Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Come on, Bill!!!-- An Open Letter to Bill Cosby

“If nothing else, Cosby’s ventures into the realm of social criticism prove the non-transferability of is probably best that [Cosby] explore his gifts for comedy and leave the social analysis and race leadership to those better suited to the task.”
--Michael Eric Dyson, author of Is Bill Cosby Right?

Dear Bill:

Hearing you preach to the black poor makes me want to do some preaching of my own-- to you.

1. I love you, Bill, but I'm sick of your file-mouthed, despicable talking points which could have very well come out of the mouths of white racists going back at least as far as American eugenicists and Hitler in the 1930's.

2. Understand, Bill: Cultural analyses (even if valid on occasions) without so much as a nod to their more important structural underpinnings are incomplete at best, and at worse, egregious, especially where race is concerned, because they do little more than blame victims and enable racists.

3. Face facts, Bill: You are a learned African American but an old man who steadfastly refuses to indict white America, even the sorry Bush Administration, for enriching multi-national corporations at working people's expense (corporate welfare). In your haste to bash the black poor by measuring all black women by sisters in projects and all black boys by gangbangers, you fail to demand that the US government repair structural deficiences in welfare policies to help families stay together, provide greater funding so poor and working people can go to college, pass universal health care so people will be able to look for work and go to work, develop tougher penalties for businesses that discriminate against qualified applicants, regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

4. And do some reading of your own, Bill. Check out New York city's 2004 study which showed that the reason for high levels of black unemployment in that city was not because blacks didn't want to work but because much of manufacturing jobs had left the city and because white businesses refused to hire blacks, especially black men. Hence 49% black unemployment in New York City. You think white businesses in other metropolitan cities aren’t doing the same thing, Bill?

5. Get your head out of the clouds and come into the 21st century. Understand that this is not the economy of the 50's but a global economy where US corporations are investing overseas where labor costs are low and unions don't exist. Read up on General Motors; and you’ll see they’re closing U.S. plants, abandoning American workers and going to China.

Don't you get it, Bill: multi-national corporations not only don't want to hire black males, they don't want to hire white males either. They want to hire workers in China, India, Pakistan and Mexico to work in plant platforms that they've already built, to make the products so they can ship them to the US to outlets like Wal-Mart and Target to sell to the same people that they refuse to hire, or whose job they've shipped overseas.

In between your favorite comedy routine of bashing black women and children on white tv programs like Meet the Press, please say something about changing tax laws and agreements like NAFTA that's causing all types of Americans to lose jobs.

But your refusal to look at today’s economy is not your worse mistake. You’re worse mistake is preaching to the black poor in harsh language, shaming them as much as possible. Throughout your book, you use words like stupid, ignorant, shameless, "these people" and pathetic. Know what’s pathetic, Bill? Attempting to educate by shaming. Your contempt for the black poor is transparent.

Now how does that make you feel...? Good! Remember that the next time you try to preach to black folk.

For other perspectives, see James Davidson. Also Lawrence Hill.


Anonymous said...

Let S Williams have his "balanced" view. Interesting... but you hit the nail on the head with your remarks MacDaddy. Bill Cosby has his own HUGE shame and it comes out sideways when he demeans "these people".
He needs to look in his own mirror.

Anonymous said...

daddy, I grew up on his tv show. Now he talks like he's angry at all black people.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

old age is bad for your health some times

and i miss the i spy bill cosby

Anonymous said...

I loved I spy with Culp! --what a team and it was such an early on "color-blind" series. Wish they would run on Nick or somewhere

MacDaddy said...

torrence, anon: I loved the I Spy series as well. I liked the fact that these two dudes traveled to these exotic, foreign places and kicked ass...I thought Culp was a cool white dude; and I was really proud of Bill Cosby... To be fair, Cosby has donated to a lot of charities and black institutions. For example, he gave Tuskegee Institute 180 million dollars, enabling it to keep its doors open. But because he gives money to black institutions doesn't make him an expert on black people or give him license to insult his own people without being called on it. Something happened to him.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

