Tuesday, July 06, 2004

One more on Cosby A few of you dear readers have asked about a copy of Cosby's speech.  The Washington Post has audio of about 4 minutes of excerpts of his most controversial remarks. There is an interesting critique by William Jelani Cobb, a history professor at Spelman College. Here is an excerpt with Cobb’s sharpest points: “When it all gets down to the get-down, black people are no more immune to believing stereotypes about African Americans than anyone else — and Cosby's podium-pounding was full of the grossest stereotypes of poor black people. Even if you agreed with his hyperbolic claims of $500 sneakers taking precedence over Hooked on Phonics in the hood, even if you signed on to his 21st Century bootstrap prescriptions ("You can't blame white people for this"), it's impossible to ignore the classist, bigoted and reactionary underpinnings of his disdain for giving black children names like Shaniqua or Ali, or his justification of police shooting people in the back of the head for "stealing pound cake." (I have to wonder what Cosby would say to me, a black man with a Ph.D. and no criminal record, who has, nonetheless, had police pull guns on him three times in his life — once by an officer demanding that I walk on the sidewalk and not the street.) In the wake of Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima, in the wake of literally dozens of black people being arrested and imprisoned on false evidence in Tulia, Texas, two years ago, these comments are not only ignorant, but also extremely dangerous. Amid all the national clatter that Cosby's comments have generated, it would be easy to miss the fact that there is nothing particularly new about his indictments — his prescriptions fit into a century-old program of bourgeois behavior modification directed at poor black people from their purportedly better-off kinfolk…Since at least as far back as the days when Du Bois announced his Talented Tenth program, the afrostocracy has felt it necessary to clean up, dust off and lead their less fortunate cousins into the promised land of social acceptance.” So, it all comes down to stereotypes? Not even thinking about what Cosby said and why he said it? Even if Cosby was guilty of a form of racism or using stereotypes, is it possible that he had a few worthy points to consider?
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