The Cosby extortion case is both unfortunate and fortunate.
It is unfortunate because the face of a man who unwittingly became a symbol of all-American fatherhood has a black eye.
But it is fortunate because it brings visibility to a situation that some men have simply chosen to ignore. Perhaps it will cause them to think about the disenfranchisement of children fathered in casual unions and then left in the shadows by the men who gave them life.
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby and his former paramour, Shawn Upshaw, both bear responsibility for their “rendezvous” in the early ‘70s. If there was a child from that union, it bears neither responsibility nor blame.
Children come into this world by no volition of their own.
Cosby insists there was no child. Twenty-two-year-old Autumn Jackson says she is his child, but now stands convicted of the despicable, greedy act of trying to extort $40 million from him in lieu of going public in the Globe tabloid. For that, she is definitely responsible and deserves blame.
Over the years he has been more than generous with Jackson and her mother. He not only set up a $25,000 trust fund for her to use while completing college, for which he was paying the bill, but also reportedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for support.
If he is not Jackson’s father, his action is laudable. If he is, then throwing money at the situation and not accompanying it with the attention that a daughter deserves from her father is unfortunate.
Consider the plight of “outside” children, as older people sometimes called the products of husbands’ rendezvous. Here are children who must endure the reality of “legitimate” offspring basking in their fathers’ favor, while they, equally their fathers’ children, grow up unacknowledged and often ordered to silence.
There is nothing fair or kind about that.
If Jackson was being paid hush money, that is not exactly the picture of fatherhood that we had painted for Cosby.
We love Cosby. We have converged his wholesome television persona with the real man. He was the model of the word “fatherhood” - not accidentally the title of his 1986 bestseller book. We have laughed with him as he was father to the Huxtable kids, and we wept with him when he lost his real-life son, Ennis.
The extortion aspect of this story drastically alters any climate of sympathy or caring for Jackson. Whether or not she is just a young girl influenced by her accomplices, she knows right from wrong. That was her part of the responsibility scene.
If the visibility of this case serves any good at all, it can chip away at the lingering macho indifference about responsible sex, particularly during vaunted one-night stands. Cosby said he had sex with Jackson’s mother one time.
Men have been heard to joke when asked if they have children - “None that I know about, ha-ha.”
Well, isn’t that a laugh! How many “outside” children of servicemen have suffered life without a father? And how many Autumn Jacksons are out there?
Jackson should not have to spend five years in jail. There should be a lesser punishment. But everyone - Jackson, Cosby and her mother - must pay.
And everyone has.
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