Elder Black folk of the world, forgive me, but I can’t help but say publicly that unless Bill Cosby (pictured) is talking about pudding pops or cracking jokes on “Late Show with David Letterman,” I don’t want to hear it anymore. I try to avoid disrespecting my elders, but at this point Cosby, continues to belittle sects of our community without putting things in complete perspective. As much as he’s done in the way of advancing the images of Black people in the media in the past, there’s no excuse for that kind of behavior in the here and now.
Almost a decade ago, the comedy legend unleashed his tirade against poorer Black people, scolding parents as he claimed, ”The lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal. These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids–$500 sneakers for what? And won’t spend $200 for `Hooked on Phonics.’”
I never understood how the creator of “Mushmouth” got away with this kind of commentary, but I digress.
Cosby’s latest criticism comes by way of an op-ed in the The New York Post. There, Cosby continues to sing a paean to personal responsibility — this time claiming that apathy is this generation’s greatest issue. Yes, at a time when Black people are voting more than Whites for the first time in history. Not long after the Occupy Wall Street Movement began. As if there aren’t Black children out protesting school closings in their neighborhoods across the country in 2013.
The system being broken isn’t the issue, our apathy is.
Once again, Cosby is speaking anecdotally and without facts, highlighting the peril of allowing people to lead public policy discussions centered on their emotions and personal experiences versus concrete data to back up their claims.
Like when he speaks about drugs in the Black community:
Now, if a White person does it, sells drugs to Black people, then we’re up in arms, then we’re marching, but when a Black person sells another Black person crack cocaine, heroin, or something that will give us addiction and cause us to not want to support our children and even give our children the same disease, nothing is said, nothing is done. But it has got to be hammered over and over.
So in all of his 75 years of walking the Earth, Bill Cosby’s never come across groups of Black people pissed at other Black people for selling drugs to their own? Not even during the height of the crack epidemic?
There’s also this random claim about the benevolence of some White people:
There were abolitionists who did more than a whole lot of Black people, abolitionist Asians, abolitionists of every color, some Jews, some Catholics, Irish, everybody joining in. They knew that racism and slavery is wrong — but they also knew that apathy is not good.
Uh, okay, but if you’re going to bring up the good some Whites have done for Black people, why not also indulge in topics like gentrification, racism, the school-to-prison pipeline, the foreclosure crisis, among other wrongs?
There’s also this odd quote about the substance abuse issues both Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston suffered:
People knew what Michael Jackson was doing, people knew what Whitney Houston was doing, and then they became addicts.
Michael should have been kept in rehab. Where was the family? Why weren’t they making sure Whitney and Michael got help? Michael, well, why is it that his family stood by and allowed him to have a Dr. Feelgood when they knew Michael had sleep, drug and other problems? Why didn’t Whitney’s family take the crack pipe away from her?
These people had more than enough money to do what was right. Everyone looks to protect their own interest — but not the person, which in Michael’s case, he was a company unto himself.
Funny enough, as Cosby opines about Michael and Whitney’s problems, he’s outlining his own: his failure to see the world outside his own one-sided point of view.
Apathy doesn’t appear out of thin air. Neither does addiction. For every deep-seated issue, there is a root, and until you begin to gnaw away at that, not much will be done in the way of alleviating the problem. This is true for substance abuse, and it’s certainly the case for the myriad of issues currently harming the Black community.
If you think Black people are this bad off because we make bad choices and merely need to suck it up, embrace “personality responsibility” and begin a “revolution at home.” I suggest you take your talents to Burbank, Calif., and land yourself a job with Disney. Clearly, you’ve got one imaginative mind and you ought to be wel- funded for your ability to formulate such vivid fantasies.
Anytime some Black person of a certain stature unleashes a rant of this sort,” it gets a bunch of co-signs for its purported “truth” and “tough talk.” Regardless, it remains a crock. There are a lot of people not holding up their end of the deal. Sure, they’re some lazy, good for nothing Negroes who are the source of their own struggle. That’s never been the majority, though, and we needn’t pretend otherwise.
If we’re going to talk about what’s hurting our people, let’s talk about economic inequality expanding at a rapid wait. Let’s get on cities like Philadelphia shutting down schools amid cries of budget problems yet they’re starting construction on a $400-million prison. We can also chat about half of the jobs created in the last three years being low-paying ones.
Then maybe we can discuss how the first Black president can bash Black people at HBCU graduations, but when called upon addressing the plight of Black people hides under the notion that he’s the president for all, not just us.
This blame game has been one-sided for far too long. If you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, it’s about time we start looking away.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick