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.
Two years ago I came home to spend Thanksgiving Day with my family. I was happy that Ms. Peacemaker and I were able to make the trek from the northwest corner of the union. It took twenty four hours for us to drive all the way from Idaho to St. Louis. But mom had just gotten out of hospital and the rest of the family was making the pilgrimage from other corners of the planet. I bit the bullet, packed Ms. Peacemaker and her son in the car, and drove across the country.
After dinner my family and I got caught up in a conversation revolving around the black community. It didn’t go very well. Unfortunately, the majority of my family felt that the status quo between the black community and the white community was satisfactory and I was simply looking to make problems. Anyone can find racism in anything if they looked for it. Long after the conversation was over I was going to take Ms. Peacemaker for a drive to see the city. One of my siblings’s had a son that wanted to go with us. But my sibling quietly took my nephew to the side and told him not to get in the car with me. I was a trouble maker that needed to be avoided at all cost. Naturally I was hurt. I felt like my siblings and I were going our separate ways. Seeing little reason to stay, less than twenty four hours after arriving in St. Louis the Peacemakers were on our way back to Idaho. That was two years ago.
Today, this Thanksgiving, my most vocal sibling in the discussion from two years ago sat down and had a continuation of the discussion from two years ago. I really didn’t expect much. But a lot has changed in two years. Our conversation started while watching the news a couple of days after the holiday. There was an article about Barack Obama and his nomination of Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state. The next thing you know we were talking, round two. But, gone was the suspicion that I was way too confrontational in my thinking. This sibling actually listened to me without defending the system with every breath. We talked about Barack Obama and what little it actually means to the black community other than we can teach our children that if they too turn their back on the black community that they can do great things for the racial status quo.
We talked about Reverend Jeremiah Wright who was attacked in an attempt by some people to paint Mr. Obama as an angry, unpatriotic black man. We talked about the fact that when Mr. Wright was being attacked, not a single black celebrity was reported as coming to his defense. We talked about how black celebrities like Bill Cosby garnered so much attention with their ridicule of poor people in the black community. Mr. Cosby helped to defend Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Ruebens when Mr. Rueben was discovered masturbating in an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida and arrested for indecent exposure. We talked about how Mr. Cosby said, “Whatever [Reubens has] done, this is being blown all out of proportion.” My sibling and I asked each other, where was Mr. Cosby to tell everybody that the attacks against Mr. Wright were being blown out of proportion.
Where was Bill Cosby to speak in Mr. Wright’s defense? Where was Oprah Winfrey? Where was Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Will Smith, Queen Latifah and the others? Where was T.D. Jakes and Creflo “Gotta Get A” Dollar? Where wee all of these high profile people who say they want black people to care about the black community but are as quiet as church mice to help defend a black man who cared about the black community?
D.L. Hughley made a despicable grab for laughs in his appearance on Jay Leno when he made the suggestion that black people need to get off of Don Imus’ back when Mr. Imus was attacked by many in the black community for his nappy headed ho’s comment against the women’s basketball team of Rutgers University. But Mr. Hughley didn’t say a thing to defend Mr. Wright’s freedom of speech. Mr. Hughley agreed and added that they were some of the ugliest women he has ever seen in his life. Now, Mr. Hughley, with only a GED to his name and no interest in current events or the news, has his own television news show on CNN of all places. My sibling’s eyes went wide with surprise on this bit of information.
And like many people who may be concerned about the black community, my sibling asked the question I’ve been asked a hundred times over, what is the solution? We talked about a few solutions. But the bottom line is that the black community is so fractured and we are so bamboozled that our first inclination whenever we hear someone ridicule the establishment is to defend the establishment. I bit my tongue not to refer to our conversation two years ago.
I spoke of my bottom line theory that more black people who care about the black community need to return to the black neighborhoods. Black people with good paying jobs have a tendency to take their good income out of the urban black neighborhood to live in less black neighborhoods. Black people may have contributed to the weakness of the traditional black neighborhood. Instead of working to help keep black neighborhoods strong we perpetuate the hype that we have to get away and start somewhere else. And when we abandon our houses in the urban black community to live elsewhere, others will came right behind us to live in these abandoned homes, getting these beautiful old architecture structures for pennies on the dollar, while black people are going into significant debt with six figure mortgages to live the American dream.
