Cosby on the Brain
I'm not sure if Bill Cosby has ever gotten so much midshare among AA's since the heyday of The Cosby Show. It is most disturbing to see how otherwise educated and informed people choose to demonize Bill Cosby on the basis of incomplete reporting and a whole mess of supposition and innuendo. The Black Commentator, whom has had some of the best "progressive" black writings found on the Web, has continued to sink into the quagmire of Cosby hating, and has employed numerous others ( white even) to continue to pile garbage on Cosby. After a two week reprieve BC came back with more vitrole in the sideways commentary of one Dr. Edward Rhymes. Now after Dr. Rhymes last guest column on that site I sent him a copy of my original commentary and we had an pleasant exchange where we ultimately agreed to disagree on the specific subject that some blacks equate being eduucated as being white. Now we are all entitled to our own opinion, but as a Dr. and teacher, Dr. Rhymes knows that he should be able to present alternative arguments or at least indicate that such positions exist. To begin is latest commentary Dr. Rhymes says:
It is the relative ease in which we as a people appear to believe the worst about ourselves. While a great deal of time and dialogue has been spent, lately, on our presumed sociopathic behaviors, we have ignored something even more sociopathic – our disturbing tendency to demonize ourselves.
I must agree. In fact just today I had to respond to someone online who insisted that blacks were inherently intellectually inferior to whites and possibly everybody else on the planet. Their "proof" being the apparent lack of "known" geniuses" and "accomplishments" in the hard sciences. So on this point I must agree with Dr. Rhymes.
It appears that if we hear something negative about ourselves we are quick to take ownership. “Black people are drugs addicts and drug dealers,” and our response? “Yep, that’s us.” “Most Black folks are lazy and on welfare,” and our response? “Yep, that’s us.” It seems that we don’t challenge, we won’t question and we do ourselves a great disservice.
I'm not sure who Dr. Rhymes is talking about. Certainly I have not heard any black celebrities (including Dr. Cosby) make any claim that most black folks are lazy ( though the argument could be made, but not the way it's being set up here). Nor have I heard any black "leader" or "celebrity" (including Dr. Cosby) claim that blacks make the most of the persons on welfare. Most of the blacks that I know, who are critical of black behavior themselves, will quickly point out that whites make up the majority of the welfare cases regardless of what the TV tells us. So I would like for Dr. Rhymes to at least substantiate his claim by pointing out which celebrity has made such claims and when.
Nowadays I can rarely turn on my television or radio without hearing some African-American analyst defending affirmative action (almost apologetically) as if we, as blacks, have been the greatest beneficiaries of it. This just isn’t the case. Although ethnic minorities have greatly benefited from affirmative action policies, white women, statistically, have benefited more than any other group from affirmative action.
Again, Dr. Rhymes has it right when he says that blacks have been the main defenders of Affirmative Action. He is also correct when he states that white women are the main beneficiaries of such programs. Again, I would like for Dr. Rhymes to provide us with the names of Celebrities or leaders who have been saying that blacks are the main beneficiaries. From my perspective the leadership, celebrities and educators that I know of , all decry the fact that Affirmative Action has been diluted to be a "diversity gimmick" rather than a true repairative tool for African-Americans.
We are portrayed as oversexed or lascivious and yet the porn and adult entertainment industry is dominated by whites. Luke Skywalker, R. Kelly and Snoop Dogg are mere drops in the bucket compared to Hugh Hefner, Larry Flint and the Hustler, Penthouse and Playboy empires. Nevertheless, it is African Americans that get accused of being rampant, sexual beasts, unable to control our urges, unable to keep our legs crossed, unable to keep it in our pants. And do we take a stand against such flawed and misleading characterizations? No, on the contrary, we are more than willing to accept full title to them.
Well we all should know about the source of sexual anxiety in white America. But, ummm, has Dr,. Rhymes been studying the porn industry? I mean, I want to know? what kind of research has he been doing? Well ok.. I'm kidding. I just wanted comic relief.
It also seems that we love to decry the notion that our young people can tell us what the words are to the latest rap album, but can’t tell us who James Baldwin is. My beautiful brothers and sisters, allow me to let you in on something: I have taught more white students than I have black students and I know a great many white students who cannot recite the preamble to the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence and can’t tell you who William Lloyd Garrison is, but can tell you the lyrics to the latest Ludacris song. How come they don't come under the same condemnation as our African-American students? Once again, a shortcoming that is prevalent in society becomes a specific black identifier.
