I am all the way here for the Ebony Magazine’s November 2015 cover. I bow down to it, really.
To me, this issue is an incredibly important, valid and timely way to talk about the current state of issues and morale in Black households. Aside from the downfall of Bill Cosby, an African-American who was considered one of the most venerable and influential entertainers in the nation, our country’s hyper-visible onslaught of terrorism against Black bodies has made us wary about our representation, our lives and the lives of our loved ones more than ever.
The very reason why I’m impressed with the cover is virtually the same reason why it caused so much controversy yesterday on Instagram and Black Twitter. People were incensed by Ebony’s audacity to mar one of The Cosby Show’s most iconic images by featuring a vintage promo-shot of the cast under a shattered glass, like a family portrait caught inside of a broken picture frame.
Surrounded by his beautiful (and fictional) Black wife and children, Heathcliff’s smiling face in the middle of the shot is obscured by a collection of shards.
On the surface, some people are seeing yet another attack on Bill Cosby’s already defamed character. They’re angry that the legacy of one of America’s most successful shows and the uplifting images of a successful Black family resulting from it is getting lost in Cosby’s scandal.
But these critics are either missing the real point of the cover or are not acknowledging (or understanding) the reason why they’re having such a violent response to Ebony’s latest statement piece.
Yes, Ebony’s cover poses the question of whether the legacy of The Cosby Show will surpass the downfall of Bill Cosby himself. But it’s also posing an underlying question of whether the quintessential image of respectable Black folk will survive—or if it is even still relevant—in a period where we’ve seen time and time again that our respectability is not enough to save us from White supremacy.
It’s scary because, in losing our hold on one of the most beloved and wholesome representations of Black people known to pop culture, we feel like we’re losing our right to claim that representation for ourselves, too.
I don’t see Ebony as an irrelevant magazine that is desperate to sell copies with sensational content. I see Ebony as a Black publication that is following through on its responsibility to inform and engage its audience with provocative, substantive and complex journalism—no matter how difficult and thorny the issues may be.
Today’s media era is saturated with outlets spewing pure clickbait just so they can stay afloat in the 24-hour news cycle. We can’t afford to scoff at good journalism or take it for granted, especially when it reveals things we find unsettling.
So of course, I’ll be buying and reading the latest issue. Anyone who’s followed my op-eds in the past knows that I dropped my support for Bill Cosby a long time ago.
But I’m not buying this issue as some petty effort to push Bill Cosby’s legacy further down the drain. I’m buying it because these kinds of stories are the reason why I became a journalist in the first place. Furthermore, I’m not offended by the cover because I can separate my love and critical analysis of the show from my disgust for the man behind it.
Ebony has given us something to really talk about, and I’m grateful for it.
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