And when we allow ourselves to be manipulated into accumulating debt in a perpetual pursuit in the accumulation of materialism and trinkets for our immediate gratification, we no longer have the time or desire to address issues of racial disparity because we need our jobs and we need to conform in order to maintain our substandard of living. In the process, our traditional black neighborhoods go down the tubes because the majority of what’s left are people too focused on individual materialism to realize the importance of living as a unified community.
I was told that’s not going to work for all of us and I had to agree. But there is no single solution. In battle, rarely is a single strategy used against an opponent. There are a series of tools used. A frontal assault, a flank assault, distractions, traps, attacks from the rear, from above, from below, and from anywhere an opponent may least expect it. But too often when we talk about countering racial disparity, we want to ridicule each other for not following what we believe is to be the best strategy. If you think a boycott is the solution I’m with you. But don’t make it a one day boycott against a faceless corporation. A boycott works best when people stay away until change is made. A one day boycott is nothing more than a holiday.
If black people actually investing in the black neighborhoods with our hard earned money then reward businesses that do business in the black community. Some black people will let a single bad experience with one black business person change their attitude against all black businesses. But how often do we let a bad experience with a white business impact our willingness to do business with other white business people?
Why do black people buy houses or rent in non black areas? How come we don’t do our best to buy homes in the black neighborhoods? I know it’s a sacrifice. But if we want things to change we have to be willing to put our money, our selves, our families, where our mouths are.
My sibling gave me the impression that I was talking some sense. It was much different than our conversation a couple of years ago where it was okay for some people to suffer as long as the majority do well through the system. Back then, it didn’t matter if others didn’t have healthcare coverage or adequate employment or access to a good education. Two years ago I had the impression that my family really didn’t care what happened to some black people. The overall impression was that my family believed that more than likely people at the bottom did something to deserve being at the bottom rung of society.
But in our conversation from the other day, that attitude seems to have been replaced with more compassion for people in the black community than I ever thought possible. Whatever the reason, I’m glad. I would have been happy to have seen people in my family just listen to me without getting angry like we did a few years ago. Today’s conversation was much more than I ever thought possible. We were more in sync in our thought processes than I ever thought was possible. I’m really looking forward to our conversation two years from now.
In the United States black people with a strong, positive commitment to the black community are seen as an anathema. Black people who are constantly pro black community are ridiculed and picked apart by the mainstream. While their relevance as a positive force to the black community can be questionable at times, Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton are regularly caricatured for their pro black commitment. In Houston, Texas, Quasi X is doing his best to make a reputation for having the ability to bring national attention to matters impacting the black community. And when he succeeds the backlash from the dominating culture is swift and uniform. Many white people may not know who they’re going to vote for in the next presidential election, but they know they hate a pro black nigger when they see one.
Even the late venerable defense attorney Johnnie Cochrane caught the ire of the dominant community. His attack on the status quo of white privilege was unforgivable. Used to be a high profile black man facing prosecution for the murder of his wife was a slam dunk for the prosecution. Now here comes Mr. Cochrane with his uppity self and his legalese mumbo jumbo, nursery rhyming catch phrases and now white people got to work at railroading a black man into the penal system. Mr. Cochrane helped make O.J. Simpson the villain he is today. Mr. Simpson is one of the most hated men in the country not because people believe he was a man who just so happened to have killed his wife. Mr. Simpson is hated by mainstream America because he is a black man who is widely believed to have killed his white wife and gotten away with it.
Most black people who exist in a high profile fashion in the public’s eye profess strong commitments to the black community but then work hard to support the status quo that prevents the black community from ever achieving some level of true self determination. Bill Cosby says that black people need to become entrepreneurs and better parents. His book Come On People, written collaboratively with Dr. Alvin Poussaint, is supposed to be a manifesto for guiding the black community out of its doldrums. Black people can turn the black community around by engaging our children in conversations and putting wholesome food on the table.