I was going to save this one for lastm but I'll touch it now. Again, I don't believe that a single celebrity or leader has stated that black people have all the problems and whites don't. If I'm wrong I would invite Dr. Rhymes to provide us with specifics as to who said what and when. The issue with many of us "self critiquers", especially those of the Garveyite strain, is that while "all have fallen short" what we do has a larger impact on us than those of whites. One common comment I hear among my peers is that a white youth who wants to act a fool in school can decide later in life to straighten out and take advantage of tha racial preferences afforded him in hiring, housing etc. Not that it's fair or right, but that it's an option, and option often taken. However when black youths squander their time in school, the sysem is so crafty that they may find themselves at a permanent extra disadvantage. When a group has as many disadvantages on it, such as those detailed in the Urban Leagues numerous reports, it should be understood why blacks who want us to "rise up" would be extremely critical of negative behaviors of certain black youths. It is a mistake to then imply that by being so critical we are overlooking the dumb behaviors of whites. I believe that this is the point missed by Dr. Rhymes and, unfortunatly, The editors of The Black Commentator.
Dr. Rhymes continues:
We are crossing the dangerous threshold where myth is becoming reality and reality is becoming myth (this is increasing with each passing day). We have cloaked ourselves in the stereotypes of the most contemptible aspects of this society and have treated them as if they are unique to our culture and identity. Makes no difference to us if the majority of drug dealers and users are white, makes no difference if the “typical” criminal is a white, non-Hispanic male or that black males are less prone to abuse their partners than whites.
Dr. Rhymes puts out questionable information here. The Department of Justice in a report entitled Violence By Intimates published in 1998 showed that while Blacks have shown the greatest decrease in incidences of murders by intimates, the rate of murders by intimates are 3 to5 times the rate of white males/females. So while it would be correct to state that blacks have been putting in work to decrease the rates, the fact is that at the end of the day we are killing each other more often than whites. Also according to the same publication poor people, regardless of race, have up to a 7.8x rate of domestic violence than those making $75,000 or more. So, for instance, when Dr. Cosby directed his attention to "the lower economic people" and asking them ( the men) to stop beating on the women, he was dead on target. Of course we can argue that all people should stop domestic violence, but as stated earlier we, my peers, are concerned with what blacks are doing.
Similarly, with the issue of drug dealing:" It would be agreed that most drug dealers and purchasers are white. But what does that really matter to those in housing projects and other places where the black drug dealers are killing their kids and making thier neighborhoods unlivable? They are concerned with the black drug dealers and users they have to face each and everyday, Why should we NOT address those individuals? Again, this doesn't negate the facts of use and dealing it merely puts them in a context.
Dr Rhymes Continues:
Where was the “well done” for our young black sisters when the press release from the National Center for Health Statistics (dated December 17, 2003) stated that teenage pregnancy had gone down by 30 percent in the past decade and that the sharpest drop of any group was African-American teenage girls – 40% in the last decade and 50% since 1991? Where was the collective “bravo” for our young people when the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of the Census acknowledged that the African-American dropout rate (as of 2001) was at 10.9% - the lowest it’s ever been? Also, it was almost identical to the national average (meaning all students) of 10.7%. Most of us appear to be unaware of this information – so it appears that our youth aren’t the only ones who need to study more. Yes, I’d love to see the dropout rate down to 0%; but that shouldn’t preclude us from celebrating what we have achieved. I think it would be wonderful if none of our young women became pregnant in their teenage years, but I am proud of what they have done. The high-profile prophets of black negativity, who are so geared up to impugn our youth, could not be found to herald their triumphs just as enthusiastically.
Again, like he did in the reporting on domestic violence, Dr, Rhymes gives us a partial picture of teen pregnancy in black communties. The Guttenberg Institute released a report entitled U.S. Teen Pregnancy Statistics shows that while it is indeed true that the rate black teen pregnancy has dropped dramatically, black teen pregnancy rates(15-19 yoa) is almost twice that of whites (71.4/1000 vs. 154/1000). In fact, the same report shows that in every state that kept records, the black rate of pregnancy is always higher than that of whites. However it must be noted that in raw numbers whites teens get pregnant more than black teens, except in New Jersey and New York (a focus area of Bill Cosby) Now I won't get into the philosphical argument about whether teen pregnancy and abortion is right or wrong. Nor will I say that the drop in the rate is not to be commended, but clearly, if teen pregnancy is an issue of concern, then the rates are still an issue of concern.
