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publicized critiques by TV legend, Bill Cosby, has granted the US
media, and Black Americans, their latest cause for controversy.
Speaking at an NAACP commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the
landmark *Brown V. Board of Education* decision, Cosby spoke out
against the failure of poor blacks to do better:
People marched and were hit in the face with rocks to get an education,
and now we've got these knuckleheads walking around.... The lower-
economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These
people are not parenting. They are buying things for their kids
$500 sneakers, for what? And won't spend $200 for Hooked on Phonics
.... I can't even talk the way these people talk: "Why you
ain't, Where you is" ... And I blamed the kid until I heard
the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk.
it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can't
be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth. [*JET*,
6/14/04, p. 7]
Cosby also spoke about the dangers of Black-on-Black violence, and
of the failure of some Black parents to challenge their kids to
stay in school.
have been amplified and echoed by much of the nation's white media,
although when asked about his comments, he told listeners to the
PBS broadcast Tavis Smiley show, "You all are late. I said
this at Howard University six years ago. I've said it in the company
of audiences African- American audiences." [*JET*, 6/14/04,
his comments have ignited various responses; controversies have
a way of doing that. Some whites have rushed to embrace his comments
(oddly enough, few of these folks seemed to agree with the remarks
made by his wife, Camille Cosby, several years ago, when she blamed
pervasive white supremacy after their son was murdered). Some Blacks
have been critical of Cosby, and this writer has even heard several
critiques ventured by Black folks here in prison.
contributions to TV, and especially to these younger folks who color
the screens today, is vast.
His work, now
over a generation old, continues to shimmer with brilliance, beauty,
humor and hope. Many of the most recognizable actors on stage, screen
and TV began their careers on his shows.
Cosbys have been record-breaking in their generosity to historically
Black colleges, like Spellman in Atlanta. That is all to say, 'the
Coz' has paid 'the cost to be the boss' (to quote the great R &
B soulman, James Brown).
origins in the ghettoes of North Philly, also gives him a knowing
perspective from which to view the poor. He doesn't speak as a tourist,
but as a participant; about people from which he came, and I am
convinced, whom he loves. If his art radiates anything, it is his
love for Blacks.
critique comes, not from where he was, but from where he *is*. It
comes from his present class position of privilege and means; or
learning and wealth. It comes from a world that is increasingly
foreign to generations of Black youth who see one world on TV, and
who must navigate a brutally cruel world on the other side of their
project door. And while the world that gleams back from the box
may indeed be attractive, for too many folks, it doesn't seem 'real'.
For them, what is authentic too often is the pathological, the cold,
implicitly promise, a 'deal', that if one works hard, gains a good
education, and speaks standard English (as opposed to Ebonics),
a good living is in the offing. The tragedy is that that promise,
that 'deal' isn't real in the new American apartheid economy, where
jobs are increasingly outsourced to India, where another kind of
post-colonial English is spoken, and where America descends into
a service, not a manufacturing, economy. Too many corporate minds
in America would rather ship jobs abroad, rather than train Black
Americans for jobs at decent living wages here.
The world, and
the Black world, has changed since the 1940s, and '50s, when ghettoes
were less harsh environments. Those places have descended into hells
of benign neglect, where Black *lumpenization* has become the norm,
and dreams die hard.
2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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© copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.