Days Black People Not Re-Enslaved By Trump

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dear Mr. Cosby

Hello sir.

You don't know me which is a bad thing. Why? Well because I'm the kind of person who would give you excellent advice in the execution of your "Call Out" tour. First let me say that since it's inception at the NAACP Brown V. Board celebration dinner, I have been an ardent supporter. Unlike many of your critics who were judging you based on hearsay rather than the actual speech, I stood by most of your comments, except the "name" thing. When I got a hold of a transcript of your speech I discovered that you were improperly quoted on the issue of names and recanted my critique of that issue. I watched you on Like It Is with Gil Noble. I downloaded and listened to your defense your positions on NPR. I watched video of a presentation you gave in Newark, NJ. Overall, I knew that those who said that you were being vicious and unkind were simply mad because this material was being put out in public and that unlike many of our leaders it spoke out on a culture of mental poverty and slavery that permeates many black people who find themselves in economic poverty. I recognized this difference and I heard many people who at first had problems with you come around to understand what you were talking about.

However, I was very, very, very disappointed when I read the following at The Black Commentator which was a reprint of a piece that showed up at

The day that I published the piece, Dr. Cosby made a call to the dean of my college. To be fair, the Coz explicitly stated that he didn’t want the dean to do anything to me. Instead, he wanted to express his concern that I was undermining his project. Still, I’m sure that he understood the significance of the school’s most famous and coveted alumnus/donor making a call about a young, untenured professor.


I didn’t bother to ask how Bill Cosby, who I was sure wasn’t in Atlanta, knew that I was on the radio discussing him. Instead, I asked what he was saying about me. He replied, “He’s calling you a liar and a hustler. He’s saying that you have a ‘hip-hop website’ and that you can’t be trying to help Black people with a ‘hip-hop website.’”

Me: Hello. Dr. Cosby this isn’t [my friend]. This is actually Marc Lamont Hill. You were talking about me so I figured I’d call back so that we could talk.

Cosby [clearly shocked and uncomfortable]: Yes?

Me: I don’t understand why you have to call me a liar and a hustler. Why can’t my response be just as sincere and principled as yours?

Cosby never answered my question. Instead, he proceeded to grill me about my job, my affiliations, and my “hip-hop web site.” I attempted to explain the nature of my work–although he referenced the site, I doubt that he actually read anything – and the substance of my critique. Unfortunately, he insisted on talking over me and trying to “son” me. Unintimidated, I continued to attempt to offer my side of the story.

After 10 minutes or so, Cosby says “Mr. Hill. You’re a smart man. You’re a good writer. You’ve called here twice. You’ve had enough to say.”

Sir, if this is true and I have every reason to believe it to be, then you were out of order, rude and served a great disservice to your tour. Though I support your message I am not a blind supporter nor am I a "yes person" which is what you apparently have as your major advisors. If you go to my posting entitledNotes To So Called POC Revolutionaries you will find a list of pitfalls which you have apparently fallen into. Let me point out the most relevant ones to you:

4) Name calling: Oh I think a lot of people fall down here. Most times conscious people are seen as being mad all the time. They are probably right. Often times I notice that persons who cannot defend their positions (even when they have the right one), end up name calling. Oh yes, your buddies will probably love you for “telling that cracker off” or whatever the opposition happens to be. Problem is, a lot of people who may have been with you may be turned off by your mouth (pen or keyboard). You simply never know who is in the audience and what they will respond too. Since even the most sailor mouthed person can understand to an intelligent and coherent argument, there is no need for the name calling. Worst yet, your opposition will use your sudden lack of vocabulary to smear you in the eyes of the audience. People will look at you and think that the foulness coming out of your mouth is indicative of what you stand for. Hey, I understand how easy it is. On occasion I’ve even fallen off that wagon. But be sure, you are being watched and listened to. Watch. Your. Mouth.

