everyone’s dad. I am emotional twisted about this incredulous swap. Questions run through my mind. Who can you trust? Who do you admire?
I have been a Cosby fan since the days of “I Spy.” He was charming, loveable and smart. As Cliff Huxtable, America's favorite dad on The Cosby Show, he was irresistible. Cosby was not only an actor; he was an author, educator and scholar. He and Camille gave to HBCU’s at astounding rates, thereby encouraging others to do the same. The icing on the cake came into 2002 when Cosby was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was a certified icon.
Cosby was above reproach. That is where danger lies for all of us. When we think we are above the law or can make our own rules- trouble brews. The accusations from at least 12 women paint a horribly contrasting side of Cosby. The stories told by his alleged victims portray him more wicked than an iconic. Only a diabolical twisted criminal mind could do the things they contend. At this time any legal ramifications are unknown, but Cosby’s status has evaporated. Cosby’s scandal generates an uncertain queasiness in my gut. It is hard to let him go, but if he is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde persona, I have no choice. I do not cheer his demise. It is painful to lose a hero. It is embarrassing to be duped.
Knowledge of Brown is restricted to two images. Those images paint him as a cigar thief, one who behaves as a ruffian. I will not romanticize away his errors. Brown broke the rules that Black parents teach their sons when stopped by the police. Do not talk back to the police, and do not fight the police. The first image comes from a Ferguson store video, where a brazen Brown steals cigars and uses his 6’2 frame to intimidate the store owner. The second image is Brown lying in the street dead. During the four hours he lay in the street, the criminal title vanished and the victim title was bestowed.
Brown is now venerated. Why? Unarmed thieves do not deserve to die at the hands of the police. Brown’s death launched peaceful protests in Ferguson for some 100 days. The protesters tenacious dedication to this cause did not go unnoticed. Their consistent protests told the audacious truth - the death of an unarmed teen meant something. Brown was not to be written off, dismissed or dismembered by the media. His life mattered whether he was a law keeper or a law breaker. They stood up for a young man that some said “got what he had coming.” The protesters showed the nayer sayers that it does not matter who or what you are, your life matters. When a Grand Jury failed to indict Wilson, the Ferguson protestors ignited a fire across the US and the world.
In October, I visited the memorial constructed in Brown’s honor on the street where he died. I stood on the spot where he died, and felt the power of the Ferguson protesters. It was palpable and undeniable. I felt a paradigm shift in my heart that allowed me to embrace a person, who previously was not embraceable. Brown became an icon for me too. Never would I have dreamed that I would become the champion for a cigar thief who fought the police, but I am. His flaws do not matter, we all have flaws. His life mattered.
Brown has become our icon because of his lowliness and his grittiness. He stretches our compassion. In a perfect world our icons would possess more respected in the Cosby we thought we knew. Our icons can no longer be sanitized. We cannot pick our symbols the way they painstakingly did for the Montgomery Bus boycott. Rosa Parks was handpicked because she had the right appearance and education. Brown was handpicked by the protesters as a symbol that we are tired of the mounting number of black unarmed men being killed by the police. Brown’s death came at the intersection of we are tired of this and what shall we do?
So, what shall we do? It is no coincidence that protests and social uproar from the killings of unarmed black men and the Cosby fall from grace march us directly into the Christmas season. God is in the midst of this. God specializes in exchanges of power and position. Christmas is really about a poor, lowly teenage girl giving birth in the squalid conditions of a stable to the savior of the world. Here is where grittiness and lowliness originated. There is a compelling word for us from the young pregnant woman, known Mary’s Magnification. In Luke 1: 52-54 we read, God will;
“scatter the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; bring down the powerful from their thrones, and lift up the lowly; to fill the hungry with good things, and send the rich away empty.”