"Now we've seen the real Bill Cosby," said the prosecutor after the jury found the comedian guilty of three counts of sexual assault.

The case focused on Cosby's actions with one woman, Andrea Constand, but nearly 60 others had similar stories, stories of being offered pills "to relax", then finding themselves obtunded in consciousness and unable to resist while Cosby sexually penetrated their bodies.

This rape — the very definition of non-consensual sex — is what Cosby had long denied, insisting that what had happened between himself and the women was consensual. The jury of seven men and five women found otherwise.

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On the side of justice, this brings a measure of vindication to the women whose claims have long been dismissed or derided by Cosby and his defenders.

The eventual sentence cannot undo the harms done to these women but the conviction itself is a long-overdue confirmation that their claims of unwilling sexual congress — rape — were not some sort of fantasy or, worse, buyers' regret.

Cosby's downfall has evoked a sense of betrayal, not only for his direct victims, the women, but the larger audience influenced by the characters he invented.

Cosby's significance, his contribution to the American racial narrative should not be underestimated.

In the eight seasons of The Cosby Show on television, he portrayed Dr Cliff Huxtable, a funny, likeable, relaxed dad, married to an equally smart, good-looking, wise, educated woman (Phylicia Rashad).

Phylicia Ayers-Allen as Clair and Bill Cosby as Cliff from The Cosby Show -- role models.
Phylicia Ayers-Allen as Clair and Bill Cosby as Cliff from The Cosby Show -- role models.

Their raising of their five kids in a warm, caring but disciplined manner — with limits and rules and consequences clearly articulated — made an impression on his largely white audience. It led to Cosby being called "America's Dad".

Dr Huxtable and the cartoon character "Fat Albert" before him, spoke softly, with humour. By example and non-judgmental language, a generation of white and black latchkey kids were inculcated in the sound morality and values of middle class and affluent America.

For many young people the shows were inspirational and, particularly for young people of colour, aspirational. This is what it takes to be successful.

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For an older generation, Cosby's Dr Huxtable made blackness not simply palatable but acceptable to a predominantly white country historically conditioned to think the worst of black people.

Following slavery's ending in 1863, 100 years of institutionalised segregation — often rationalised by reference to the Bible — reinforced the inferiority of blacks.

One can connect the dots from the entrance to baseball of Jackie Robinson (1947) to Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement and laws of the 1960s to the hitherto unimaginable election of a black president in 2008. Those dots run through Dr Huxtable.
Now there is talk of discarding those Cosby shows which still appear in reruns.

Jay Kuten
Jay Kuten

There is a sense of discovery among some whites that the "real" Bill Cosby is the predatory black male that whites, guilty about their own history of slavery's abuses, have projected on to blacks from the beginning.

So, too, some blacks express their sense of betrayal as Wesley Morris did in the New York Times of April 28, calling The Cosby Show the sickest joke by Cosby.

Dr Huxtable gave blacks a sense of uplift — that by following his lead they could, with effort and education and success, attain respectability in white eyes, and their own.
With Cosby's conviction there comes a sadness and a temptation to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

It's a road to despair.

Cosby's achievement -- creation of a believable fiction (he's an actor) --inspired others, black and white to their own trajectory. They need to own that.

He created a fictional model that inspired others to become their best selves. The real Cosby is a complex seriously flawed human being who will have to bear the shame of his undoing until his death .He can only do that alone.

Shakespeare's Marc Antony, in the funeral oration for Julius Caesar, said: "The evil that men do, lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones."

We can make certain that the opposite is true.

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.