Following these simple steps people in the black community will suddenly have employment and educational opportunities that will allow us to earn the money to continue putting that wholesome food on the table. Talking to our children about our day will suddenly give our children and the rest of our family members the healthcare that they need. And can anybody tell me how engaging black children in conversation is going to prepare the black community for doing business as entrepreneurs. But every black person should spend the twenty bucks or so plus shipping and handling to buy this book from Amazon because lord knows that there are no bookstores in the black community and the local library isn’t going to have enough copies for everybody.
It’s okay to for Mr. Cosby and Mr. Poussaint to make a buck off the assumption that financially poor black parents are detached from their black children. It helps perpetuate the stereotype that the black community is solely responsible for black people’s subjugation. And while it is true that Mr. Cosby provides scholarships for some in the black and white community, his benevolence only helps black people assimilate to the dominating corporate world. Where are the grants and other forms of financial assistance for the people in the black community to become the black entrepreneurs that Mr. Cosby says are so desperately needed? Mr. Cosby carries considerable influence but chooses instead to play his support for the black community close to his chest with suggestion that black people need to talk to their children. The establishment supports this because black people talking to black children distracts people from the status quo of the white privilege that will continue unabated and without serious threat.
Conversely, many people with a strong, commitment to keeping the status quo of white privilege and black subjugation, a formula rooted in propaganda labeled as traditional family values, are worshipped by the dominant culture as if they were modern day prophets of the almighty. Anyone who calls for the abolishment of any affirmative action program that might impede white privilege is a hero of American principles of personal responsibility, self determination, and hard work. These are the same people that would say black people should be more like Oprah Winfrey or Kobe Bryant or Tiger Woods or some other black person that has distanced themselves from the common black community and has made the conscious decision to become racially generic among the well to dos.
I have yet to meet a white person that would take offense at being called white and correct the adjective with a more accurate color reference like pink, off white, creamy peach, translucent pale, or something else more accurate but distances the white person from their white community. Even white people who have a bone to pick with other white people don’t have a problem calling themselves white. Nobody ever walks up to a white person and says something stupid like when I look at you I don’t see a white person.
But on the flipside, the number of people of obvious African descent that refuses to refer to themselves as black grows each and every day. Black people call themselves brown, tanned, chocolate, mocha, cocoa, shiny gold, or something else that has less to do with being proudly affiliated with the black community. While all of these colors may indeed be used to more accurately describe a skin tone of a black person, we should not forget that we are talking about black people. We come in a variety of skin colors that range from being able to pass for white all the way to skin tones so deeply colored that black is truly accurate. Instead of going coo-coo for being called cocoa more black people need to be proud to stand up and say that they are indeed part of the black community. It’s not a slogan, but a state of mind that could help to put pride back in the black community. It is a state of mind that could help influence others to make that strong, unmistakable commitment to being black.
I was surfing the internet looking for photos I could use for an up and coming article regarding movies for the black community and how they have changed over the past twenty years. One of my favorite old school black movies featured Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier and so I wanted a suitable photograph of the two. I go to Google and type in the appropriate parameters and start my search. Low and behold I found this photograph of Bill Cosby yukking it up with George Bush in some ceremony where the President is presenting Mr. Cosby with some medal for his service to the country. The date associated with this photo is sometime in 2002, a few years before Mr. Cosby embarked on his “Black People Ain’t Doing Shit” tour of America. I looked at the picture and all the disappointment with Mr. Cosby came roiling back to the surface of my mind.
Back in the day, knee high to my dad, I used to watch Bill Cosby with the rest of my family when he was a young comedian doing his stand up routines. It must have been part of the Flip Wilson show or the Ed Sullivan Show. He would talk about the fat kid in his neighborhood named Fat Albert. I vaguely remember when routine when he talked about how they would open a fire hydrant to cool off in the summer and how Fat Albert could sit on top of the hydrant and direct the water with his body. Fat Albert had such control he could use the water to knock a cigarette out the mouth of the driver of a car passing by without getting the vehicle wet. I didn’t fully understand all the jokes. But I understood enough to make a connection with Mr. Cosby. I grew up thinking this man understood me.
