Why Does the Cover of Bill Cosby’s Latest Book Make a Lurid Sexual Suggestion?


Shouldn’t the title of Bill Cosby’s 2007 book with Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint, Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, above, have a comma after the word “on”?

Also, without it, doesn’t the title make an indelicate observation, or, worse, a licentious directive?

cosbyDuring his famed “Ghettoesburg Address”—his May 17, 2004 harangue at the NAACP’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision—Cosby, right, who has an EdD, broadly lampooned what he saw as poor Black America’s negligible language facility.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal,” he declared. “These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids — $500 sneakers for what? And won’t spend $200 for ‘Hooked on Phonics.’ . . .

“They’re standing on the corner and they can’t speak English,” he exclaimed. “I can’t even talk the way these people talk: ‘Why you ain’t,’ ‘Where you is’ . . . And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. . . . Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. . . . You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!”

6a00d8341cca9453ef010536c8870c970c-400wiWell, then, if Cosby knows so much about the mother tongue—presumably Dr. Poussaint, with Cosby, right, who served as a consultant for The Cosby Show during that program’s run, also speaks English well—how come he didn’t see that his book title was missing a critical piece of punctuation, and advancing an X-rated ultimatum in its absence?

What Cosby meant to say is, “Come ON [brief pause] people”; i.e., “People, let’s move together in this direction,” or, colloquially, “People, stop messing around and be serious.”

Without the crucial comma, however, the title can either be read a) “COME on people”—a command to come—ejaculate—on people—or b) “Come On People”—an observation that people have come, or cum, on them. (Of course, the trail of smudgy white footprints on the book’s cover art little helps.)

Either way, yuk. Why didn’t Cosby catch this embarrassing gaffe?

Maybe his NAACP argument is more accurate than he thought, and English standards in America are so low that even Thomas Nelson, his publisher, didn’t see the misstep. Or, maybe Cosby thought that Black people are so dumb they wouldn’t catch it.

andreaconstandOr maybe he was still thinking about Andrea Constand, right, the former director of operations for women’s basketball at Philadelphia’s Temple U., Cosby’s alma mater. In March 2005, she filed a lawsuit, alleging that, in January 2004, the comedian had drugged and groped her. Word of Constand’s charges ultimately prompted a total of 13 women to enter their names as witnesses in her court case, including three people who then told their stories to the press. (Here’s one, Barbara Bowman, alleging an apparent near rape in the mid-1980s.) Cosby settled out of court with Constand in November 2006, all the way denying her charges. (“I’m not saying that what I did was wrong,” he said to The National Enquirer, “but I apologise to my loving wife.”)

According to a Temple News Online report, Cosby subsequently avoided appearances at the school, even crapping out on a promise to class of 2004 freshmen that he’d speak at their 2008 graduation.

Word is, though, that he will speak at the Temple class of 2009 graduation in a month. Let’s hope he comes to the school, not on it.



#1 Ray Winbysh on 04.13.09 at 7:29 pm

An incredibly insightful commentary on this whole issue! Thanks for telling like it is!

#2 damali on 04.13.09 at 8:31 pm

Best deconstruction of Cosby I’ve ever read.

PS. I prefer the second reading of the title, as it better describes the post-indulgent need for clean-up that the country continually cycles through, yet rarely fulfills, as a result of our American ways.

#3 Sunfish on 04.14.09 at 3:37 am

The cover artist intended the right footprint across from “ON” to serve as the comma. A daring design choice, I agree. However, I believe it serves to establish the message of the book–“Only by walking a path of acquired skills, hope for the future, and with care and respect for others, can a person put the comma in their life and avoid stepping/cumming on people.”

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