Comedian Bill Cosby says that the debate over the killing of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman should be focused on guns and not race. In Mr. Cosby’s opinion, saying that the unprovoked shooting that took the life of an unarmed black teenager walking home from the convenience store and minding his own business was racially motivated doesn’t solve anything. In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union that aired this past Sunday, Mr. Cosby says that the bigger question is what was George Zimmerman doing with a gun and who taught him how to behave with it.
This is a stark contrast to Mr. Cosby’s reputation for criticism of people in the black community and how black people are not willing to do their fair share to help lift the black community out of its perpetual second class condition with higher than average instances of poverty, crime, and everything else that’s socially unacceptable. For example Mr. Cosby didn’t hesitate to stand in front of his well to do peers and tell them that they’ve done enough and now underprivileged black people need to step up to the plate of responsibility and quit purchasing five hundred dollar running shoes.
Mr. Cosby gave a speech to the NAACP back in May 2004 in which he was highly critical of black people. He ridiculed poor black people’s speech, poor black people’s dress, poor black people’s goals, and other stereotypical aspects of black people that are often portrayed in various media. The speech is referred to as the pound cake speech. And Mr. Cosby had no problem with his criticism even though his criticism didn’t solve a goddamn thing.
In fairness to Mr. Cosby, maybe he has learned a thing or two since he took his criticism of black people on a high profile nationwide tour to try and shame the black community into some kind of action. Maybe he’s learned that just saying black people aren’t doing enough isn’t enough and now Mr. Cosby is operating from a theory that not saying anything about anybody’s behavior is the better route to go. Maybe Mr. Cosby has figured that people aren’t the problem but the things people used to manifest what they feel are the problem. Ergo, if somebody gets shot the problem isn’t the shooter but the shooter’s gun. Therefore, if we just eliminate the guns utopia will fall into place.
In more fairness to Mr. Cosby, the man is almost seventy five years old and just might be suffering from some form of dementia that keeps him from thinking straight. That’s the only thing I can think of to explain his head up his ass philosophy that prevents him from taking a more encompassing look at the social issues that confronts the black community as a whole and individual black people like Trayvon Martin who lost his life to a man who had so deeply embraced the social programming that has taught us to quickly condemn black people as unworthy and inferior.
George Zimmerman was taught a subconscious suspicion of black people. His mistrust of black people was so deeply ingrained that he was willing to bet that if he killed a black person under the most dubious of circumstances he would be vindicated once the true nature of the unfortunate black person comes to light. If Mr. Zimmerman encountered a young white male under the same circumstances, it’s a fair bet that nothing suspicious would have registered on his consciousness.
The Sanford, Florida authorities that were responsible for investigating the shooting of Trayvon saw that the victim was a teenaged black male and quickly wrapped their investigation up in less than eight hours confident that the dead boy was nothing but another young black gang banger who got his comeuppance. Authorities across the country have been programmed to see black people as more trouble than they are worth. Therefore, if a black person gets shot, it’s a fair bet that the shooting was justified and so no thorough investigation, no true opportunity for justice, is necessary.
It is this same programming that has influenced the behavior of Mr. Cosby. The man can turn a blind eye to the social stigma that has been placed squarely on the backs of black people. Like a lot of people who look down their nose at black people, Mr. Cosby has shown that he holds black people responsible for what happens to black people and continues to absolve everybody else of any responsibility. To this day, Mr. Cosby gives lectures in black communities expressing his frustration with the problems that seem so endemic in the black community such as illegal drugs, teenage pregnancy, crime, offensive clothing, single mothers, and all the other problems that impact every social economic subgroup. Even though everyone is impacted by these problems, only the culture of the black community is defined by these problems.
What if George Zimmerman didn’t have a gun? What if he used a knife to kill Trayvon Martin? Would guns be off the hook and knives be declared the source of our problems? What if it wasn’t a knife and George Zimmerman used his fist to beat Trayvon to death? What if he used his feet to kick Trayvon when the boy was on the ground? Would hands be the problem and the easy solution would be to amputate everybody? That just sounds stupid. It sounds about as stupid as saying that the real problem we suffer as a collective is the tolerance of guns.
The real problem we suffer is the tolerance of racism and social discrimination based on race. It wasn’t the gun that was responsible for the killing of Trayvon. What killed that young black man that night was an irrational suspicion that black people are criminals. This idea was planted and nurtured by a culture that not only tolerates racism but perpetuates it. It is perpetuated by people driving down the street who see a black man walking on the sidewalk. It is perpetuated by authorities who fail to take the murder of a black teenager seriously. It is even perpetuated by old black comedians who bend over backwards to dismiss any notion of motivation due to race.
The more I see of Mr. Cosby the more I am convinced that he is a black man who suffers from willful ignorance about the black community. Instead of adding something meaningful to the conversation, he offers an out for everybody that applies responsibility to nobody. And if Mr. Cosby really felt that way would he be willing to give a speech and go on tour saying that black people have done enough to reverse the ills of the black community and that black people have done enough? Somehow that sounds very doubtful.
Mr. Cosby says that it’s the gun that’s our major problem and not our psychosis of perpetual racial disparity against black people that allows somebody to kill a black teenager and then allows that same person to walk away with his gun in hand. But that’s just not true. The gun is just the tool that helps manifests our social collective’s desire to punish black people for the offense of being black.