Commentary: Let Ali Family Decide Whether to Remove Cosby Mural

by Borderstan Contributor October 19, 2015 at 10:30 am 4 Comments

Cosby mural at Ben's

Borderstan periodically publishes opinion pieces from the people in our community. Have something you want to share with your neighbors? Email us at [email protected].

by Kevin Rooney from U Street Buzz

After everything we have heard, it is virtually certain that Bill Cosby is the monster his accusers say he is, or at least that is the judgement of the court of public opinion. And I concur. Given this, it strikes many as incomprehensible that his likeness is still on the Ben’s Chili Bowl mural by renowned D.C. artist Aniekan Udofia (the mural also features President Obama, Chuck Brown and Donnie Simpson).

This bewilderment, or even anger, is certainly understandable, but the decision on whether and when to remove Cosby should be made solely by Ben’s Chili Bowl proprietors Virginia Ali and her family.

Devin Boyle, the author of this opinion piece in the Washington Post, shows no awareness of why Cosby was honored there in the first place, nor any empathy for the exceedingly difficult position that the Ali family are now in.

It is not defending Cosby, minimizing his crimes, nor insensitive to his victims to point out that while we now know he was a serial sexual predator, he also helped Ben and Virginia Ali a great deal during during some very difficult years for Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street. He contributed his time and the power of his considerable celebrity and, to my knowledge, never asked for anything in return.

That doesn’t make Cosby a saint, obviously, and it doesn’t come close to making up for the unimaginable pain he has caused his many victims. A special place in Hell has a “reserved” sign with his name on it.

I recount the backstory only to provide some context on the tough spot in which the 81-year-old Virginia Ali and her children now find themselves. At what point do you turn your back on a friend who was there for you and your family during difficult times, but who has since turned out to have been a truly awful human being to others? I don’t know the answer, but I do believe that Virginia Ali (and Ben too, if he were still alive) and the family have earned the right to make that decision themselves by virtue of their many, many contributions to this neighborhood and city.

I think that Cosby’s likeness will be removed from the mural someday, and probably someday soon, but the timing won’t and shouldn’t be decided by Devin Boyle or any other self-righteous activist.

And I doubt they’ll need her help painting it over.

Kevin Rooney runs neighborhood news hub U Street Buzz. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.


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