The Bill Cosby Controversy
July 5, 2005 Commentary Archives
Author Eric Dyson ask the question Is Cosby right: Or has the Black Middle Class Lost it's Mind? He then goes on to deliver a blistering personal criticism of Bill Cosby.
Referring to Cosby's now famous speech before the NAACP in 2004. In this speech Cosby accused Blacks of squandering the sacrifices of those that came before us.
Cosby chastised Black parents for not parenting, youth body piercing, and they poor use of the English language. Eric Dyson in his criticism of Bill Cosby even go as far as to criticize Cosby's personal relationship with his daughter, in a biting review of Cosby personal history. Dyson also criticizes the Black middle class on what he refers to as the growing rift between the elite 'Afristocracy' and the struggling 'Gettocracy.':
It is time for the Black middle class to abandon the politics of shame and instead embrace the gospel of collective responsibility put forth by visionary leaders such as Marcus Gravy, Martin Luther King. Jr., and W.E.B DuBois.
Dyson chastise Cosby for his demure on Black issues in the past only to now wrap himself in the cloth of their salvation, Dyson accuses Cosby of straying away from the messages of Black leaders like Jesse Jackson.
It is interesting to note that back in the days of Jesse Jackson's presidential aspirations. When cornered by the press before the New York Primary on comments made by Lois Farrakhan of the nation of Islam, which disparaged Jews. Jackson made the point that the message was important not the messenger.
In the first chapter and through out this book Dyson while paying lip-service to the message, berated the messenger, through a back-then-and-now attack on Bill Cosby's personal and professional life. In his eloquence, he then proceeded to dredge up much of the old defeatist rhetoric of victimization. And demonstrated his well-heeled reputation as orator for the Hip-Hop generation.
I suspect that the crux of Michael Dyson's consternation. Is that these stirring remarks made by Cosby in a public forum gives aid and comfort to, as he puts it, "the prophets of Black ethical erosion..."
If what Cosby says is true, then critics who have said the same, but who courted charges of racism, are vindicated [here Dyson resonates with a strong prevailing sentiment] ...Cosby's over emphasis on personal responsibility, not structural features, wrongly locate the source of poor Black suffering -- and by implication, its remedies -- in the lives of the poor.
When you think the problems are personal, you think the solutions are the same. If only the poor were willing to work harder, act better, get educated, stay out of jail and parent more effectively, their problems will go away...but one can do all these things and still be in bad shape at home work and school.
Eloquent diatribes like this pervades this book. But the above string of words ignores the crucial points Cosby made about personal responsibility, parenting, absentee fathers and unwed mothers.
The math is quite simple. When a poor uneducated mother has two or three children the resources available to them diminishes with the addition of each child. Her family has now become an albatross around her neck. The opportunities for her personal improvement goes down with it.
Add to this looming misery, an absentee father, and there is a break down in the kind of environment needed to create the necessary support structure. As they will need this to help prepare them to improve their lot. Or as, the sentiment of every parent goes: "To help them have a better life than what I had."
And so while the above maybe true Dyson fails to recognize that this is where the [failing] starts. And as a result of his dismissive, self-serving approach. This book really makes no serious attempt to address Bill Cosby's concerns. Save criticize them.
Who dey ta'kin' 'bout?
The question has to be asked. Who are these Blacks that are creating such vitriol, between Bill Cosby and Eric Dyson? In this book Dyson points out the fact that Black "people are not homogenous." But absent from the discussion is the obvious reality that Blacks in the U.S are represented by three major cultures: African-Americans, Africans, and West Indians. No place in this book is this reality addressed. It therefore begs the question: Who dey ta'kin' 'bout?
In my opinion Cosby, as well as, Dyson failed to address this fact. If the focus of their contention is the African-American Black, and without them saying so, all indications are that it is. But for the uninitiated (those looking in) this broad sweeping discussion on [Blacks] belittles the hard working African-American and disrespects African and West Indian immigrants who tend to be conservative in the rearing of their children. This is not to say, that they're without fault.
While I whole heartedly endorses Dyson's call for the "Afristocracy" to "embrace the gospel of collective responsibility." I find that for the most part this book is just another endorsement of the same old tired rhetoric of blaming others -- of which Eric Dyson is a master -- while avoiding a discussion of looking within, of personal responsibility.
If we're not prepared to receive opportunity, does it come knocking. How do we
recognize it? We have to realize, and our children has to be taught that
racism is not going away -- not any time soon --. Michael Eric