On the drop out rate, I question these numbers. While it may be true, and I stress may because according to the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University the governments official cencus data og high school graduation tates ins obtained from surveys of individuals who self-report their own education status. furthermore the US department of Education surveys take in only about half of school districts nationally. many of the non-reporting districts are in areas with high dropout rates. that the drop out rate in high schools are 10.7% nationaly, the graduation rates tell a way different story. In 1998 the average graduation rate of black ( and you must graduate to move onto university) was 56%. If only 10% are dropping out, what happened to the near 40% that did not graduate? Did they drop off the planet? To all the Cosby criiticisers I have pointed these things out to, none, not a single one has presented information to the contrary. If Dr. Rhymes has information to refute these claims I would surely give him the space here at Garvey's Ghost to present that information.
Dr. Rhymes continues:
Further evidence of this need to falsely indict ourselves, are the comments Spike Lee made on the Tavis Smiley Show (Thursday, July 22) when he insinuated that blacks don’t embrace and support dramas as much we should – citing the lack of turnout for movies such as Antwone Fisher. Interestingly, Denzel Washington (producer & director of Antwone Fisher) was on the program the following day. Tavis put the question of whether or not blacks supported dramas as they should and Denzel’s answer was: “Well dramas, first of all, don’t do as well, period. Black or white, they don’t do as well.”
I've heard this debate and I've listen and watched Spike Lee talk about this topic a number of times. First lets say this: Spike Lee's recent movies have not been that good. I say this as a Spike Lee fan. It's been pretty much down hill since Malcolm X. But I think the true discussion about black drama has been around black historical drama. When I've had this discussion the movies that come up are "Daughers of the Dust" " Get on the Bus" "Bamboozled" and Oprahs "Beloved." The issue has actually centered around blacks supposed desire to see "positive" role models and films "relevant" to their history but then fail to give mass support to the movies mentioned.
After watching the interview I decided to research to ascertain which claim was true. I found that of the top 100 highest grossing movies of all-time, there were only 6 dramas (and a few of those were not what I would call “true” dramas – Titanic, Gladiator, to name a couple). I also looked at the top grossing dramas that were released during the summertime (summertime being important because that’s when dramas usually do the worst – studios like to roll out the action flicks) since 1982. Out of the 59 dramas that were listed, 9 were either produced or directed by African Americans (Do The Right Thing, Boyz-N-The Hood, Mo Better Blues – if you haven’t noticed, two of these movies are Spike’s); had a predominately black cast (What’s Love Got Do With It) or one or more of the leading roles were portrayed by African Americans (Corrina Corrina, Courage Under Fire, 187).
This illustrates my point. Boyz in the Hood, Mo Betta, Do the Right Thing were all contemporary movies that with the exception of Do The Right thing didn't even begin to touch the deeper levels of racism in America. 187, which is one of my favorite movies, is fiction and has a lead black character that could have easily been white. In fact the movie itself was written by a teacher, though I do not know the race of that teacher (and don't particularly care). So again, while Rhymes is correct in his surface analysis of Spike Lee's comment, I believe that the observation is out of context. After all if, Movies such as Beloved had as strong a suport as Baby Boy, then we'd have seen more movies like it.
why should I have to answer questions about the supposed deviant behavior of the black community, when whites do not have to do the same? The minute I answer one question, I am saying: “I am inferior.” For me, it is absolutely that simple. Do we, in the black community, have real concerns? No doubt about it. Can we do better? Yes, most definitely. Misconceptions, miseducation and misleading stereotypes do not offer any real answers. The Christian scriptures tell us that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” As we, as a community, declare war on irresponsibility, ignorance, crime, poverty and the vast number of concerns that we face; we must be circumspect. I would think that we, who live in present-day America, would know exactly what it means to declare a war based on flawed and unproven information.
Let's answer that last question. It's the same as my previous discussion on black behaviors. In reality I don't have to answer to whites for black behavior, In fact in "mixed company" I refrain from doing so for the very same reason that Dr. Rhymes does. However, these issues can, should and are brought up by blacks to other blacks ( as was done in Cosby's speech) and we should be answerable to each other. Isn't that how community works? One does not inferiorise oneself by asking and answering questions asked by the community. Only if the charges are false is it an inferiorizing act to claim such charges. Unfortunatly Dr. Rhymes falls victim to the same Misconceptions, Mis-education and misleading "stereotypes" he attempts to refute. In his quest to, as the Yoruba say, to not let good be the enemy of best, he gives us a few half truths and uses them to smear unnamed and unverified "leaders" ,"reporters" and "celebrities." Fortunately for us there is the internet where statistics can be found by any and everyone who takes the time to look up the information.