I read Cosby's book and to me I see a lot of things in this critic's words that are simply not true.
Cosby does "give a nod" and a very big nod to the institutions and the institutional racism that oppress black people. He also talks a lot about materialism and how corporate America is responsible for that materialism.
I do a thing over at my place called "The Hillbilly Review Board (ripped from Field Negro)." Every time I do it I have missgivings because I remind myself of Bill Cosby when I preach to the poor hillbillies. But fuck, are the corporations going to lift my people out of the hills and hollers of oppression? Are the democrats or republicans going to do it?
Nope. They are going to have to do it themselves when all is said and done and they need someone to tell them how to do it. I'm going to make a lot of mistakes and missteps when I try and rally the hillbilly troops. Even someone as smart and educated as Bill Cosby is also going to make a lot of mistakes and misstatements when HE tries to do the same. But at least he's trying to offer something. I found most of what he said to be very sound advice for anyone trying to make it in the world. We all have to stop acting like victims even when we are victims.
Please, someone be more specific in their criticism of Cosby. All I've ever heard is sound bites and generalizations.
Oh, and if you want to call me an ignorant white hillbilly that doesn't know his ass from his elbow, go ahead. You won't be the first and I won't disagree too much with you.
There, I laid my thinking out there for ya, now educate me Daddy!

MacDaddy said...

Hey, sagacious: Good to see you so passionate. You say you read the book. I read it too. Three things: 1. my criticism is not just about the content of the book. I'm also talking about Bill Cosby the speaker, the Bill Cosby on radio and tv, Bill Cosby the so-called educator.
2. You say give you a specific criticism. I gave one in the post: Attempting to educate someone by making them feel ashamed. Bill Cosby speaks about a woman who lives in the projects with seven children by seven different men. Obviously, that's not the general situation wit poor black women, including black women in projects. Bill is using an outlandish example for effect. It's destructive because it plays into the notion that black women are nothing but whores pumping children out of projects like water out of faucet. I was a manager in public housing (The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority}. My job was working with residents; and I can tell you that's nothing but bullshit).

I've seen Cosby speak three times. He was negative about blacks, especially black women and young males. When I saw on on tv pushing his book with co-author Alvin Poussaint, it was Bill Cosby making outlandish statements about black women or black youth; And it was Poussaint who provided a reasoned analysis that spoke to the need for structural changes in the system as well as greater personable responsibility. So you can bet that, to the extent that the book talks about a need change institutional policiess, it was Poussaint doing it. And when it was badmouthing the black poor, it was Cosby.

2. I didn't suggest that corporations are going to free us. I'm saying we have to free us. That means we have to fight to organize stronger unions, to put pressure on politicians pass universal healthcare, to change agreements like NAFTA that make it easy for corporations to abandon us and take our jobs out of the country (They should have to pay a penalty to take our jobs away; and they should pay a penalty to have their product from Mexico, Pakistan or China come into this country}. We have to force the government to put more funding in solar power and green energy, which will produce new jobs in the U.S. We have to do force the government to change agreements that will make it more difficult for multi-nationals to pull up shop and leave, taking our jobs with them. They should pay a penalty for leaving and a penalty or tax bringing their goods back into this country. That's not the corporations saving us, but us standing up for our jobs and our communities.

We have to demand that city, state and federal government do something about the proliferation of handguns in our communities. People should have to get a permit to own a gun. Anyone caught buying or selling guns on the streets should be thrown under the fucking jail. And politicians who take money from the NRA should be called on the carpet. That's the kind of thing that we must do.
sagacious: We can't address personal responsibility without addressing the structural issues that keep people in poverty: Jobs, education, transportation, violence. For Cosby to go all over the country badmouthing the black poor and not addressing these things is inexcusable.

sagacious, there are bad things going in our communities. But most of the people are trying hard to survive. Some are excelling. Being disconnected from these communities, he only sees the bad. What we need to do is listen to folks to talk about how to get out of poverty by reforming governmental policies and by taking more personal responsibility. And they need to focus on keeping violence down so people will feel safe enough to go to their jobs, the school or the library. If the Cosbys can't help the black community fight for these things, they are of no use to us.

Anonymous said...

If black folks would stop being so "sensitive" every time the likes of a Bill Cosby speaks the truth, we would come up from our devastating plight as a people.


SagaciousHillbilly said...

Thanks for the thorough reply Mac. I was not aware that Cosby has the legacy you described.
Absolutely true that the problem can't be totally solved without fixing the institutions that promote it. My son lives that philosophy in his line of work.
I also think of the work you have done and it seem to me it was all about helping individuals overcome what kept them down.
I've always believed that we have to help people get out of the victim syndrome no matter how victimized they have been. It's ok to be angry and it's ok to have all the emotions that go with it, but in the end, you really do have to take charge of your own life and kick your way out of the shit pile. EVERYONE I've seen who has made it has had to do it in that manner at one point or another. Yea, it takes lucky breaks and a leg up, but if you're busting your ass, you're going to get a break and a leg up now and then. . . I think.
This will require my brain to take some time and think. . . I'm kinda slow with complex issues.