As someone who has fallen into this pit now and again I know how easy it is, but for real, you have a whole lot more attention than I do so you need to be a whole lot more careful of what you say. Furthermore:

4) Lose the “Yes Friends”: Boy are these people a drag on your development. “Yes friends” are like crack or worse, chocolate chip cookies. Like said cookies, these people exist simply to comiserate and/or inflate your ego. They often have self-esteem issues and need for you to park where they are mentally locate so that they don’t feel so alone having long been left alone by those who have matured in their views. President Bush is surrounded by “Yes People.” Much of the Republican Party in America is a big “Yes people club.” Many of the corrupt leaders in various African countries are still around because of “Yes People.” How do you know when you are surrounded by “yes people.” I’ll admit that it’s a whole lot easier to spot yes people from the outside then it is to spot them from the inside. Let me offer this test. Are you God (5 Percenter ideologies aside)? OK having established that, you are not infalible. If you are in fact falible then you have no doubt made a mistake. I’ll venture to guess you’ve made many mistakes. Now think of a point where you made a particular mistake that was pretty obvious after the fact. Was it pointed out to you? If so, was it pointed out to you by your “buddies” or by an “outsider” If it was pointed out by an outsider, your buddies are likely “yes friends.” They may be “I don’t want to hurt your feelings” friends. These are the ones that did know you goofed but didn’t want to hurt your feelings by saying so so they said nothing. They are just about as bad as the yes people. What you choose to do with these people are up to you but my suggestion is to cut ‘em loose.

What is perhaps the worst thing about this event was that you lost an opportunity to perhaps win over a potential ally. Why burn a bridge unnecessarily? We need allies and we need not make our own adversaries when outsiders will make plenty for us.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that many of the people who agree with you grew up on Hip Hop and while we abhor much of what has happened to it, we love the artform like you love Jazz. You should be more considerate of the music of our generation. among other websites are places where a lot of what you discuss are discussed among members. You would be surprised at the level of some of the discussions that go on there. I can't vouch for every Hip Hop site out there but you'd be better served by being careful about blanket statements about websites you probably don't read. It's really bad form.

I hope this note has found you in good health and I hope that the tour is a success by whatever measure that you are using. Please be careful of the motives of those that both critique and support you and use your power and celebrity with a little more discretion (IE: calling a dean of a university about a professor is a bad idea).

Yours in struggle

Garvey's Ghost

Technorati Tags: , , ,


DivineLavender said...

I read Dr. Dyson's book on Mr. Cosby and agree with Dr. Dyson. I surely would hope that your words reach Mr. Cosby in time. As in the past some "so-called" leaders have had times of inflation and Holy-Rollerness before the true revelation to their spirit. That is really my prayer and hope for Mr. Cosby. Maybe sooner than later your letter will help nourish and soak into sometimes his dry inflated land he calls a public platform. Thank You and I am inspired!

sondjata said...

hmmmm... Well I'd like to reiterate that I am in agreement with the subject of Mr. Cosby's presentations and I think, scratch that, know that many of his detractors have based thier critiques of him based on hearsay and innuendo about his daughter and such.

However, what bothered me about this particular instance was that Mr. Cosby apparently went out of his way to intimidate an individual and that was uncalled for and even his supporters need to make that clear to him. This is not a "Cosby Show" but rather "Black Folks Business". This is serious and perhaps Mr. Cosby has gotten a little swole in the head over the attention this is getting. And I can understand that happening as he is human and I expect him to make mistakes like anyone else and it is up to people who love him AND black people to tap him on the shoulder and check him.

As for Mr. Dyson, I haven't read the book nor do I intend to. He clearly wants to ride off Cosby's tail. Secondly, as I said before, this isn't the "Cosby Show" this ain't about Cosby but about the subject matter he is dealing with. The facts are out there to support Cosby's general claims and I have plenty of them here on the blog. If Mr. Dyson wanted to help Black folk then he should have written a book that not only discussed the issues that Cosbt brought up, but he could have then taken it in a direction he wanted to go in (white folks role in the situation Cosby discusses). That would have been far more productive and would have avoided the completely unneccessary infighting that is going on. We need to get out of the box that says we can't openly criticise the negative behaviour and culture that some of us willfully adhere to. We need to step out the box that says we have to always locate white folks as THE solitary cause of our problems. Garveyism is a prime example of a black ideology that holds European society for it's affect on black people while simultaneously laying the prime responsibility of uplift on black people themselves in spite of white oppression.

Thank you for your comment.