This spring, I taught a graduate seminar on magazine feature writing. One of the assignments was Robert Huber’s 2006 Philadelphia Magazine story, “Dr. Huxtable & Mr. Hyde,” a thorough run-down of several rape allegations against Bill Cosby, interwoven with the various charges Cosby himself was leveling at black communities across the nation.
Almost none of my students, a racially diverse group of women and men in their twenties and thirties, had ever heard about the sexual assault charges and only a few knew that Cosby had spent recent years trading in respectability politics, telling poor black audiences that their behaviors and culture—as opposed to systemic racism or structurally enforced inequality of opportunity—were to blame for the challenges they face. My students didn’t know any of this, despite the fact that both these stories had repeatedly been told in depth, and not just in the story I’d assigned them.