MacDaddy said...

sagacious: I don't know if there is a truth about this, but I do feel good that we can talk. And though it saddens me to speak negatively about Bill Cosby, I feel I must. I grew up poor, I've worked with the poor, including with gangs; and I know from experience that most are good people, have a lot of pride and are just trying to survive. Further, I think progressives have a responsibility to call out Bill Cosby, or anybody else, who paint the poor with a broad brush, putting most of them-- who are good people-- in the same category with criminals and psychopaths. Thanks for the conversation.

lennie: Welcome. Your first time at my blog? I agree we should be able to discuss things rationally. But I also believe we need passion, even some serious anger, especially about how our country has been taken over by the real thugs, the right-wing of the Republican party led by VP Dick Cheney. But, hopefully, we won't let our passion for change turn off and drive farther away the very people we're trying to help. This means we have to be able to listen and hear other people's autobiography and see how we can support them, and not just preach to them based on our own.

Come again, Lenny. Blessings.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Mac, Right you are. Even the criminals, and I've known a lot of them are sometimes good people just trying to get by. I've known very few people who reached out for help who were not good people simply trying to be well.

To any degree do you agree with me that people must not fall into the pit of victimhood?
What about the idea that we have to take control of our own lives and fight against the oppression to make it in the world?
Also, can this be done by empowering individuals, no matter how disenfranchised?

MacDaddy said...

sagacious: Regarding victimhood, I agree wholeheartedly, as a Violence Prevention Consultant, this is the main point I make to people who have been victimized by violence-- that, as long as they think of themselves as victims, they'll be victimized over and over again. But when you think of themselves as survivors, as thrivers, as winners, they want let anyone to trespass the doorstep of their self-respect and integrity. Yes, people have to take control of their own lives; and real change doesn't happen until they decide to do so. But there are ways to help people get there.

The other thing is that we need to help people change internally so they can work not only to improve their personal lives but to join with others and work effectively to change their neighborhoods or community. So we have to do both-- help people change individually as we work to change institutions that helped get them in the mess they're in in the first place. But you probably knew this already.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Well yea, I sorta knew that Mac, but as usual you defined it more clear than I could have.
1. Help the individual with internal issues. . . self perceptions/esteem, ego, etc.
2. Help the individual with the externals of their lives. . . getting a job, saving, working their way up, how to do all that. . .

So I'm reading Cosby's book . . . just the book and not being aware of his other comments. . . thinking, man, this is a whole lot of practical advice for doing both those things. said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

Hey there MacDaddy!

Thank you for this post!

I have been a defender of Bill Cosby's call to action because I did not view his message as a "condescending" or "shaming" one.

I was not irate about the comments that were reported about the actions of some irresponsible black people (including some black mothers). Bill Cosby grew up in an environment that I did not grow up in... he was in an all-black, impoverished environment...people who CLAIM he can't relate to the
plight" of the black poor must have forgotten...

Bill did not grow up like I the lily white suburbs with two degreed parents and hired domestic help in the house and spinning the globe on the table to tell Daddy where we wanted him to take us on our next vacation...

Bill saw FIRST HAND what was keeping black fathers in his environment from advancing in society. Bill saw black people struggling. Bill has been a celebrity for more than 50 years but he was reared with a great deal of economic disadvantage.

Bill has also given a lot of his own money to educational causes when black people feel he should be giving it to grassroots organizations in the ghetto. Okay...

The problem, MacDaddy, is that whenenver black people speak about personal responsibility, they will receive the wrath of other see...VERY FEW want to hear that WE can control some of the aspects of the life that we currently have.

Do you think black women applaud me for saying what I say at my blog? Please.... no....they DO NOT. Yes, I understand white patriarchy, and yes, I understand white supremacy...but I also know that who is lying in your bed at night is your OWN decision.

I want us to talk about what we CAN control as individuals...there will ALWAYS be aspects that we do not directly control....

It seems that UNLESS we decide to speak about every single barrier to black folks, then we are NOT supposed to have a dialogue about just CERTAIN issues...or else others are up in arms? I disagree with that.

I can speak on CERTAIN issues without examining every single barrier blacks face...what is wrong with that?

