Happy Saturday, friends and frienemies.
I just wrapped up a pleasant afternoon of recording radio interviews and ambient sound for a story I'm working on about something I'll call "pubic relations" for now. I'll become less vague as the project moves forward.
In the mean time, even though its actual "birthday" isn't until September, when mine happens to be, I thought I'd take a moment and pay tribute to "The Cosby Show" for what it has contributed to life and perceptions in the United States.
Yeah, I know it's just a TV show, and I've never been much of a fan of Jello Pudding Pops or Coogi Sweaters. But "The Cosby Show" helped me in a tremendous way by breaking and defying common, if silly, stereotypes about black folks.
I had a great example in my parents and how they operated our household. Unlike the Huxtable parents, neither of my folks was or is a doctor or a lawyer. They're accomplished. But they are and were normal, and honest, and proudly simple.
They didn't feel the need to impress anyone. They didn't show off, though they could have. My mom has been recognized widely for her community service. My dad would be aw shucks about it, but he's a widely sought after speaker in some pretty big religious circles. And during his military career my dad was a U.S. Navy Sailor of the Year.
Most importantly, my folks marched to their own beat when I was a kid. Sometimes that beat had them in line with the rest of our community. Sometimes not.
To an adult, the stuff I just listed about my folks and family is "neat!" To a kid? It's little more than additional reasons to get picked on by the cool kids and called a nerd...or, in my case, when I was younger, occasionally being called "not black enough." My point is, like a typical tunnel-visioned kid, I didn't appreciate the lifestyle my folks had set for my sister and I until after I saw that it was popular outside our little home.
So when "The Cosby Show" debuted in the fall of 1984, even as a young boy I can remember thinking how cool it was that this regular black family was causing such a stir, breaking stereotypes and defying common but silly assumptions. Even though it was just a bunch of actors, I can remember swelling with pride and thinking "We're sort of like them. And if they're cool for dressing sharply, speaking well, and trying to get good grades, and working hard, then so are we!"
I used to cringe when some fathead in school teased me and called me some form of "Cosby," 'cause it was the pop culture equivalent to teasing the smark kid for scoring well on a test.
In retrospect I should have thanked the fatheads for comparing me to a Cosby. It was a pretty damned high complement.
I have friends who've complained for years that "The Cosby Show" wasn't realistic. But by who's standard? Your realism is about how you live. The Huxtables represented a lot of black families who never made headlines because they hadn't done anything wrong.
PS. Don't forget to follow me at http://twitter.com/jamesburnett.