I watched the cartoon Fat Albert when it was a television special that only came on television once or twice a year. I celebrated our good fortune when we were able to watch the Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon every Saturday morning. I watched Bill Cosby as he pushed Jell-O down our throats and made us thirsty for Coke Cola. I watched Bill Cosby when he did I Spy with Phillip Culp. I watched the original Cosby series when he played a bachelor high school coach. I started watching the Cosby Show with the Huxtables from the very moment the show appeared on the NBC television network. I watched a lot of Bill Cosby.
But one day I was watching the Huxtables go through their motions of playing a black family in America and I realized I had no connection with these people. Somewhere along the way we took two different directions. The Cosby Show went Middle American and I stayed black American. The Cosby Show never showed anybody who could have remotely considered themselves from a Fat Albert type neighborhood. The problems of the people in the Cosby show were never the problems for people in the black community but the problems from a Middle America perspective. The Huxtables might as well have been the Brady Bunch. Even when the show was adjusted to bring in their wayward cousin the show never showed problems from a uniquely black perspective. That and the fact that the show stopped being funny were enough for me to stop watching. Yet I continued to support Mr. Cosby and give him the benefit of doubt.
But then Mr. Cosby had to get high and mighty and share his contempt of black people by standing in front of his rich white mindset peers and declare the black community as a failure. Mr. Cosby made very broad and general strokes of criticism about the black poor and the black underclass that gives credence to some of the worse African American stereotypes. Mr. Cosby stands in front of the upper crust of society, people who have the disposable income to pay a couple hundred dollars to have dinner and hear Mr. Cosby speak, and then rakes the people in Fat Albert’s community across the coals. Maybe he though he was being clever and funny. But in actuality he was being judgmental, narrow minded, and racially dishonest. Mr. Cosby’s betrayal of the black community runs deep. His blatant bigotry hides under the cover of some claim of concern for the black community. Then again maybe his point was to demonstrate and reinforce the other stereotype that black people have no loyalty to other black people when money is involved.
Mr. Cosby doesn’t hesitate to say that the black poor and the black underclass use incorrect grammar. But he hasn’t said jack about the President and his inability to correctly pronounce the word “nuclear”. Mr. Cosby won’t say a thing about a man who is more than willing to spend a half trillion dollars of the national treasure and four thousand American lives on the quagmire in Iraq but won’t spend a hundred dollars for his own copy of Hooked on Phonics.
Mr. Cosby and his collaborator Dr. Alvin Poussaint blame black parents for the conditions of the black community because black parents don’t guide black children. But the truth of the matter is that if any black people are to blame for the condition of the black community it is black people like Mr. Cosby who do a masterful job of distancing themselves from the black community. Mr. Cosby, and many other black who do financially well, will take their fortune and runaway from the traditional black community into the waiting arms of neighborhoods that are far less dark racially speaking. Black property values plummet while home values in other neighborhoods are enhanced. And the black middle class do less fortunate black people a disservice to focus only on personal accountability and responsibility of black people but are mum to the fact that the lower class black community is often saddled with inferior medical care, inferior legal representation, lack of government services and representation, racial profiling by police, inferior educational services and opportunities, and discriminatory employment practices.
And when black people like Mr. Cosby turn their back on the black community they get medals of Honor from Presidents that are apt to ignore an entire city of black people drowning and suffering in the aftermath of a hurricane. So yuk it up Mr. Cosby, you’ve done very well. The white mindset community will hold you up as the role model for all black people. Following your example all black people have to do is convince other black people that they have no one to blame for the subjugation for themselves and they too can be rewarded for keeping the status quo. But Mr. Cosby, it saddens me to say that I hope you choke on that medal around your neck. I used to look up to you. We had a connection. Now your connection is with people who wouldn’t even care to know Fat Albert or any other of the Cosby Kids characters you created. People who just so happen to be just like you.
Many people believe that the relationship between the black community and the white community can change with little more than people in the black community coming together as a collective and just saying no after centuries of subjugation. Once black people say no then we can take control of our own destiny with little interference from our white counterparts. While the sentiment may sound hopeful and even common sense, it is naïve and under appreciates the damage done to the black community at the very beginning of our relationship together.