Bill is asking black people to focus on and examine what it is that WE CAN directly control.

I don't see a problem with that.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

MacDaddy said...

Hi, Lisa. Good to hear from you.

Just to be clear: I'm not against-- and I don't think it's shaming-- to talk about personal responsibility. I'm against the way Cosby talks about it and his emphasis, which is the black poor to the exclusion of dire-needed structural changes in policies to end poverty in this country.

First, the notion that black people are irresponsible is by and large a myth and I think its source lies in white racism, that is, white people judging black people by the worst black people in our community: the thugs and psychopaths. Most black people are responsible and believe in personal responsibility like Bill Cosby, you, and me. But to give unsolicited sermons to people who are responsible but who have fallen on hard times under the assumption that they are irresponsible is not just presumtious. It's insulting. Bill Cosby does that.

Second, Bill Cosby talks about personal responsibility to black people like it's a foreign concept when, in fact, black people, including the black poor, hear it all the time. As a minister, you know that black ministers talk about it on Sundays, but the rest of us talk about during the other days of the week. Social workers, counselors, city council persons, mayors, say we must be more responsible. In coffee shops and barbershops, you can hear grey-haired barbers schooling a young homie, saying, "Brotha, you need to your business straight." Thugs need to hear it, but most black people, including the black poor, need more, like a second job, the rest of the rent money, counseling to keep their homes, a bank loan to start a business, or a bus until she gets a paycheck from her new job, or help dealing with welfare department that's threatening to take her off welfare because she's taking night classes at the local college instead of working more hours each week.

Third, Cosby talks about the black poor in such a way as to invite shame. He does this by taking an outlandish example of negative behavior (e.g. black woman in a project with seven children by seven different fathers) and generalizing over the group. President Ronald Reagan dis something similar when he joked about a black woman on welfare riding around in a Cadillac. If you want to drive the poor or kids away from you or your message, make them feel ashamed.

I think we need to deal with poverty in the same way that we deal with domestic violence. I remember when black women on the North side of Minneapolis went to their ministers and complained of physical and emotional abuse by their husbands. No disrespect, Lisa, but most of the ministers told them to pray and try to be a better wife. In other words, just deal with what you can control-- be a good wife.

But some courageous women in Duluth, Minnesota said "This is wrong. We're going to work with abused women to first make them safe, help them to see that they don't have to be abused, and change the policies in Washington D.C. to prosecute these abusers."

While they worked with the women to on a personal level, they also advocated to change policies in Washington D.C. They found a gem of an advocate in a lady named Sheilah Wellstone, wife of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. She worked tirelessly and got passed the Domestic Violence Act, a set of far-reaching laws to protect women from abuse. There are still problems with domestic violence, but it's significantly better than before.

We need to do the same with poverty: Work with the poor to empower them to become self-sufficient and change laws that tend to keep people poor in the first place.

One more thing: People tend to forget that many of these same policies keep other people poor as well. A lot of the poor are white, but I haven't seen any books lamenting crime in trailer homes, the violence of white biker and Aryan nation gangs, the immorality of Brittany Spears and her sister. I go to Barnes & Nobles all the time, and I haven't seen a book entitled, "Come on, White People!"
I don't see white people judging themselves by thugs.

Luv u, Lisa!

Vigilante said...

An extremely interest discussion to follow. Remarkable, also, because all sides are respectful of each other.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Hey Mac, I hear what you're saying. I think we might disagree on some finer points but overall we are in the same camp ground.
Poverty is an institution that the corporate royalists can not afford to destroy. They depend upon it to control the desperate masses.
Which gets right back to my battle cry. . . EDUCATION! Which is another institution that the corporate royalists can not afford to make available to everyone.
Education and The Truth shall make you free.

Perhaps if I knew the things about Cosby that you obvious do, I'd be less inclined to be so benevolent toward his book.
Just as an aside:
Personally, I DO believe that "Come on People" could have easily been written for poor whites living in trailer parks, rural shit holes and urban neighborhoods.
I have always seen so damn much similarity between poor urban blacks and poor rural whites it actually shocked me the first time I recognized it. I had been living in the city working in a shop that was mostly black men and women who I spent all my off hours with (early 70's Equal Opportunity) and then moved out of the city into a backwoods holler of West Virginia. I saw exactly the same people in many ways.
Great discussion. Thanks for the schooling.

Soros' Proxy said...

I have always - it seems like forever - admired Bill Cosby. I cannot bring myself to say a harsh word against him.