Bill Cosby and His Now Famous Comments

While I am not entirely confused about Bill Cosby’s remarks to the public about the crisis in the African-American community, I continued to be amazed at other’s take on exactly why he felt the need to say what he said. Ellis Cose has written an interesting article on the topic for Newsweek magazine, and I’ve taken a few notes on what points in the article were of importance to me.

Some of the points brought up include:

* The fact that racial identities are blurred when the African-American culture is being accepted and received by more people than ever before.
* The irony in that, in spite of this, ignorant perceptions of what it means to be an African-American still prevail.
* Prejudiced, uninformed ideas of what it means to be an African-American have not changed much since Cosby’s generation.
* Young blacks, particularly those in poverty, are even more disenfranchised and even further from their realization of the American dream than they were in the 70’s when black college attendance was at all time highs.

Cosby has expanded his message, which, back in May seemed as simple as his indifference towards modern day “Ebonics”, and the fact that even today kids can graduate high school without being able to write and read well. He is still criticized for not being more “thoughtful” and not looking at the whole picture. Cosby’s critics have interesting viewpoints:

* Cosby should consider “systematic solutions” which take more into accountability than the behavior and action of America’s poor alone, but encapsulates other social services and methodologies. At the same time, governmental, church and social intervention alone have not been enough to offset the problems that have consumed America since the 60’s.* To what extent do today’s adolescents really connect with Cosby, who was hip back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s but whose success and career seem indifferent to today’s societal norms.
* Today’s “reality” climate allows nobodies to become successful, without education, with their charisma and the audiences acceptance of who they are, or are not. Today’s single mother is raising kids who will never, or cannot, see their fathers.
* Single mothers pride themselves on having raised their kids alone, but the older kids become, the less influence these mother’s have over their children’s behavior. Particularly young boys, who see their mother as a merry-go-round or carousel of sexual and interpersonal relationships, what message does this send about how they conduct themselves with females, and if they’re not respectful of other women, how can those women empower them or encourage them to do anything with themselves. How many men do you know that only got their act together because of the love and support of the women in their lives? Particularly when men do not have that support system.

No one questions the validity and importance of what Cosby is preaching. Yet more than a few, particularly America’s African-American youth, questions his motives. At the end of the day, Cosby’s motives aren’t really the issue. Hate Cosby if you will, but love his values. Yet Cosby alone is not enough to convince young kids to change and to empower America’s poor to transcend and leave poverty behind. The mentality of the poor continues to exist, even amongst rich blacks. Blacks have a lot at stake at promoting consumerism and materialism, particularly when the clothing labels, cars, alcohol and products they’re hawking are the ones with their labels or names on them, licensed for use and production by them. If blacks have learned anything, it is how to make and earn money through buzz, merchandising and self-promotion; even if it is at the costs of asking some youth to fork his whole pay check over. The drug culture continues to provide a way for these kids to acquire these goals, and if you are fortunate to get away from that, you can talk about your experiences and make even more money as a rapper.

How do you convince young men to turn away from the game when you have singers who grew up in the church telling them that they’re not “checking for them” if they’re not a “soldier”, etc. Not to mention the fact that idea of being a gangster has been elevated and idolized with metaphors that are typically associated with the military. The truth is that these people aren’t working on behalf of anyone other than themselves, not even each other. They’re not protecting anyone and there is no logical reason to put them on a pedestal, regardless of how that turns you on or what you think they’ll do for you in the bedroom. Yet such contradictions are the key behind the twisted nature of how many said kids think, despite the fact that the people they look up to are old enough to know that the topical nature of what they talk about isn’t anything to be taken lightly. Again, how do you tell someone that some kid who narrowly escaped the streets, just to tell you a little bit about it, or to creatively paint a cartoonish caricature of it knows a fraction of what some person in prison serving a life sentence actually knows?

I still like Bill Cosby, at first I thought he was trying to garner some more attention towards himself and shot into the night but now I can see some of his commitment and dedication towards the matter, lip-service or not. But if where this starts doesn’t end us up anywhere different than where we’ve been at, then he’s succeeded in nothing more than continuing some of the same conversations that have occurred on various street corners, and in high-places of academia, than when these problems began.

To read Ellis Cose’s article, search “Does Cosby Help” on www.msnbc.com.

See the Dec. 27 / Jan. 3 issue of Newsweek for the original article.

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