When the captured Africans made their debut at the plantation I seriously doubt if these black people simply said okay to their subjugation. Many resisted and some were severely beaten down in order to gain their submission. The biggest and baddest African who put up a challenge was tortured in high profile fashion in order to make him or her an example to the other enslaved people. Once other black people saw the person with the most fire have their flame extinguished through the harsh treatment, they would submit with little fuss. Once the first submission is made, subsequent submissions become easier to make.
With each submission the people in the black community made to white community another brick was laid on the wall between the dominant class and the submissive class. In fact, it is not difficult to imagine that in order to keep the wrath of the white enslavers at bay the black community on the plantation would actually become proactive in trying to keep each other in the subservient role. Black people who became the extension of white people’s will were more likely to be promoted as a leader of the black community. In essence, from the beginning the dominant white culture has had an active hand in developing the perception of what is an acceptable African American.
This behavior continues in modern day America. Black people who operate outside of the dominant culture’s definition of what is acceptable black behavior are not welcome. Black people who wear their ethnicity proudly and do not conform to an existence that requires their ethnicity to be watered down to acceptable levels are kept at arms length from the main culture by most people. For example, black people who wear their hair without having it straightened or cut to minimal lengths are unacceptable in most people’s work environment. Our natural appearance is unprofessional. Black people who embrace an African based religion instead of the more orthodox belief systems are more likely to be shunned and minimized. The superstitions of Christianity or Judaism are much more palatable than some African based superstitions that are nothing but superstitions.
Every black person who tries to define their self as they see fit will be vilified in the public. Barry Bonds is facing perjury charges for not admitting to using performance enhancers even though he never failed a drug test. Michael Vick is in prison for dog fighting while people who murder black kids in boot camps go free. Even the issue with the Jena Six was a case where the white district attorney wanted to make black teenagers pay for their insolence against the white community. And the latest example of a black man having the audacity to stand before white people with a resilient spirit is John White who was convicted for trying to protect his family from an angry drunk mob of white youths.
We see these cases and many others just like them on a regular basis. Black people who refuse to succumb to the dominant culture’s wishes are regularly made examples for their impertinence. Behavior that barely registers from white people can be stretched out of proportions to become federal cases with black people.
However black people who submit and toe the line do well and prosper. Black people like Bill Cosby who make comments saying that the black community isn’t doing its fair share to end this reality of subjugation are the types of black people who are promoted and rewarded for their obedience. Black media moguls like Oprah Winfrey and Earl Graves who use their empire to promote black people conforming to the dominant culture are hailed as role models of the African American community. It isn’t hard to see the parallel of today’s system of reward and punishment with the plantation’s version.
So black people can stand up for themselves and engage their spirit of resilience when it comes to dealing with the white community. But black people who fail to conform need to prepare themselves for the worst. The dominant white culture still controls the vast majority of the wealth, the courts, the government, the media, and almost anything and everything else. The spirited black person might face unemployment and be unable to provide for the family. Or, if the black person is financially secure, they might find themselves on the wrong side of the law for behavior that barely draws a nod in when it is a white person facing the circumstances.
In order to avoid trouble it is so much easier to simply conform. The black community could resist as a unit. But then all the dominant culture has to do is make an example of one of us and many of us will fall right back in line. Once some fall into submission it is easier for others to conform and submit. After the first submission the subsequent submissions become easier. Next thing you know you will have a whole community being subjugated. And there are way too many black people standing ready to reap the rewards of being obedient and never casting an ill word the white community’s way. There will always be a black person ready to step to the front and say that other black people need to stop their wayward behavior and just submit.
Just saying no to subjugation sounds good. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Bill Cosby has just released a new book. I know this not just because I watched Mr. Cosby and his long time collaborator Alvin Poussaint talk about their new book on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, I know this not just because I watched Misters Cosby and Poussaint on Larry King Live promoting their new book and trying to explain some of the social ills that prompted its authorship. I know that Come On People is one of the latest new books for sale on Amazon.com because Christina Stewart’s letter to a couple of people named Chris and Shaver appeared on my list of comments awaiting approval earlier this week. I have no earthly idea who Ms. Stewart is. But her letter says this book “combines messages of personal responsibility with practical solutions.” She goes on to say “Come On People is for all those who are tired of being used, neglected and undefended folks who wish to see changes in their governments, their neighborhoods, on their streets and within the walls of their living spaces.”
