Bill Cosby is at the center of controversy at the Smithsonian yet again. I never can understand the inability of people to separate the man from his work. Bill Cosby the person may be questionable, but Bill Cosby the actor and his contributions to Black advancement in film and television can’t be denied.
The Smithsonian is opening the National Museum of African American History and Culture this fall and already people are up in arms over one of the planned exhibits. The museum will be comprised of 11 exhibitions featuring a total of 3,000 or so items. Cosby is represented only in the “Taking the Stage” exhibition, made up of 150 objects dedicated to film, television, and entertainment. The Bill Cosby items to be displayed are one comic book from I Spy in the TV Pioneers case along with other materials from various TV shows. The exhibit also features the cover of his album I Started Out as a Child (1964) in the comedians case which features six African American comedians.
There have been cries of outrage that the exhibit will glorify Cosby with no mention of the sexual allegations against him. I’m no fan of what Mr. Cosby has been accused of, in fact I did an article a while back on how I feel about the situation. (See Article) However, he has not been found guilty of anything yet. There aren’t museums full of accusations, museums are for known facts. The museum isn’t even open yet and people are looking for ways to condemn it.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture issued a statement after the public outcries started.
The statement clarifies “The museum explores a diverse and complex history that reflects how all Americans are shaped by the African American experience.”
Bill Cosby and the debate of supporting him as an actor versus appearing to condone his alleged behavior, was the subject on the hit sitcom “The Carmichael Show” recently. The show’s star, Jerrod Carmichael struggled with whether or not to see Cosby perform stand up and if he did, would that be in essence condoning the alleged actions of Mr. Cosby.
Carmichael later sat down with Vulture Magazine and discussed the issue further.
“People get in trouble all the time. It’s removed from that. Those accusations have nothing to do with comedy. If you were a dramatic actor, same accusations. If you were a musician, same accusations. So the accusation has nothing to do with comedy,” Carmichael told the interviewer. “None of the accusations talk about his jokes. The accusations are associated with a man in power abusing it.”
Later in the interview Carmichael added: ” … As a person who enjoys music how do you reconcile listening to Michael Jackson? As a person who enjoys any art, anything — it’s the struggle of categorizing. How you reconcile an abusive father who provided? How do you reconcile an alcoholic mother who cooked dinner every night? You compartmentalize. That’s all you can do.”
This is not the first time the Smithsonian Institute has come under fire for appearing to support Bill Cosby after the rape accusations started to come out. The museum was the subject of controversy last year when it decided to display a collection of art from Bill and Camille’s private collection.