Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cosby's cause

"These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake. Then we all run out and are outraged: 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand? . . .
"Ladies and gentlemen, listen to these people. They are showing you what’s wrong. . . . What part of Africa did this come from? We are not Africans. Those people are not Africans. They don’t know a damned thing about Africa — with names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed, and all that crap, and all of them are in jail."
--Bill Cosby, 2004

The so-called "poundcake speech" is recounted in a profile of Cosby in the May issue of The Atlantic Monthly. The writer, Ta-Nehesi Coates, begins the article thus:
Last summer, in Detroit’s St. Paul Church of God in Christ, I watched Bill Cosby summon his inner Malcolm X. . . .
Cosby had come to Detroit aiming to grab the city's black men by their collars and shake them out of the torpor that has left so many of them -- like so many of their peers across the country -- undereducated, over-incarcerated, and underrepresented in the ranks of active fathers. . . .
"Men, if you want to win, we can win," Cosby said. "We are not a pitiful race of people. We are a bright race, who can move with the best. But we are in a new time, where people are behaving in abnormal ways and calling it normal … When they used to come into our neighborhoods, we put the kids in the basement, grabbed a rifle, and said, 'By any means necessary.'
"I don't want to talk about hatred of these people," he continued. "I'm talking about a time when we protected our women and protected our children. Now I got people in wheelchairs, paralyzed. A little girl in Camden, jumping rope, shot through the mouth. Grandmother saw it out the window. And people are waiting around for Jesus to come, when Jesus is already within you." . . .
He was preaching from the book of black self-reliance, a gospel that he has spent the past four years carrying across the country in a series of events that he bills as "call-outs."
"My problem," Cosby told the audience, "is I'm tired of losing to white people. When I say I don't care about white people, I mean let them say what they want to say. What can they say to me that’s worse than what their grandfather said?"

Some people, I suppose, will read Cosby's words and suppose that his message has degenerated into outright black racism. I disagree.

Understand to whom Cosby was addressing these remarks, and what his purpose was. He was talking to young black men in Detroit, one of the most economically devastated inner cities in America. Many of these young men have already absorbed a large amount of Afrocentrism or some other variety of crackpot black racialist nonsense -- if from no other source, then from rap music.

Cosby wisely understands that, in order to connect with his audience -- in order to get his ideas into their heads in a way they'll take seriously -- he must play upon their racial sensibilities. He wishes to point them toward an achievement-based sense of ethnic dignity, and to point out how sloth, selfishness and criminality are contrary to that goal.

Yet Cosby cannot ignore the fact that many young black men have grown up listening to people tell them to blame all their problems on the white man. Cos at least has to give that idea a head-fake, before turning it around to get his young listeners to consider how their own bad attitudes and their own bad behaviors are a much more immediate problem for the black community than white malice or malfeasance.

Therefore, no, I am not in the least bothered or offended by Cosby summoning "his inner Malcolm X." As a matter of fact, years ago I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X and found that the late Nation of Islam leader had many true and useful ideas.

Malcolm X rightly excoriated the hypocrisy of white liberalism, which renders black people as objects of pity or charity, so that the liberal's conduct toward the black man is less about true fairness and justice, and more about the white liberal proving to himself what a morally superior being he is. This is the essential truth about liberalism that Thomas Sowell examines so brilliantly in his book The Vision of the Anointed, the subtitle of which pretty much says it all: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy.

Conservative views are sometimes honestly misunderstood -- and have often been deliberately misconstrued by liberals -- as "racism," a word that has been overused to the point that it has lost any meaningful definition. The charge of "racism" involves the attempt to smuggle into the debate certain unexamined premises, i.e.:
  • I know what you're thinking. The person who makes the accusation of racism is claiming to be a mind-reader, knowing the accuser's thoughts and intentions. It's a sort of psychiatric diagnosis.
  • Moral superiority. By hurling the charge of racism, the accuser not only declares that he is innocent of any such sin, but that he is so pure-hearted, insightful and beneficent as to feel it his duty to go around detecting and uprooting racism in others.
  • Goodwill is more important than good actions. Liberals generally reject the sound Christian doctrine of salvation by faith alone, yet their attitude about race often resembles a sort of secular twist on Calvinism. What is important to the liberal is to avow the correct beliefs about race, never mind what (if anything) they actually do about those beliefs -- and also never mind whether those beliefs are factual, or whether putting those beliefs into action would do any good for anyone.
In 1997, Bill Clinton announced that a "national dialogue" about race would be a major initiative of his second term. No such dialogue ever happened, because Clinton entrusted the initiative to political correctoids who instead conducted a boring monologue about the evils of white racism (as if America hadn't already been hearing that lecture for 30 years). Nothing that was said or done during Clinton's bogus "dialogue" accomplished anything useful or constructive, yet liberals credited Clinton with moral virtue merely for inaugurating it. (Which was exactly why he did it, of course. It was a PR gimmick.)

White liberals who run around declaring themselves amis du noirs are, as a rule, either con artists or lunatics. And black people who fall for that kind of liberal nonsense are like suckers in a game of three-card Monte.

Whatever else Cosby may tell his black audiences, at least he isn't repeating the politically correct shibboleths of liberalism. For that, he deserves praise.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently Mr. Cosby isn't educated enough to research the National Geographic article that proves we all come from Africa. He's more interested in keeping the divide and conquer ignorance of "white vs. black" going. IDIOT!