It would’ve been nice if Ms. Stewart or whoever left her message on my blog’s electronic doorstep would have made a relevant comment about my blog. But it seems she or whoever was in a bit of a rush to promote Come On People. The comment came with three links to some excerpts from the book as a sample of the prolific and profound writing that would inspire changes in governments, neighborhoods, streets, and inside the living spaces. I took a bite and read what was made available. To see the excerpts for yourself click the following links: Excerpt 1, Excerpt 2, and Excerpt 3.
If these excerpts are indication the writing for this book is very simplistic and unimaginative. The book could’ve been titled How To Raise Black Kids for Black Dummies. This book makes such propositions as black parents need to serve good food to their children. Black parents need to engage their children in conversation. Black parents need to reward the good behavior of their children. Black parents need to make sure that the children’s punishment fits the crime. If the samples are any indication black parents are demonized, criticized, slandered, and vilified in this book. What evidence do the authors offer to support the supposition that black parents are not talking to their children or that black parents aren’t doing their best to provide good food? And for the black parents that aren’t feeding and raising their children properly how exactly does this book provide the tools necessary for these parents to learn these habits?
Bill Cosby is somewhat hypocritical in his implications and insinuations. Mr. Cosby has made a fortune pushing some of the white corporate icons that now permeate the black community. For years Mr. Cosby has told us to have a Coke and a smile. For years Mr. Cosby has pushed Jell-O pudding pops down our children’s throats. I know I spent a number of Saturdays sitting in front of the television watching Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and I know for a fact that not all the characters on the program spoke the standard English dialect that his new book now emphasizes. Not only did Mr. Cosby help market the sugar laden and/or chemically enhanced brew of Coca Cola. Mr. Cosby became one of the major owners of the Coca Cola Bottling Company of New York back in 1993. He’s not just the spokesperson, he’s the owner.
There’s little doubt that Mr. Cosby made, and is making, a ton of money with his endorsements and business investments. And now that he has his, Mr. Cosby, along with his partner Mr. Poussaint, want to reverse his position on nutrition with an excerpt telling the black community to make better choices for their children’s sake. The book itself is allegedly targeting the lower class of black people. Yet, Come On People isn’t likely to become part of the library of the lower class household with its nearly twenty dollar retail price tag. More likely than not this book is intended reading for the type of people who believe that people in the black community already have more than what they need to pull themselves out of their predicament by their own means.
Come On People offers an overly simplistic solution to the black community’s problem. The message that black parents simply need to do better fails to address the societal forces that have been created and that have evolved to make conditions in the black community what they are today. Black unemployment and black low employment are real factors that cannot be dismissed with a black parent asking their child how was their day. Black people who have worked hard to obtain their degrees in their chosen field of study have to settle for unskilled jobs because the opportunity to put their knowledge to work simply doesn’t come their way. For black people who do manage to improve their economic conditions, abandoning the traditional black community is standard operating procedure. Too many of our black celebrities and wildly successfully business people leave the traditionally black community for more ethically diverse pastures. Black people like Tiger Woods and Venus and Serena Williams got plenty of attention from their parents. But now that they have theirs these black celebrities are so removed from their racial peers that they are now racial eunuchs. Why would this happen if these black people’s parents did everything by the book.
It would be nice if all black parents had to do is feed their children better, talk to their children better, and do other basic things better. But the reality is that the black community’s problems are much more complex. If anything, Come On People could help some black people improve their relationship with their children. But this book will fall extremely short in any other measure of the black community. The overwhelming and overriding message in this book is that black parents need to focus on their relationship with their children. I think a black parent can always do more to improve their relationship with their child. However, that is nowhere close to being the end all and be all to correcting the social issues that effect the black community. As far as offering practical solutions to those of us who are tired of being used, neglected and undefended who wish to see changes in our governments and neighborhoods, this book isn’t even close to addressing any of the real socially charged racial issues.